Ponderance

(May 2003 - March 2007.) Tama's thoughts on the blogosphere, podcasting, popular culture, digital media and citizen journalism posted from a laptop computer somewhere in Perth's isolated, miniature, urban jungle ...

Thursday, June 26, 2003
William Gibson wishes George Orwell a Happy 100th Birthday

There is a brilliant article by William Gibson in today's New York Times called 'Welcome to Oceania' which looks at Orwell's 100th birthday and the state of the world today. He reiterates the common assertion that his style of writing, and Orwell's, aren't focused on the future, but rather on concerns of the present day. He also explores privacy and relativistic truth issues in contemporary society. His best bit is this:
It is becoming unprecedentedly difficult for anyone, anyone at all, to keep a secret.

In the age of the leak and the blog, of evidence extraction and link discovery, truths will either out or be outed, later if not sooner. This is something I would bring to the attention of every diplomat, politician and corporate leader: the future, eventually, will find you out. The future, wielding unimaginable tools of transparency, will have its way with you. In the end, you will be seen to have done that which you did.

I say "truths," however, and not "truth," as the other side of information's new ubiquity can look not so much transparent as outright crazy. Regardless of the number and power of the tools used to extract patterns from information, any sense of meaning depends on context, with interpretation coming along in support of one agenda or another. A world of informational transparency will necessarily be one of deliriously multiple viewpoints, shot through with misinformation, disinformation, conspiracy theories and a quotidian degree of madness. We may be able to see what's going on more quickly, but that doesn't mean we'll agree about it any more readily. ...

This is not to say that Orwell failed in any way, but rather that he succeeded. "1984" remains one of the quickest and most succinct routes to the core realities of 1948. If you wish to know an era, study its most lucid nightmares. In the mirrors of our darkest fears, much will be revealed. But don't mistake those mirrors for road maps to the future, or even to the present.
Great stuff! Reminds me I should update my Gibson resources page at some point soon.

(Gibson article originally mentioned at Null Device).

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