Predicting the Traffic Jam
In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury uncannily anticipates advances in technology comparable to today's, even though published in 1953. In this fictional world where books are banned and the government controls all through technology, Bradbury's imagined landscape includes mechanical hounds, identification devices, high-speed transportation, small seashell earbuds, and wall-size projections. As a result, people only believe what they're told and suicide attempts to escape their meaninglessness are common.
Needless to say, Bradbury has a negative outlook on technology and blames it and its users as the potential cause of the destruction of society. Though one could argue that advances in technology increases efficiency, one central theme in the novel is that technology encourages ignorance. Bradbury equates knowledge and self-reflection with books. Spoiler alert, the book ends with Montag, the protagonist, seeing his city being destroyed by atomic bombs.
Bradbury's vision is indeed plausible. There are already traces of his imagined world in today's society, so much so that I can already see a counter-culture to technology on the rise. The desire for authenticity is trending, and the number of apps (ironically) where people can slow down and appreciate what's around them in the here and now are increasing.
Though I am not sure we will ever get to a point where mechanical hounds will hunt people down for having a book, this addiction to speed and constant stimulation could lead to a skewed perception of reality. With people being able to easily access information or invoke action with a click of a button or with a swipe of the hand, people may not question why things work or how. Discouraging curiosity and desensitizing people could lead to widespread ignorance.
While book stores like Borders and Barnes & Noble continue to go out of business, love for low-tech mechanisms and books persist. I wonder, though, how long until books are a rarity?