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Het 9e boek

Het 9e boek is Orwell's Revenge van Peter Huber.

 

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.

 

En een uitgebreide recensie uit 1995 over dit boek (verschenen 1994) van Bloomberg:

Ever since George Orwell's 1984 appeared in 1949, there has been no forgetting its searing vision of a vicious, totalitarian state that uses technology to maintain a vise-grip on citizens' thoughts. The infamous year may now be a decade past, American democracy intact, and Soviet-style communism all but gone. But 1984, like Orwell's name, retains its power as an emblem of technological intrusion. It's fascinating to wonder what Orwell's evil Big Brother might accomplish with today's expanding array of computer networks, Info Highways, "smart cards," spy satellites, artificial intelligence, and miniaturized video cameras.Actually, very little, argues Peter W. Huber in his intriguing and stylish new book, Orwell's Revenge: The 1984 Palimpsest. We have nothing to fear from technology, says Huber--at least not so long as free-market forces, rather than government, determine how the technologies get used. A senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a conservative think tank, Huber seeks to discredit not only 1984 but also Orwell as a thinker and every aspect of the socialism in which he believed.Huber begins by reminding us how heavily 1984's Party members depended on the "telescreen" to maintain their hold on the populace, then points out how technically flawed that idea is. Orwell's telescreen is a TV-like box installed in every room in Airstrip One (read postwar Britain) that the Party uses both to beam propaganda to the proles and to keep an eye out for any signs of subversion. In fact, television was just becoming popular when Orwell wrote his dark satire, and many fellow Britons misunderstood the new gizmo as being able to observe their most intimate moments. While acknowledging Orwell's writing genius, Huber argues that such a surveillance network would be impossible to maintain and operate--especially in the world of 1984, where the masses are kept ignorant and besotted with Victory Gin. The network would require not only qualified technicians but also countless sober citizens to monitor their fellows.And if the telescreens don't work, says Huber, then the rest of Orwell's vision falls apart, too. Orwell conceived of his telescreen network as being under the Party's sole control--much the way the British Broadcasting Corp., where he had recently worked, served as the wartime mouthpiece for the British government. But today's Internet, a global electronic-mail network, and the 500-channel Info Highway envisioned for the future show that deregulated communications markets actually enhance democracy by allowing an unlimited multitude of ideas to circulate, says Huber. If people don't like what they see on TV, they can change channels. On the Internet, they can even create their own "channel," or discussion group, to serve any community that shares an interest. And things will only get better, Huber writes, if new communications and computing technologies dissolve the remnants of IBM's and AT&t's old monopolies.Huber goes about his flaying of Orwell in a rather ingenious and fitting way. To create his palimpsest (a "writing material used one or more times after earlier writing has been erased"), he first scanned Orwell's novels, essays, letters, and even wartime radio transcripts into a PC--with 1984 consuming exactly 590,463 bytes of memory. This let him quickly search Orwell's oeuvre for early expressions of ideas, descriptions of particular scenes, even figures of speech that later show up in 1984 and elsewhere--connections he uses to expand his critique to the whole of Orwell's thinking.Then, Huber composes his own book as a clever, contrapuntal mix of fiction and essay. His computer searches turned up many instances where Orwell's thinking contradicted what he eventually propounded in 1984. Using these passages and other colorful bits of Orwell's writing, Huber constructs a sequel involving a character called Eric Blair (Orwell's given name) and O'Brien, 1984's torturer-antagonist. He has O'Brien discover Orwell's wrongheaded thinking and find, for instance, that some phone phreaks have quietly liberated the telescreen network. Alternating with episodes of this story is Huber's computer-aided analysis of Orwell's thought, served up as a lucid but extremely critical essay backed by 79 pages of notes and citations.

Is 1984 hereby relegated to the memory hole, its vision and author thoroughly discredited? Hardly, for as clever as Huber is, he focuses his attack quite narrowly. Indeed, he has used Orwell simply as a foil against which to rhapsodize over free-market capitalism as it applies to the telecommunications business. Huber is well known in that industry for The Geodesic Network, a lengthy white paper advocating total deregulation of the national network and all its services, which has shaped policy debate since it was published in 1987.Clearly, as Huber insists, there are more choices than ever on our telescreens, whether we call them TVs or PCs. On the other hand, even as the ethers fill with information, there's reason to question whether a free market in telecommunications will bring liberating benefits to the masses. Most discussions of the Info Highway now center on using it as an ultra-efficient sales and marketing channel--useless, it would seem, to those who can't afford a connection or lack the skills to make use of it. In the meantime, Orwell's book remains as artful, disturbing, and demanding of our attention as ever. JOHN W. VERITY