Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s 2015 New Year’s resolution was to read an important book every two weeks and discuss it with the Facebook community.
Zuckerberg’s book club, “A Year of Books,” has focused on big ideas that influence society and business, and that he hopes can help him run Facebook.
For his ninth selection, he’s chosen “Orwell’s Revenge” by Peter Huber, a sequel of sorts to George Orwell’s dystopian classic “1984” in which the masses use the “Telescreen” technology that constantly monitored and controlled them to topple Big Brother.
Huber, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, published the book in 1994, a time when internet and telecommunications technology was opening up new methods of communication. Huber had studied Orwell’s works and uploaded them into a database to analyse their language. He used this insight to write the narrative of “Orwell’s Revenge” in a style mimicking Orwell’s, and interspersed his fiction with essays.
Twenty-one years later, Huber tells Business Insider that he considers his main predictions to have been validated. “I can’t help but believe the internet has helped increase freedom in the world and enormously decentralize control of information,” he says.
Addressing Edward Snowden’s revelations that the US and its allies monitor data gathered from millions of individuals, Huber distinguishes people connecting over the internet from governments intercepting communications.
He notes that even in the wake of these leaks, there has not been a mass exodus away from cell phone usage or electronic messaging. “People embraced the telescreen,” he said.
Zuckerberg explains why he chose Huber’s book, now out of print but in limited availability online, on his personal Facebook page:
Many of us are familiar with George Orwell’s book 1984. Its ideas of Big Brother, surveillance and doublespeak have become pervasive fears in our culture.
Orwell’s Revenge is an alternate version of 1984. After seeing how history has actually played out, Huber’s fiction describes how tools like the Internet benefit people and change society for the better.
Huber says he is not very knowledgeable about Zuckerberg or Facebook, but imagines that Zuckerberg picked up his book because he “intuitively knows that technology can be used as a force for good,” despite a minority using it for evils like terrorism.
When asked what he would like Zuckerberg to get from his book, Huber replies that he thinks Zuckerberg will identify with the idea of using technologies “to create communities that are the antithesis of Big Brother.”
He adds that he’s seen accusations of Facebook using “Big Brother-like” control of information — whether in its participation in the NSA PRISM program or its experiments with its users’ behaviour — and hopes that Zuckerberg recognises that “he needs to be careful with the power he wields so that people don’t lose faith” in that very power.
“A Year of Books” so far:
- “The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being In Charge Isnt What It Used to Be” by Moisés Naím
- “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined” by Steven Pinker
- “Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets” by Sud hir Venkatesh
- “On Immunity: An Inoculation” by Eula Biss
- “Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration” by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace
- “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” by Thomas S. Kuhn
- “Rational Ritual: Culture, Coordination, and Common Knowledge” by Michael Chwe
- “Dealing with China: An Insider Unmasks the New Economic Superpower” by Henry M. Paulson
- “Orwell’s Revenge: The 1984 Palimpsest” by Peter Huber
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