Technology In Fahrenheit 451
What is the role of technology in Fahrenheit 451, and can you recognize any elements in today's world?
I love Ray Bradbury’s stories because of his uncanny ability to predict the future of technology as it is just beginning. Fahrenheit 451 was written in 1953, an era on the cusp of advanced technology like the space race, television, and computers. His imagination about the future is one thing that makes him a renowned writer of science fiction.
Fahrenheit 451 is full of a lot of cool technology. Here is a list of some of the things I found as a reader and how they correlate to today:
The mechanical hound shows the use of robots as tools for mankind. Obviously, today we use robots in factories or the work place, and robot technology is advancing every day.
In order to enter his home, Montag has to stick his hand in an opening that identifies him. This is similar to fingerprint or eye identification we have today.
Fast cars and air tube trains in the novel show how we are “addicted” to speed and convenience. We need to get places fast and find information fast today. We are impatient and want things at our fingertips. That is one reason why advertisers build 200 foot billboards in Fahrenheit 451 so they have a chance to capture their consumer’s attention as they speed by.
The sea shells Mildred uses to drift away to sleep represent the small ear bud head phones we have today. The same is true for the walkie-talkie Montag wears to hear Faber while he is trying to escape the mechanical hound.
The wall-size televisions found in the homes of Fahrenheit 451 are today’s 50” flat screens and theater projectors.
The technologies Bradbury describes in Fahrenheit 451 are all the result of a society that has embraced entertainment over knowledge. Books have been reduced to snippets and condensed versions of the originals. Fake TV soap opera families have replaced real family life. Life moves too fast in the novel and today. No one talks anymore, and society is crumbling under the weight of technology it claims makes them happy.
Technology in Fahrenheit 451 was a means of the government's placating and controlling the masses, of course, a kind of drug to which it deliberately addicted people. But it is important to realize that today's technology, while it does seem to placate and even addict many people, has arisen, not by means of a government plot, but with the actions of various individuals and businesses who developed technological devices and systems, more often than not from a profit motive, and with the voluntary actions of those who choose to use the technology. To the degree we are placated or addicted is the result of individual choices, not the consequence of governmental action.
While this is a significant contrast, it does raise some important questions about the implications of government involvement to control our various technologies, which some believe would land us in a Fahrenheit 451 world. And since we have voluntarily become placated or addicted, we really should ask ourselves how easy it might be for that to happen now. There are countries where the government does control the technology, for example, China and North Korea. An "It can't happen here" attitude might not be the best attitude for us to have.
Technology such as the Mechanical Dog is used for physical control of the people. The dog has poison that can be injected to stop people from doing something Montag's society does not approve of. Technology such as the TV walls and broadcasted commercials are used for the mental control of the people. Millie is somewhat brainwashed by the virtual reality people that she watches and interacts with in her living room. In fact, she is so empty inside from this fake reality, that when she overdoses on sleeping pills, Montag begins to realize that there must be something really wrong with people that everyone can put on a false front. Some of the technology in the book is similar to technology we have today, like interactive games, television, or internet. Just as Millie can interact with her tv walls, we have many technologies like computer or video games that have a virtual reality.