(AMERICAN SPECTATOR) -- A generation ago, cultural critic Neil Postman published the clever little book Amusing Ourselves to Death. In it, Postman considers the rival dystopian visions of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley as articulated in their classic novels, 1984 and Brave New World, respectively. Orwell’s vision is that of the modern police state; it’s “Big Brother,” a place where technology is used as an instrument of oppression. Huxley, by contrast, imagined a technologically advanced society where we willingly surrender our freedom for pleasure, safety, and convenience. Postman concluded that it was Huxley’s, not Orwell’s, vision that is carrying the day.
Postman’s thesis is remarkably enduring. I heard ominous echoes of it at a panel discussion last month at The American Spectator’s annual Robert L. Bartley Gala in Washington, D.C. There, before a room full of journalists and politicians, Dr. Robert Epstein presented his jarring research on the brave new world Google is creating. Epstein is the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today and currently a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology. Here’s a sample of what I found so disconcerting:
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Google and Gmail are surveillance platforms. Google has no product other than you. They gather information about you and monetize it. They sell you.