Have you actually read 1984 by George Orwell?

1984 by George Orwell

Reading a dystopian novel during a world pandemic is probably not everyone’s cup of tea. I read 1984 before the COVID-19 lockdowns started, but you know what else I noticed? Many people who have been spreading misinformation online or feel inconvenienced when people hold them accountable draw the comparison with the 1984 novel that government, social media, liberals, or far-left are trying to censor them.

When you say “It’s Orwellian” or “It’s like 1984”, have you taken the time to read this book? Because I think you haven’t and you should. I think everyone should.

1984 by George Orwell” is a warning to all of us about authoritarian regimes that change the facts and rewrite history. It is a warning against mass surveillance and micro-managing people’s thoughts and behaviours.

There are no winners in this book; there is no happy ending. The only winners are the readers who will later advocate for fact-checking and evidence-based policies in the government. A healthy democracy requires a well-informed public; otherwise, it will turn into populism.

There is a bit of a romance happening in this book too, but as I said, it’s dystopian!

No is not enough by Naomi Klein

No is not enough by Naomi Klein

I finished this book about a month ago after the US election and the 46th US President’s inauguration. It talks about how the Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan type Neoliberalism eventually became the infrastructure that led to Populism and White Nationalism’s recent rise. There is a good discussion on how the centrist liberal democratic political parties only bring about social change incrementally. In contrast, social democratic parties aim for the overhaul of the system for the wellbeing of humanity and the environment.

This book was emotionally difficult to read before the US election. But when President IQ45 lost the election, I decided to continue reading it to the end because I knew there would be a happy ending.

I first learned about Naomi Klein when I was a university student. One day I saw her book No Logo in a bookstore. Then I heard her interview on the TeamHuman Podcast and decided to buy a couple of her books. If you are left with many questions about the world’s state since 2016, Naomi Klein has good explanations in this book.

Team Human by Douglas Rushkoff

Team Human by Douglas Rushkoff

The first book that I read by Douglas Rushkoff was called Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus, and I really enjoyed it. The name refers to the 2013 protests in San Francisco during which shuttle buses from Google and Apple were attacked and vandalized by the protestors.

Team Human is Rushkof’s most recent book that he published last February. He is a sociologist, university professor and, best selling author of several books. Terms such as “Program or be programmed” or “Viral Media” were first coined by him. You can read his bios on his website and Wikipedia page.

At first, I thought Team Human would be an updated CyberPunk manifesto by him. Still, after reading a few chapters, I realized that this isn’t about being a technology Luddite and attacking technological innovations. He is, in fact, very much in favour of technology that augments humanity.

Rushkoff is critical of technologies that are optimizing human behaviour for profit. For example, data mining and algorithms on social media, search engines, eCommerce websites, dating apps, and electronic music. He describes an era of post-colonialism after the invention of the Internet, where corporations are colonizing their own users, employees, and customers. 

Team human has one hundred chapters, and the last chapter tells you to go and “Find the others.” Douglas Rushkoff is publishing Team Human on Medium platform under the same name. You can listen to his interviews with prominent thought leaders on Team Human Podcast, which I recommend. While at it, also check out his lecture on CBC Ideas.

My first encounter with a Medieval Club

I didn’t know that Medieval clubs were a thing until I was at university. First time I saw them, I was in the men’s bathroom on UNBC campus, trying to pee, and then an army of medieval soldiers appeared behind me adjusting their gears and preparing for a battle. It was challenging to concentrate!

Factfullness by Anna Rosling Rönnlund, Hans Rosling, and Ola Rosling

Factfullness by Anna Rosling Rönnlund, Hans Rosling, and Ola Rosling

This book is the last publication by Hans Rosling, which was written in collaboration with his son and daughter in law and later published after his death in 2017. Rosling was a Swedish medical doctor, academic, and statistician. He was also one of the initiators of Médecins Sans Frontières or Doctors Without Borders. You may know him from his famous presentations and TED Talk where he shows animated charts over a timeline and his lectures often ended by him swallowing a sword! The authors also founded the Gapminder Foundation. One of my dreams in my company rmdStudio is to someday do a project for the Doctors Without Borders organization.

I was expecting this book to be full of tiresome facts and charts, but instead, it turned out to be one of the best checklists on fact-checking news, publications, and claims. Dr. Rosling has accompanied every chapter with fascinating stories about him travelling to different parts of the world and helping countries who were dealing with dire medical situations. In one story, he wanted to obtain blood samples from people in a village to figure out the reason behind an unknown epidemic, but instead, he was surrounded by people who thought he needed the blood to perform black magic on them. They were about to chop him up to pieces with their machetes until an old lady in the crowd trusted his word and saved his life as a result.

I also think this book would be a great read for high school students who are developing their fact-checking skills. In a day and age where information is abundant, but fact-checking skills are rare, it’s never too early to get people started.