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The Truman Show is about a fictional character, whose life from birth, is part of a huge reality TV show. Likewise, all of us are living in a world where our lives, our choices, our desires, even our dislikes, as well as our private thoughts, are all conditioned by “unseen” forces, external to us, who seem to be “controlling” how we act, and also how we think. Such an existence has been predicted by others, notably the famous author, George Orwell, whose novel, 1984, is an eerie foreshadow of the present Technological Society, and a prescient meditation, on how Propaganda, disguised as governmental policy, can shape our lives to the extent that the “self” is a parody of itself, and instead, is a “puppet” driven by insidious forces.
Take for instance, how Social Media memes takeover our imaginations and condition us to think in a particular way. Or, for that matter, how Algorithmic selection that determines their “virality” results in the former having undue influence on how we receive and process information. It is very personal as well. Once, I was talking about ordering a Pizza with my partner, and within minutes, recommendations for nearby takeaway outlets appeared on my Facebook feed. This is no doubt, eerie, and am sure it would have happened to others as well.
With Exponential Acceleration of Technology, there is a Godlike power that accrues to Artificial Intelligence driven gadgets and devices which use Big Data and Analytics to “sense” and “intuit” our thoughts and show us the “way” to act in a tech deterministic manner. While the character in the Truman Show was part of a Reality TV program, all of us are similarly “acting out” our lives, shaped by the awesome capabilities of a Big Brother Like Surveillance Society. No wonder the sales of Orwell’s book skyrocketed in recent years, as more and more people struggled to make sense of their Dystopian existence.
Our day begins and ends with our Smartphones. We use them for everything from finding our way to checking social media for updates from our near and dear, to browsing the news, and most importantly, to be “alive” to the world around us. But! Are we in control of our destinies, or, our gadgets controlling us? Like the recommendations for Pizza that popped up in no time, how many of us haven’t been “informed” of locations, places to visit, and tips for shopping, as soon as we turn on the GPS? Don’t we all feel that there is someone watching us and guiding us as we go about our everyday lives?
Turning to the 24/7 News cycles that hold us in thrall, have we not noticed how there seems to be a “concerted” effort to push a particular “narrative” for the time it holds the viewers attention and in a very deliberate, focused, targeted, and coordinated manner. How many of us remember TikTok and YouTube superstars after they have had their “15 Minutes of Fame”? If one has to be told what to consume, watch, and follow, then where is the “Will to Power” that Neitzsche famously proclaimed as the thing that drives us? Are we surrendering our collective will to the ether that is shapeless, formless, and yet, omniscient, omnipotent, and all pervading?
Like Neitzsche, other Renaissance thinkers had warned us about the present state of our lives. Flaubert, for instance, spoke gloomily about “mass manufactured” visions of happiness that can make us subsume our tastes, our purchases, and even our behavior to the extent that society becomes a spectacle, and the only things worth living for are the Likes and the Comments one gets on any of the various Digital Platforms where we post, read, and respond to each other. So, are we really in charge, or are we being sundered by a mysterious All Seeing Panopticon?
Here we are!! Welcome to the Truman Show and the next time you “think” about this, remember, your thoughts are not yours!! Even this piece has been “inspired” by similar posts I have read and so, I am an actor in the show as well 🙂
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