Dystopian novels are a major trend here in the early 21st century. "The Hunger Games," "The Maze Runner" and "Divergent" all hit the best-seller lists, and led to movies of varying quality. But they all had something in common: Warnings about what can happen if humanity isn't careful.
The granddaddy of all the dystopian novels, though, might be from the mid-20th century.
In early high school, millions of kids are required to read George Orwell’s classic 1949 novel "1984." It tells of a time when most of the world's population have become victims of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance and public manipulation.
It's a nightmare scenario and good warning. But students promptly forget it.
A real 1984
However, the nightmare is quickly coming true in China.
The Chinese people are very protective of their public image. Should it become tarnished, they can be humiliated for life. So, the government now controls public behavior using 300 million surveillance cams for instant facial recognition powered by artificial intelligence software.
Tens of thousands of police, roving around in public, equipped with smart-glasses, identify everyone they see. Sidewalks, markets, train stations – nowhere is beyond government facial recognition. You can be arrested for even the slightest infraction of the law. And, if so, your face and government ID number is broadcast, placed online, and on large public video monitors for everyone to see.
Orwell’s book has seen a surge of popularity in the past year.
Maybe it’s time to read it again.