In George Orwell’s 1984, historical revisionism makes sure that whatever is has always been and that whatever is to come aligns with what once was. It was a very uncomfortable read for me as a school child in the late Sixties, so I can only imagine the reaction when it was published in 1949. That it no longer seems the least bit disquieting now probably has less to do with tastes in reading and more to do with how much life has come to imitate art.
The convergence of various technologies that a kid who devoured Tom Swift books could only dream of is now an everyday occurrence. Every aspect of the way I earn my daily wage is shaped by tools that did not exist when I first started working in my present position (that I worked at all while in my present job is possibly a shock to many of my colleagues, but only the mean-spirited ones).
Pebbles thrown into the pond of our civilization by those talents and geniuses who created the last twenty-five years and who will shape the next one hundred created waves whose impact on distant shores we may never fully appreciate.
That we use some of these gifts to send one another short movies of babies laughing or still imagery of unhappy cats may be a source of chagrin for some but, assuming we also pursue cures for diseases and mitigation of disasters, is not necessarily anything more than another roadside attraction on the human highway.
But we’ve yet to use the tools we’ve invented to improve our collective lot. On the far side of the Great Bandwidth Divide, we’ve allowed the perpetuation of haves and have nots, what Dr. Seuss so brilliantly skewered as Star-Bellied and Plain-Bellied Sneetches, to redraw our maps and politics in ways that not even Orwell at his most dystopian could have seen even in a fever dream.
We’ve had the technology for more than my lifetime to eradicate huge numbers of people without ever seeing (or knowing) them-but now, despite the threads that could (and should) join us together we can hate whole bodies of humanity without ever getting close to personalization, or risking a moment of rational consideration.
We have ten second ephemeral epiphanies where truthiness and truth can be used interchangeably with little risk of harm since our present situation is a construct of our own conceit and nothing more than wires and electrical impulses, ones and zeroes, subject to reconstruction and repurposing until its original function is lost in the tangled jungle of the very devices we once intended to lead and liberate us.