We are sleepwalking towards digital dystopia
The digitisation of everything will place ordinary people at the mercy of the powers-that-be.
The great dystopian authors of the past predicted many things, but the internet wasn’t one of them. From the genetically engineered castes of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World to the doublespeaking hatreds of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four to the book-burning firemen of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, nor did they predict the internet’s tug towards a digital dictatorship. But these writers would have recognised the utopian dreams of the web’s creators, as well as the desires of Big Tech and the latest band of empire-builders, if not the magical powers at their disposal.
Published in 1932, 1949 and 1953 respectively – Orwell and Bradbury’s in the aftermath of the Second World War, Huxley’s seven years before it started – these books carry warnings that remain current, prophecies the digital revolution could well make real. The first two novels are clear reactions to the war and the horrors of totalitarianism, and it is the earlier, lighter, more science-driven Brave New World that comes closest to suggesting the way in which today’s society could be heading.
Orwell’s vision of the future is dark and unrelenting, rooted in a system that demands its citizens believe – not merely accept – the unbelievable. Insanities such as 2 + 2 = 5. Language is warped in childish, mocking ways, blatant lies pedalled as the only truth. It is a form of mental torture, one mimicked and too often accepted on social media. Leader Big Brother is where Hitler and Stalin merge, but it is worth remembering Mao – too often ignored in the West – as we face the TikToking Chinese government, with its virtual Belt and Road initiative flowing through the web.
Bradbury, meanwhile, looked to the Nazis’ burning of books, and through this the destruction of knowledge and free thought. It is a writerly approach, coming from a deep belief in the value of literature and imagination. Today, the gasoline of Fahrenheit 451 is being replaced by the delete button.
Yet it is Huxley’s novel, with its test-tube babies, soma (ecstasy) and repetitive beats that feels the most relevant. There is the eternal pressure to conform, a vague fear of exclusion, but these are vague worries and easily avoided. This is a society that runs on consent. Acceptance. Rampant socialising is expected, casual sex encouraged, drugs readily available. There is no need for Orwell’s jackboots in this chemical nirvana, no call for Bradbury’s firemen. Accept the pecking order and the state will make sure you are happy.
If Huxley had predicted the digital revolution, it probably wouldn’t have made much difference to how he approached Brave New World, the title entering the English language in a way the better-known Orwell has not. For some, it is ironic, as intended, while others take the term literally. Either way, there is always the promise of a future that is dynamic and clean, where the bright lights of progress shine and the masses are rewarded. There is a price to pay, but the strength of Huxley’s story is that the reader is left wondering whether it isn’t maybe a worthwhile one. It is the same today.
The recent, long-overdue focus on the sidelining of cash and the cancelling of bank accounts has highlighted the tightening of the globalists’ grip, the way digitisation is being used to assert greater and greater control over our lives, an extension of the tools whereby sinners can be cancelled and cast out online. Those responsible swear they are impartial, that the future really is going to be brave and clean. Their only wish is to increase efficiency and make our lives easier – as they become more complex, expensive and frustrating. The wonders of the digital world are clear enough, but the threat posed by our ever-increasing reliance on this technology and those controlling it remains blurred.
It will be bad enough when the written word has been fully digitised, when every bit of recorded information only exists in the corporations’ imaginary clouds, where it can be edited, rewritten and / or erased. There will be no more certainties, history rewritten like never before. Memories are short, lessons quickly forgotten unless they are remembered in a form that lasts, and it will be worse when even our money is virtual.
It is hard to survive without a bank account as things stand, but get rid of cash and the authorities can break the population by simply turning off the internet. It is already difficult to function without a mobile phone, yet most of us don’t seem to care, with millions addicted to what they see as a glorified toy. While this shows our attraction to the new, the thrill of an ever-evolving technology in line with an older love of magic, fairytales, miracles, science fiction, this is at best naive, at worst madness. There are some powerful ghosts lurking in the machine.
Opposition to this drift towards a dumbed-down, digitally clouded, post-democratic world is dismissed in the same way as those who challenged the possibility of a utopian society were in the past. Doubters are dismissed as dinosaurs and fossils. All change is good. But there is no such thing as perfection, and this new vision is sugar-coated with ideals most of us share, so it becomes easier to stay quiet. Especially as our lives are pretty good, all things considered – smoothed by easy credit, debts until recently not taken too seriously. Discussion, never mind resistance, is killed by the threat of exclusion. The system becomes more intrusive, and while we complain for a while, before long we accept the latest boundary being crossed.
There is now constant posturing, from businesses, banks and charities, but little genuine belief. Functionaries with too much power bend to the will of imaginary mobs, their isolation and fear of being targeted giving the bullies an influence they would never have in the real world. We are endlessly lectured, told to be more flexible while those who make decisions become less so. We only want to help, they say. Trust us. We know best.
In this, the powers-that-be mirror the Chinese state. And as the EU expands and becomes more powerful, completing its mission and formalising its European empire, how long before the multinationals force a ‘TTIP+’ union with the US? One leader. A single currency. And how long after this will the new union connect with China itself, each side bending in order to sync their technology and take the next step towards world government? Far-fetched? Another dystopian fiction? Hopefully.
John King’s novel, The Liberal Politics of Adolf Hitler, is set 50 years into the future, in the days of full digitisation, the era of ‘New Democracy’. Visit John’s website here.
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