2nd book of 2021: 1984 by George Orwell
Just as we imagine the future; writers, thinkers and philosophers of the past imagined the times we're living in today. They dreamt of flying cars, a full meal in a pill, teleportation, invisibility, a disease free world, and other crazy stuff to be everywhere by 2020. Imagination was always a free gift, and many used it to create a much better world. Many, but not all.
Some of those writers were a bit dark in their thought. They imagined mass surveillance, censorship, unmatchable monopolies, concentration of power, crushing propaganda, and a lot of weirdness...all amidst a projection of progress and leadership. These thinkers formed the "dystopian" genre of Literature, and George Orwell is considered as one of the greats. He wrote Animal Farm and 1984, and is revered, even in 2020.
1984 (written in 1948) is a book about a guy who works in the Government which has its populace "under control". There's a "Big Brother" who's always watching you, a "thought police" there to stop you from "bad thoughts", and so on. There's even a "rehabilitation center", where people are taught to "think right", often through torture. Now this guy - Winston - wants to rebel against the Big Government, but inevitably accepts his "love" for it after an incredible (and lost) "battle". There's just no way to go. That, in essence, is 1984 for you.
Now this book was written upon the experiences of hard Communist regimes after the World War 2 (which ended in 1945), but is growing in importance everyday. Why? It's not hard to understand:
Big Tech is always watching us, we can get deplatformed (or censored) for saying something politically incorrect. "Thought crimes" are real, AOC is talking about a "truth and reconciliation commission" to "deradicalize racists and white supremacists". Recently, Parler - an alternative for Twitter with over 20 Million users - was killed by the App stores and then buried by AWS which unplugged its servers. Parler's crime? It didn't have enough "moderation" and was thus harboring "hate speech". Interestingly, #AssasinateDonaldTrump was trending on Twitter, but that was fine. Twitter didn't go anywhere.
Here in India, a Comedian (Munawar Faruqi) was jailed for allegedly cracking some jokes which hurt religious sentiments. TrueIndology (a popular Twitter account) was suddenly removed after a verbal with someone called IPS Roopa, who told him that his "time's up". TrueIndology's crime? He quoted evidences of crackers in Ancient Hindu texts, upon IPS Roopa's request. Needless to say, worst imaginations are coming to life.
1984 is an important read, but worked as a magic sleeping pill for me. Was really hard to scrape through, but I'm glad to have read it anyway. Even though the cultural relevance of the book is extraordinary, I believe Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is a much better work. Its version of future is hauntingly accurate and feels more "real", philosophically.