The early 20th century’s view of the future was never darker than in George Orwell’s seminal novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. The story of middle-class drone Winston Smith living in the ruins of post-Atomic War London—where people can be sentenced to death just for thinking negatively about their government—has inspired legions of futurists, even after the actual year 1984 came and went. So as we explore the man of the future, let’s look back at one of the most famous futures of man ever envisioned:
1. Men and women are treated as equal
As members of the middle-class Outer Party, men and women are treated as equals. They’re given no job preference, they wear the same uniforms—they’re even tortured the same way.
Today: Despite many pioneering efforts, several things still keep men and women separate, like unequal pay (women earn 77 cents on the dollar compared to men, according to whitehouse.gov), and many households still uphold traditional male/female roles.
2. All men are sexually repressed
Winston thinks one of the major purposes of Ingsoc (the ruling party) “was to remove all pleasure from the sexual act.” Because he isn’t able to have sex other than for procreation, he fantasizes about sexual encounters he has had in the past and might have in the future. Only the animalistic Proles—or very poor—have access to pornography, but they have no awareness to appreciate it.
Today: Many men remain sexually repressed, but no one forces them to. Thankfully, everyone has incredible access to pornography (according to the Huffington Post, today porn sites get more visitors than Twitter, Amazon and Netflix combined).
3. Marriage has nothing to do with love
In the world ruled by Ingsoc, marriage is only a means to procreation. In fact, Winston and his first wife separated after they realized they couldn’t have kids. Sure, no worrying about missing anniversaries or buying expensive gifts—but no romance or love either. That can lead to the misleadingly named Ministry of Love.
Today: More than ever, we put an emphasis on love when it comes to marriage. Arranged marriages have grown rare; same-sex marriages are on the rise. Additionally, more and more married couples are choosing not to have kids (the birthrate is currently the lowest in American history, with one in five women choosing to stay childless).
4. Children definitely don’t respect their fathers
Even thinking bad thoughts about the government of Oceania can land you in the Ministry of Love. And the most effective informants on these so-called “thought criminals” are children. They’re encouraged to spy and then narc on their parents.
Today: Sure, children are disobedient, but when it comes down to it, they’re increasingly loyal to their fathers and families in general. Say something bad against someone’s father on Twitter? You can expect to be cyber-bullied.
5. At least there’s still anonymous sex
In Winston’s home of Airstrip One, it’s pretty easy to slip into the proletarian district. It is there that Winston engages in relations with a strange Prole women he knows nothing about.
Today: Anonymous sex is huge. Pick up a stranger from the bar, if you’re old school, or cruise any number of mobile apps (hello, Tinder!) that’ll show you to the nearest person looking for some no-strings strange. (Tinder claims its users make 4 million matches per day, and rising.)
6. No hobbies, little drinking, no time
The men of Nineteen Eighty-Four don’t have time for hobbies—not that there’s much to do if they did. Food is rationed heavily—as is alcohol—and there isn’t much else to do outside of work and home. Even morning exercises are highly regimented. Their only release is the week’s two minutes of anger, a public gathering where Outer Party members are shown propaganda videos and driven to vent their frustration at party enemy, Goldstein.
Today: Though a man is free to have whatever interests he wants—from food, to whiskey, to cars, to gardening—he too seems most interested when yelling at people on the TV.
7. You’re only allowed to love one person
And it’s a dude. That’s right, a person’s love must be reserved for Big Brother. He’s the symbol of the party and reminds you that he is always watching.
Today: You’re allowed to love (almost) anyone you want—including dudes! Changing political and religious ideologies have killed almost all sodomy laws.
8. The TV never gets shut off
Big Brother is always watching because the party has installed a TV, or Telescreen, in every Outer Party home. You can only turn it down and never turn it off. Through a Telescreen the party can spy on your every move.
Today: Televisions aren’t required, but everyone has one anyway. (And some of us wish they could be left on at all times.) But if your TV and computer has a camera, there’s a possibility the government could be spying on you.
9. Forget your heroes
Thanks to men like Winston at the Ministry of Truth (or Minitrue), any event or person in history can be revised to fit the government’s ideologies. The only history you’re allowed to read is the history written in Newspeak.
Today: Men have many idols past and present, including historical figures (Ulysses S Grant) and sports heroes (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and they can read about them anytime they want on the Internet. However, crowdsourced reference guides like Wikipedia are rife with factual errors.
10. True love is for the rats
If somehow you do manage to escape the party’s brainwashing and find love, as Winston does with his coworker Julia, you’ll likely face the wrath of Big Brother. (Winston was tortured with rats after he was found with Julia and eventually gave up Julia in exchange for his own freedom.)
Today: Torture is reserved for terrorists—or at least suspected terrorists. And love is no longer persecuted by the government, though hate groups have been known to act violently against love they don’t approve of.