Core question: Is our technology taking us closer to or farther away from the world of Big Brother? George Orwell


George Orwell wrote 1984 after the end of World War II because he was worried about the potential for new technologies and new propaganda techniques developed during the war to enable the creation of a totalitarian state, a government that controls every aspect of a citizen’s life. The novel can be seen as a cautionary tale, a warning about what could happen if we are not careful. Some recent technologies that would probably have made Orwell even more worried are the following:

Facial recognition software

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Cellphone tracking and data collection

Computer and cell phone hacking

The “Internet of Things” (computer-controlled devices such as smart speakers, thermostats, refrigerators, even lightbulbs)

Data encryption with “backdoors” for the police

Surveillance cameras

Surveillance drones (some of them armed)

Privacy on social media

Internet memes and fake news (this is related to propaganda)

Deepfake” video (this technology can make an incriminating video from just a selfie)

Internet bots

Of course, all of these technologies have both good and bad applications, depending on how they are used, who is using them, and for what purpose. Also, many of these technologies are available to any citizen, not just the government. If you do a search on Amazon for smoke detectors with built-in spy cameras, for example, you will get nearly 500 choices, many of them under $50. If you live in an apartment, you might want to look at the smoke detectors more carefully.

Gathering Relevant Ideas and Materials – Researching the Writing Task

To prepare for this essay, you will start with some Internet searches. However, if you search on any of the topics listed in Activity 35, you will get thousands of hits. To get hits more relevant to this topic, you can combine something from the list with terms such as “government control” or “government surveillance,” or even “Orwell” or “1984.” For example, if you search on “facial recognition government control,” you will get titles such as “The problem of governments using facial recognition software” and “Microsoft wants regulation of facial recognition technology to limit ‘abuse’.” If you try combining “facial recognition” with “Orwell” you get things like, “Facial recognition technology: Is Orwell’s fiction our reality?”

Spend about one hour trying out different searches. Bookmark or keep open at least three sources that look promising.

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