Tech & Rights

1984: Back to the Present

Technology, Big Brother and other dystopias: a debate organized by the League of Human Rights in the framework of the International Fantasy Film Festival of Brussels.

by Belgian League of Human Rights

A time warp seems to have opened between the world of science fiction and our daily reality. More agonizing than Kaiju from Pacific Rim is the figure of Big Brother, coming straight from the nightmarish world of George Orwell's 1984. In its wake came a cohort of Little Brothers driven by a dangerous obsession with security, fueled by fears of crisis, terrorism and the invasion of migrants. Their weapons: an arsenal of high-tech weapons of mass destruction of fundamental freedoms: biometric recording (Gattaca, Elysium), predictive justice (Minority Report), and widespread surveillance of dissenters (V for Vendetta, Adjustment Bureau, Brazil, The Son of Man, Blade Runner).

Regarding threats to the respect for privacy on the Web, an activist of Internet users’ rights wrote, “1984 was a fictional story, not an instruction manual.” Unfortunately, the intrusive shadow of Big Brother is cast widely over the Internet, as revealed by Edward Snowden's revelations regarding PRISM, the clandestine program of mass surveillance of the population - worthy of the best paranoid thrillers of Hollywood.

1984. Thirty years after that highly symbolic date, are technological tools, more and more powerful, transforming our everyday lives in a laboratory of the worst dystopias imagined by literature and cinema? Do we need to learn from these dystopian warnings to better protect ourselves? Thirty years after 1984, has Big Brother won the game?


David Morelli (coordinator of the Commission of New Technologies of LDH)

Didier Stiers (journalist, Le Soir)

Gauthier Keyaerts (cultural journalist and sound artist)

Moderator: Jean-Jacques Jespers (ULB professor, former journalist RTBF)