Technology Advances: How Close Is Technology to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four?

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Home / Technology Advances: How Close Is Technology to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four?
Is George Orwell's 1984 view of the world really possible? Image by colindunn

Is George Orwell’s 1984 view of the world really possible? Image by colindunn

George Orwell’s novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four was the idea behind the reality TV show Big Brother. The idea that the Government knows every move that you make is a scary prospect for many, even law-abiding citizens. So, is the technology used in the sinister classic novel a possibility in this day and age?

Nineteen Eighty-Four More Than Just CCTV

At first, when you consider the world of Nineteen Eighty-Four, you might think of CCTV and surveillance cameras, but the technology used in the novel is more than just that. While using cameras to monitor crime could be viewed as Big Brother in action, both the U.S. and the U.K use it with the intent to help protect the community. The technology used in George Orwell’s tale actually includes two-way television screens that allow for communication. The screens never explicitly had cameras installed in them as the modern-day technology does; the communication was through the screen itself!

This type of technology has not been developed yet, but it is worth commenting that when the novel was written in 1949, technology had not advanced to what we know today. There were no personal computers, or Internet, and the most significant type of electronic technology most houses had was a radio.  The screens described in George Orwell’s book must have been developed over time and would have gone through a process of upgrades, so it is likely that it all could have started from the video communication that we have right now.

Winston Smith’s Speakwrite

Winston Smith is the protagonist of the story and works as a copywriter for the London Times. His job is to make changes to history to suit the government’s needs, and he uses a ‘Speakwrite’ to help him with that. The device hears everything he says and then writes it down, word for word.

Today’s speech-to-text technology is getting closer to this, using a type of artificial intelligence called natural language processing. The downside of the software is that it needs to be trained to understand your voice, accent and dialect, and you still need to proofread everything it creates – although the software does become more proficient at transcribing your words over time. As with the telescreens described above, the technology Orwell imagined must have grown from somewhere, and today’s voice-to-text software is one step in the right direction.

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