The Road to Oceania
by William Gibson : When George Orwell had to come up with a name for his classic piece of dystopian literature, he did so by inverting the last two digits of the year of his book's completion. Thus 1984 was born, but it was not a novel about the future, it was a novel about 1948. As such, while its still a shocking dystopian vision of what could have been, we've got other fish to fry.
Elsewhere, driven by the acceleration of computing power and connectivity and the simultaneous development of surveillance systems and tracking technologies, we are approaching a theoretical state of absolute informational transparency, one in which "Orwellian" scrutiny is no longer a strictly hierarchical, top-down activity, but to some extent a democratized one. As individuals steadily lose degrees of privacy, so, too, do corporations and states. Loss of traditional privacies may seem in the short term to be driven by issues of national security, but this may prove in time to have been intrinsic to the nature of ubiquitous information.
I find this to be an interesting perspective, though I'm not sure how close we'd ever get to a "state of absolute informational transparency".
This is not to say that Orwell failed in any way, but rather that he succeeded. "1984" remains one of the quickest and most succinct routes to the core realities of 1948. If you wish to know an era, study its most lucid nightmares. In the mirrors of our darkest fears, much will be revealed. But don't mistake those mirrors for road maps to the future, or even to the present.
We've missed the train to Oceania, and live today with stranger problems.
Read the whole thing, as they say. Just as a note, you might want to check out the spiffy new edition of 1984
that was recently released with a new forward
by some Thomas Pynchon guy. [via Instapundit