Five ways George Orwell's '1984' predicted modern day society

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O'Brien (played by Joseph O'Conor) tortures the hapless Winston Smith (David Buck) in the BBC TV Theatre 625 production of George Orwell's classic novel '1984' entitled 'The World of George Orwell: 1984' on 29th June 1965. (Photo by Larry Ellis/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Winston Smith (David Buck) is tortured in the BBC TV Theatre 1965 production of George Orwell's classic novel '1984' Photo by Larry Ellis/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

This article is part of Yahoo's 'On This Day' series

In George Orwell’s 1984, a nightmarish fantasy of a surveillance society, homes are equipped with ‘Telescreens’ through which the Thought Police watch the population.

Orwell wrote, "Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well."

Today, many of us willingly choose to have devices which listen to us constantly in our homes - Amazon Echo and Google Home being just two examples.

The writer, who died on this day in January 1950 in London, was most famous for two novels which explored totalitarian politics: 1984 and Animal Farm.

Eric Arthur Blair called George Orwell (1903-1950), English writer. Ca. 1945. Coloured photograph. (Photo by adoc-photos/Corbis via Getty Images)
Eric Arthur Blair - the real name of George Orwell, photographed in 1945 (1903-1950) (Photo by adoc-photos/Corbis via Getty Images)

The vocabulary of 1984 in particular has influenced the 20th and and 21st centuries - from ‘Big Brother’ (the dictator of the novel) to ‘Doublethink’ (referring to the political ability to believe two contradictory things at once).

But many of the novel’s predictions have come chillingly true in the 21st century: here are some ways Orwell’s 1984 predicted the world we live in today.

Telescreens

The omnipresent telescreens of 1984 - two-way televisions through which propaganda is broadcast and viewers are ‘watched’ - are alarmingly similar to the Smart TVs many of us have in our living rooms.

In 2015, Samsung admitted that some of its TV models might listen to users - and record personal or private information.

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In the terms and conditions, it said, ‘Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.’

Voice commands

In 1984, Winston wrote a secret diary - but is unused to holding a pen. The novel says, ‘Actually he was not used to writing by hand. Apart from very short notes, it was usual to dictate everything into the speakwrite.’

29th June 1965:  A poster with the famous words 'Big Brother is Watching You' from a BBC TV production of George Orwell's classic novel '1984'.  (Photo by Larry Ellis/Express/Getty Images)
A poster with the famous words 'Big Brother is Watching You' from a 1965 BBC TV production of George Orwell's classic novel '1984'. (Photo by Larry Ellis/Express/Getty Images)

Today, gadgets such as smartphones and Amazon Echo devices rely on voice commands - and transcription apps such as Otter let users dictate directly into a computer.

Omnipresent cameras

When Winston and his lover Julia travel to the countryside, there are cameras even there, watching the population.

Artists of the company in Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan's adaptation of George Orwell's 1984 directed by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan at the Playhouse Theatre in London. (Photo by robbie jack/Corbis via Getty Images)
Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan's adaptation of George Orwell's 1984 directed by Robert Icke at the Playhouse Theatre in London. (Photo by robbie jack/Corbis via Getty Images)

In Britain, we happily live in one of the most ‘watched’ societies on Earth, with an estimated five million security cameras watching people.

In China, cameras armed with facial recognition are used by police to pick out criminals even in large crowds.

Machine-generated entertainment

In 1984, ‘Prolefeed’ - trashy entertainment for the masses - is generated by machines.

Staff Photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette, Tuesday, January 14, 2003: George Orwell's novel, 1984 is the chosen book for a midcoast Community Read project. A stack is on display at the Patten Free Library in Bath.  (Photo by Shawn Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
George Orwell's novel is still relevant decades after it was written (Photo by Shawn Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

Video games already use ‘procedurally generated’ levels, made automatically by software - and large news organisations including Associated Press and USA Today use automated reporting to cover financial news and sports matches.

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