In Fahrenheit 451, what is Bradbury's point of view on how technology influences the individual and society?
While it is often assumed to be a novel about censorship, Ray Bradbury actually wrote Fahrenheit 451 as a warning about the encroaching influence of television. Bradbury saw television as a negative influence on society, one that kept people from learning about life and the world for themselves, and instead only believing what they saw on the screen. Bradbury also predicted the effects of emotional, sensory-driven entertainment instead of thematic and content-driven entertainment:
Mildred kicked at a book. "Books aren't people. You read and I look around, but there isn't anybody!"
[Montag] stared at the parlour that was dead and grey as the waters of an ocean that might teem with life if they switched on the electronic sun.
"Now," said Mildred, "my 'family' is people. They tell me things; I laugh, they laugh! And the colours!"
(Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, Google Books)
At this stage in the novel, it is clear that the "family" Mildred speaks of is nothing more than the emotional response of colors and sounds; she reacts with instinct instead of thought, and has no idea what happens on the screen except that it creates feelings within herself. Montag, however, is discovering his individualism, and finds the colors and sounds overbearing and irritating; in this manner, Bradbury shows how constant dependence on television entertainment opens the mind to absorb and unconsciously agree with anything shown, without the ability to think about content and themes in a critical fashion.
Throughout the novel, Bradbury portrays how advanced technologies can control citizens' lives and influence their decisions on a daily basis. The Mechanical Hound is an extraordinary piece of technology that is capable of categorizing thousands of smells in order to track down criminals. Despite the Mechanical Hound's amazing craftsmanship and advanced technology, it is used for inhumane purposes that support the authoritarian government. The massive parlour walls and Seashell radios provide citizens with constant entertainment, which they cannot escape.
In Bradbury's dystopian society, citizens cannot process their thoughts because of the constant flood of entertaining content. Individuals lack critical thinking skills and become passive citizens that consume the newest technologies. Classic works of literature and art are reduced to short video clips because citizens would rather spend their time watching their interactive televisions than reading. In regards to military capabilities, advancements in technology have made weapons remarkably destructive, and an atomic bomb eventually destroys Bradbury's dystopian society. Overall, Bradbury depicts how perverted technology can both destroy and control citizens, who choose to allow technology and media outlets to run their lives.