To continue my little series on information-control conspiracies, the next logical step is Fahrenheit 451
Only a few months back, the world marked the passing of Ray Bradbury, one of the greatest sci-fi writers of all time. His stories had the power to appeal to sci-fi fans and non-fans alike, and Fahrenheit 451 is his most recognized novel.
There’s little wonder why it still spellbinds us so many decades after it was penned. A reader must reach back in time to connect with most classic books, but Fahrenheit 451 still feels like reaching forward… but not very far forward. This is truly a book that becomes more true every year.
An Entertaining Future
Fahrenheit 451 posits a future where entertainment is so readily available that people lose all interest in—and respect for—deep thinking of any kind, especially the reading of books.
Bradbury wrote this long, long before the invention of the mp3 player, but it’s easy to see this prediction coming true today. In the novel, Montag’s wife loses touch with reality because she is so immersed in the artificial, soap-opera world projected on the four walls of her entertainment room.
With all the ginormo-screen plasma TVs now plastering the walls of America’s living room, it’s not too much of a jump to imagine a screen towering all the way from floor to ceiling, and it’s only one more step to make it all four walls. Add in surround-sound and interactive video-game options, and we’re pretty much right where Bradbury said we would be.
If Bradbury’s prediction were limited to a technological innovation, it would have been a cute idea. But his vision went beyond that—he not only saw what we would have, but what we would do with it—or what it would do to us. He knew that all this would immersive entertainment would reduce our desire and even our ability to engage with the kind of deep thinking that produced our advancements in the first place.
It is a kind of “Idiocracy Effect,” except purely intellectual rather than genetic.
If you’re not familiar with Idiocracy, you better watch this: v=icmRCixQrx8″>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icmRCixQrx8
The Price of the Future
I feel that Bradbury was on to something, but I don’t advocate ditching all our electronics. I love video games of all kinds, and you can turn off my ginormo-screen when you pry the remote out of my cold, dread fingers.
But we, as a society, need to be aware that all this comes with a hidden cost.
Neurologically speaking, all this information input can be just as addictive as alcohol to some individuals. Most of us can—and should—continue to enjoy in moderation, but we will all need to consider putting into place systems to help those who struggle more.
Eventually, society will develop the “common sense” that we lack now. Or else civilization will crumble. I suppose that’s a possibility, too.
What can be done? What should be done? I’ve got some ideas, but I’d love to hear from you first. Leave a comment if you have some insight on the Fahrenheit 451 world we live in today.