George Orwell's bleak vision of the future, one in which citizens are monitored through telescreens by an insidious Big Brother, has haunted our imagination long after the publication of 1984. Orwell's dystopian image of the telescreen as a repressive instrument of state power has profoundly affected our view of technology, posing a stark confrontational question: Who will be master, human or machine? Experience has shown, however, that Orwell's vision of the future was profoundly and significantly wrong: The ...
George Orwell's bleak vision of the future, one in which citizens are monitored through telescreens by an insidious Big Brother, has haunted our imagination long after the publication of 1984. Orwell's dystopian image of the telescreen as a repressive instrument of state power has profoundly affected our view of technology, posing a stark confrontational question: Who will be master, human or machine? Experience has shown, however, that Orwell's vision of the future was profoundly and significantly wrong: The conjunction of the new communications technologies has not produced a master-slave relation between person and computer, but rather exciting possibilities for partnership. Peter Huber reveres Orwell's legacy, but understands his error, seeing this new technological revolution for what it isa force not for political repression, but for freedom and enhanced creativity. And what better way to demonstrate the power and excitement of the emerging supermedium than to turn the computer against Orwell's own text? In an extraordinary demonstration of the emerging supermedium's potential to engender new forms of creativity, Huber's book boldly reimagines 1984 from the computer's point of view. After first scanning all of Orwell's writings into his personal computer, Huber used the machine to rewrite the book completely, for the most part using Orwell's own language. Alternating fiction and non-fiction chapters, Huber advances Orwell's plot to a surprising new conclusion while seamlessly interpolating his own explanations and arguments. The result is a fascinating utopian work which envisions a world at our fingertips of ever-increasing information, equal opportunity, and freedom of choice.
In George Orwell's dystopian novel 1984, the telescreen-which spies on its captive audience members and fills their minds with propaganda-is the instrument that makes possible the totalitarian state's absolute control. Huber (Galileo's Revenge) believes Orwell was fundamentally wrong in assuming that electronic media would facilitate mind control. On the contrary, he argues, today's telecommunications world-spanning cable television, personal computer networks, cellular phones and so forth-offers a multiplicity of choices in information and fosters the exchange of ideas. In alternating chapters, Huber splices a belabored critique of Orwell's prophecies with an experimental fiction, closely based on 1984, but with Eric Blair (i.e., Orwell under his real name) as the protagonist. The fictional chapters interpolate real-life figures such as spy Guy Burgess, Orwell's colleague at the BBC, and Vaughan Wilkes, Orwell's sadistic schoolmaster. Concluding with a handy capsule history of telecommunications, Huber provocatively predicts the convergence of computing, television and the telephone in a myriad of mixed-media networks. (Nov.)
In his preface, Huber discusses the grim and compelling vision of Orwell's 1984. However, as Huber (Galileo's Revenge, LJ 8/91) points out, and as is evident by the passage of time, Orwell's vision of the future and of the uses of technology was fundamentally wrong. To explore the central themes of Orwell's work, as well as his essays and letters, Huber rewrites 1984; each chapter of this novel-within-a-book is followed by commentary on the major themes in 1984. Entitled "1994 and After," the work features the main character, Blair, who is modeled on Orwell (whose given name was Eric Blair). Blair's story roughly parallels Winston Smith's experiences in 1984. In the final section, Huber recapitulates the developments of the telecommunications and computer industries to demonstrate more precisely why Orwell's predictions were so off the mark. Recommended as a companion to the study of 1984.-Cheryl L. Conway, Univ. of Arkansas Lib., Fayetteville