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The New Improved 1984

Many people ask me how can I be happy writing and thinking about so many sad and desperate things? Well, let me explain. Happiness is the fleeting rush of dopamine I feel seeing my little grandson, my wife or children.  As good as it might feel, it comes and goes. Think, please, about the happiness you purchase by sharing with your "friends" on Facebook a picture of a new pair of pink sneakers. Or think of the happiness you bring to your partner by giving her/him a bouquet of roses on the Valentine day.

You probably never pay attention to over a billion roses which are imported that day for your bouquet.  They are flown refrigerated on transport flights from Columbia, Ecuador and Mexico.  Once these cold roses land in Miami, they are rushed to other refrigerated planes and trucks, so that you can get them from a store refrigerator anywhere in the US.  The energy cost of your bouquet is absolutely ginormous, but it is worth another minute or two of dopamine rush. Or is it?
Here is a dozen of roses for $600. You might give this box to your mistress (why would you spend that much money on your wife?) to impress her with your virility and give her a dopamine shot. While at it, you may send her a selfie with your dick.  But when the little head sucks out blood from the big one, you may black out and forget that there is no privacy left, including your private parts.  Someone will intercept your selfies to blackmail you.  You may as well publish all you've got, just like I publish this blog. By my count, some 31 "unrecognizable" entities are monitoring it. 

You probably don't know that just one rose you gave to your loved one needed about 10 liters of water to grow. In Bogotá, more than 5,000 wells have been drilled in the savanna in order to provide fresh water for Colombia’s exploding flower industry, and streams and wetlands have been disappearing. To be pest "safe," your roses are literally drenched in pesticides and herbicides. The unprotected laborers greatly suffer and some die. Several common pesticides used throughout Central and South American countries are listed below with health risks related to exposure: 1. Paraquat- Fatal poisoning; chemical burns in skin and eyes. 2. Mancozeb- Cancer. 3. Methyl bromide - Acute poisoning; air and groundwater pollution; depletion of ozone layer. 4. Carbofuran-Acute Poisoning. 5. Terbufos- Fatal poisoning. 6. Methamidophos- Acute poisoning; delayed peripheral neurotoxicity. 7. Methyl parathion - Acute poisoning. 8. Aluminum Phosphide -Acute poisoning. 9. Copper arsenate- Cancer. 10. Aldicarb- Acute poisoning; groundwater pollution; immunotoxicity.

I am happy, though, that you got your deserved dopamine moment, didn't you?

But I digressed. Joy - not happiness - is really what I feel. Joy is different. It is a feeling of content and completeness after going through many adversities, pain, and difficult periods in life and emerging from them a better, wiser human being. Joy is what I feel looking back on my personal and public life. Being joyful should never be confused with being happy one moment and throwing tantrums the next, just like my little grandson or president Trump.

Many millions of people today feel the chronic pain of being that detracts from their joyfulness.  Their pain and desperation appear as anger, anguish and, yes, hatred toward the enemies real and imaginary.  Welcome to the updated narrative of "nineteen eighty four," a novel by George Orwell. It is impossible to condense this dark prophecy in a few sentences.  If you haven't done so already, you must read it (here is a free download); I have, at least three times, and listened to a masterful CD version.

In the dark world of Orwell's 1984, Great Britain is a small part of Oceania that encompasses the Americas, half of Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Oceania is in permanent war with Eurasia and Eastasia (sort of like our war on "terrorism").  The lowest echelon of the impoverished British society, the "Proles," (think of the Brexiters or core Trump, Orban, Kaczynski, etc. supporters) live in utter misery, and neglect of education and healthcare. The proles are kept sedated with alcohol, football, cheap repetitive pop music, pornography and a national lottery whose winnings are never actually paid out; that particular lie is obscured by propaganda and the lack of communication within Oceania. The impotent proles are freer and less intimidated than the middle-class Outer Party (think of the college educated Democrats with degrees in political science, history, philosophy or English literature). The very poor middle class is constantly monitored and controlled by the two-way TV sets that cannot be turned off and by secret police agents.

How does this Orwellian vision of world's future compare with reality thus far? Well, as always, life is more complicated. First, we have still avoided a global nuclear war that will destroy all countries to one degree or another. Instead of the "Ministry of Truth,"  responsible for lying to people every day and rewriting all archival records of history, we have the Internet, and Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Apple, let's call them the FAGMA oligopoly. Please notice that I have omitted the ambitious and angry runners up, like Oracle and IBM.

Today, daily lying has been decentralized and seconded to citizens, who are manipulated and organized into virtual tribes by Facebook and Google groups. In exchange for the carefully constrained freedom to lie and self-delude, those citizens voluntarily give up their privacy and civil rights, and supply FAGMA with the most intimate information about themselves.

In order to monetize the torrent of free information gifted by the suckers and secure their own operations, FAGMA works with the government agencies that spy and control societies.  Here I mean the close collaborations with the military, CIA, NSA, FBI, president Trump's election campaign, etc. FAGMA, especially Facebook,  also cooperates - often inadvertently - with the Russian post KGB internal spy agency, FSB; the Russian military intelligence, GRU; their subsidiary, WikiLeaks; elements of the Republican party; the Chinese spy agencies; Huawei; AliBaba; the Iranians; Shin Bet; MI5 and MI6, etc.  The list of agencies and companies that want to manipulate and control you is getting longer by the day.

Let's consider Amazon as an example. Amazon has the biggest database with what consumers desire for their daily dopamine hits. Amazon needs freedom to operate using the government-controlled internet, shipping, aviation and long-haul trucking. Therefore, Amazon is an attractive partner to the US government agencies that in exchange want to know what you and I hold in our heads. Guess what, Amazon has just signed a giant contract with the Pentagon to conduct the JEDI war, and their Alexa will be spying on you not just for Amazon but also for the partners, who will have access to your data on Amazon's cloud computers.

Can our lack of privacy get any worse? Of course it can. Welcome to the brave new world of 5G communication and artificial intelligence (AI). The 5G cellular networks promise to connect literally everything with everything, and the ubiquitous sensors will be deployed everywhere. The terabytes of information about you, collected through the 5G networks, will be stored on the "Cloud," on the new massive server farms.  No one will ever know for sure, where the information about you resides and which entities may access it.  In this world, Alexa will get the much needed help from your refrigerator and thermostat, not just from your smart phone.

The Internet of things will know literally everything about you.  Amazon's Echo smart speaker for Alexa is in the lower right corner (from Mike H. in England).

Enter the world of AI. You see, no human can possibly digest the amount of information fed by you at your cost to the government computers. AI can classify your information and identify those relatively rare gems that are worthy of human attention.

The crowd on the right is us.  An artificial intelligence (AI) robot on the left is cajoling us to be more obedient (from Mike H. in England)  

In "1984," O'Brien, a prominent member of the Inner Party, deceives, betrays and tortures the protagonist, Winston Smith. O'Brien makes Winston betray his only true love and everything he once held dear. When it is ascertained that the utterly broken Winston reverts to loving the Party, he is promptly killed with a bullet to the back of his head:

"...The voice from the telescreen was still pouring forth its tale of prisoners and booty and slaughter, but the shouting outside had died down a little. The waiters were turning back to their work. One of them approached with the gin bottle. Winston, sitting in a blissful dream, paid no attention as his glass was filled up. He was not running or cheering any longer. He was back in the Ministry of Love, with everything forgiven, his soul white as snow. He was in the public dock, confessing everything, implicating everybody. He was walking down the white-tiled corridor, with the feeling of walking in sunlight, and an armed guard at his back. The long-hoped-for bullet was entering his brain. END."

Here, in an earlier scene, O'Brien pretends to be a member of the opposition and tells the truth [sic!] about the Party's vision of the future:

"There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always—do not forget this, Winston—always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever. "
Part III, Chapter III, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Are we there yet?



  1. Dear professor Tad, thank you for this article. I permit myself to give my point of view, that this FAGMA like world shall stop quite soon for physical reasons. Indeed, humanity already consumed in an irreversible way most of the copper for electric wires, lithium for batteries and fossil fuels for electricity (other electricity sources are useless since they also rely on fossils to exist), rare earth as well as the other lengthy list on non renewable resources needed to both maintain and extend the heavy infrastructures FAGMA need to exist.

    1. You are correct. I omitted this "detail" on purpose to let the readers engage their intellect and draw independent conclusions.

  2. Too many humans are using too many natural resources and producing too much pollution. This lovely fellow has nothing serious to say about the neuroscience of emotion or our environmental destruction due to human overpopulation. Stress R Us

    1. In the 15 years of speaking and writing about these difficult subjects, I have learned to speak softly. I have learned to temper the obvious logical and science points that I was hammering in between 2003-2010. It simply does not work on the completely unprepared public.

      I hope you understand, dear Greeley, that your own comment is a lovely example of the neuroscience of emotions. Apparently, I did not tick off enough points on your unknown agenda, and you got upset with me. This is how it works with everyone out there.

      Here are but two examples of my work on ecology in the last 15 years:

      If you care about population, you may watch my latest popular lecture:

      Then there is my book with Joe Tainter…

  3. I know everything about dopamine and FAGMA. I used to order classical CD records then immediately forgot my order. Some of them never arrived. Then I just realized what was going on. And I know something about chemical engineering too – I have e.g successfully studied Levenspiel's book on chemical reaction engineering and Laidler's book on physical chemistry which were a part of my MSc in ChemEng. That MSc of mine was made useless by my first boss (a MSc in electrical engineering) who believed that chemistry just slows down simulation. Indeed, who needs all those CPU burning iterations? To solve a set of nonlinear equations, why don't you just look up and find the answer from a table? That's the current intellectual level of Technical research centre of Finland. Climate scientist Parmesan says things will really start shifting about 2070-2090. So perhaps BAU can continue next 50 years?


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