Monday, 24 May 2010

4891: Orwell Had It Backwards

Thanks to George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four, and the film adaptation, most of us over 20 have grown up with the threat of an omniscient, totalitarian Big Brother looming over us.

While this is a tragic reality for the residents of a few countries, for most it is not.

Yet many of us are obsessed with our own privacy, imagining it as a defence to control by organised crime lords, governments, a "New World Order" or Facebook. Others relish the illusory voyeurism in the melodramatic Big Brother television series, and the phoney 'privacy battles' conducted between celebrities and the tabloid media by agents and public relations advisors for commercial gain.

But it is actually the overwhelming dislosure of information about ourselves that defies control by any single institution (as does the inherent unpredictability of human behaviour). The Chinese government, in particular, seems to understand this. Sharing our preferences, desires, fears and concerns (if not our birth dates and passwords) via social, retail, political and other facilitators enables us to gain greater personal control of our own lives. That process results in services adapted to our own actual or desired behaviour rather than a service provider's bottom line or a political party's dogmatic manifesto. There are literally millions of examples of this dynamic at work. But consider how:
Of course, George Orwell was writing a cautionary tale rather than necessarily predicting the future, so we at least have him to thank for a vivid image of how society must not be allowed to develop. In the meantime, we should go on sharing information about ourselves, even if only as a last defence to totalitarian control.

Image from Online Social Networking
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