George Orwell wrote his book in 1948. It was called ‘1984’. In it, he describes a future wherein citizens are controlled by Big Brother. In his day, Orwell was considered to be crazy. What can we learn about the ways in which people treated Orwell’s predictions? Are modern futurists treated with the same level of disdain? When will societies learn how to respect those to predict the future? Jonar speaks with Walkley-Award winning journalist Ghassan Nakhoul. This broadcast is spoken in Arabic.
Below is an English transcript of the Arabic interview.
Radio Program ‘The Youth & The Future’.
An interview with Jonar Nader.
Did technology liberate humans, or did it enslave them? How can we hide from authorities if they decided to watch every move we make? And what does the technology hold for us in the coming years?
Sixty years ago, the British Author George Orwell published his book ‘1984’, in which he had his famous prophesy that human beings are going to be slaves for the technologies. With the massive developments we live in today, we have to stop and think about this prophesy. This is what we are going to talk about to the author ‘Jonar Nader’.
Host: Don’t you think that we have become technology slaves, just like ‘George Orwell’ said we will?
Jonar Nader: We still teach ‘George Orwell’ ideas and books in the schools, his books were translated to many languages around the world. In the past, they called him crazy for his thoughts and prophesy, he was not as famous in his time, instead, he was considered a joke, and I personally love to learn more about such people.
Real innovation is something that usually people cannot believe, so if I tell you something about the future which you find believable, then I wouldn’t have told you something innovative, because innovation would make your brain struggle, and you would find it difficult to believe it. That is how foreseeing and far sighting is like.
‘George Orwell’ wrote a book in 1948 called ‘1984’, and since the day he wrote that book, he spoke about the way the world is going to be in the future, and described our world today; he said that where ever you go, there will be a camera watching you, and now you find cameras in the malls, streets, offices, etc… and when you hear about what he said now, it may sound insignificant, but when he said it back in his time, people called him crazy.
Host: Because at that time, even photos were very difficult and colored cameras were not very common.
Jonar Nader: Exactly, and there was no colored TV, nor was the digital technology that we know today. George Orwell didn’t only talk about this area, because he didn’t mean to talk strictly about technology, he spoke about political issues, and that is why he faced many problems, because politicians didn’t like what he said, because he spoke about people being able to control the world, and now, you can see many movies about identity theft, and about how the government can locate you easily, and how they can control your credit cards, your keys, and how they can locate your car through the chip in your toll card, etc… and people are not aware that they can be located when they pass a toll gate, or through their mobile phones.
What George Orwell said is that the government will be able to control all your moves, actions and even the way you think, and if something happened which they don’t like, they can simply log on to the central computer and erase it or change it. He said all that before the digital world.
Host: True and he said it before the invention of computers.
Jonar Nader: True, which makes you wonder how smart he was to be able to think of all that. Now, you cannot delete newspapers, because if you print a million copies, you may be able to gather and burn 100 thousands, and you may be able to prevent people from selling it, but the copies that were already sold, you cannot find and destroy. News makes history, and history exits, but what George Orwell said was that all news is going to be centralized, and if there is something we don’t like, we will change it.
What is interesting is that in 1984, Abel Computers produced their famous Macintosh product, and now everyone knows what is Macintosh, at that time, Abel said that they are aware of George Orwell’s book, and what he said in it of human beings becoming technology slaves, but we believe that Macintosh is going to liberate human beings. When we talk about technology, we have two important things to pay attention to, first is the technology itself, and the other is the application. If you want to think of an impressive technology, think of the microchip that carries on 6 million transactions in the half cm chip think of the speed of transactions, and the size of the storage devices that are very small to the level that you can carry in your buckets, but the problem is when you merge all of these technologies into one computer, you will find many problems and malfunctions.
George Orwell did not know there is going to be computers, but he knew how people think, and he knew that people are greedy, and loves control, so he asked himself about the ultimate level of control, and discovered that the ultimate level of control is controlling the mind, and in order for you to control the minds, you have to control the society, and then you have to control the information the society receives, and that is why we create the centralized news.
Host: George Orwell wrote his book 60 years ago, and he was right, when Abel was wrong, technology did not liberate us. So, what do you think is going to happen 60 years from now?
Jonar Nader: There are two points here. Distinguished technologies, and human beings, the constant factor that did not change since ever is the human being, and the general idea is that human being is greedy and stupid, why stupid, because he is born ignorant, and he spends his life searching for the purpose of life. This constant thing is going to be the minimum dominant factor for power, greed, control and stupidity. So regardless of what is going to be discovered, it has to go through this circle, just like the dry desert, it rains a little, the wonderful grass grows up for a while, then dies, and so on.
You asked me about what is going to happen 60 years from now, I can tell you about amazing and unbelievable technology, and it has to be unbelievable because otherwise, it would be like describing the present time, and amazing technology would be something difficult to believe, especially that it changes facts we know. In the past, it was impossible to believe that we will be walking on the moon, because the facts and the tools they had, would not give them any indications that they could.
They use to say that if I called someone and he didn’t answer me, then I should assume that he died, because they predicted that everyone would have a phone, which in the past was unbelievable, because the entire town had only one phone.
Host: You still didn’t tell us about what is going to happen one day.
Jonar Nader: There is a political side to the subject, because there are things that can be done, but it would be stopped by politicians or by the society, because of things related to environment, or religion. Religion people use to fight among each other, and then burn libraries.
There will be a time when everything you touch will not exist, especially in the disease technologies. We grow older and we need things to help us like eyeglasses. That is why I think the technology that is going to be very strong in the future is the bio-technology, chemical-technology or the nanotechnology.
Especially if people looked at the aging as a disease, in a way of searching for reasons of development, so if people said something like having advanced eyeglasses with cameras, it would be funny, because in the future, we will not need eyeglasses, for technology is going to cure all eyes problems without the need for eyeglasses.
Host: So you think people are going to be perfect thanks to technology?
Jonar Nader: We can fix problems at genetic level, for example, we can fix the hair loss problem in the child by treating the DNA in the parents before the birth of the child.
We need to look at the brave new world, where just like there is technology that fixes issues, there is technology that completely changes them. Take the plastic for example; the invention of the plastic is basically the creation of something that didn’t exist on earth before, not like inviting ink for the pen which is something that can only be considered convenient.
Host: So, we can say that you think technology is going to liberate us for real in the future?
Jonar Nader: The child who is born today has a computer, a mobile phone, the opportunity to travel to the moon and has an amount of knowledge and technology that is much more than any previous generation. However, this generation does not have wisdom, and that is why the child spends his entire life looking for the wisdom that would satisfy him, and would prevent him from doing things like what Hitler did. If there is a technology that can improve the life of this child, then there is a technology that can change it all together.
There are many changes that happen to us when we grow up, there are many waves which we can’t hear at a certain age, things we cannot smell, and things we cannot see clearly. That is why, when talking about technology that changes, the question would be, can we change the formation of the human body?
Host: You told us once that there will be a time when the law of physics will be changed to a level where we will be able to travel in the same way we send faxes.
Jonar Nader: I still believe in that. If you have a hammer and a piece of wood, you can do with them anything I ask you to do, but if I asked you to do anything without giving you the tools, you will not be able to do them. If someone told you 200 years ago that you will be able to talk to someone in New York while you are in Sydney via the phone as if you were in the same room, you would think I am crazy.
Host: Not only talk to me, but see me as will.
Jonar Nader: This matter was so strange to the point that people called it craziness because they had no tools that would help them, and you will not be convinced that one day you will be able to travel in seconds from one place to the other because you don’t have the tool to do that. Anyone who talks about the future, or work in the same way I work, will be described as crazy, and in the past, they use to lock them away if they would say something that goes against the teachings of the church. The teaching of the church use to say that the earth is flat and that it is the center of the universe, and when people like Copernicus and Galileo said that this was wrong and that we orbit around the sun and not the other way around, they were fought against, and even killed. That is why I said that technology cannot get advanced if the society prevented it, and it is usually stopped by the society. If you wanted to grow genetically modified potatoes for example to help make it last longer, you will have to go through millions of legal approvals, and you will face many objections from religion people, politicians and others, because of fear and love to control.
Host: But the voice that is transmitted via the phone is not a tangible or touched thing, unlink the human being, so how can you move it?
Jonar Nader: The question is what is the human being? Look at your finger; you will see that we are made of molecules that are like the building blocks. If we went to the moon and then found out that we have forgotten to bring tomato, do we have to go back to earth to bring tomato? No, because then we will have a catalogue that would have the way to structure the tomato, and we will have all the needed ingredients to build the tomato from scratch. Now, everyone who believes in God will fight me, and would say that we are interfering with God’s matters, so how can you do anything in light of all these restrictions. We need to have enough open minds not to fight everyone and everything that is new or different, which means that if I knew the formation of ‘Ghassan’ and I have all the building blocks, why can’t I build one? What is stopping me?
Host: So you will be able to be in 2 places at the same time?
Jonar Nader: We can have a ministry that would sit up laws to control such matter, in a way that would prevent people from being in 2 places at the same time.
Jonar Nader: That is good, this is exactly what I need you to do, I need you to laugh, because when you do, it means you don’t believe me, this means that I might go the jail, and then you will be amazed by how right I was, but I don’t think we will live that long, we die and people make fun of us, and after a 1000 years, they say that we were great.
Host: Thank you for your time Jonar.
Jonar Nader: Thank you Ghassan.
Host: The author and the thinker ‘Jonar Nader’, and with that, we end the youth program ‘Youth and the Future’.