The onset of the 21st century has brought on unimaginable and unprecedented leaps in commercial technology which has been woven into the very fabric of society. If 20 years ago few adults, let alone children had a cellphone, and 10 years ago, social media was a fun gimmick, both are now the very core of the social dogma, placed into the hands of even young children. However, despite all the connectivity and social entertainment, people are seemingly more drawn apart than ever before, each in their own device. Technology and mass media entertainment are tools of conformity and control that eventually, both individuality and the need to govern are eliminated.
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Ray Bradbury’s “The Pedestrian” creates a dystopian and inherently antisocial society in which mass media via television envelops everyone in society. Bradbury creates a juxtaposition that the next generations will continue to become engrossed in their personal technology, ceasing to pay attention to the world around them. The dystopian element to this story is not that individuals enjoy watching television, it is the fact that it has become a uniform activity (potentially used for control) which supresses thought, belief, and observation. It dehumanizes the very human elements in people by creating an illusion of the emotions and experiences via television.
“The Pedestrian” was written in 1951, when televisions just began to appear in homes on a massive scale, but fast forwarding 2-3 generations later, and the resemblance, at least in ideology, is uncanny. Smartphones are prevalent everywhere, in every social occasion or venturing. Most people watch a concert or fireworks through the recording camera of the smartphone to share later on social media, while the newest generation of kids prefers virtual realities rather than playing outside. It is conformity at unprecedented levels in some societies – and deviation from it, such as limiting smartphone or social media use is oftentimes viewed as strange, even resulting in social disconnection. The story tells the consequences of a society dependent on technology, and how technology will become the central factor of control over human society.
Not much is told about the government present in the dystopia of “The Pedestrian.” It has eerie parallels to another of Bradbury’s novels “Fahrenheit 451” where similarly the population was engaged in their ‘talking walls’ of television media, while anyone who chose to read or behave uniquely, was brutally arrested. It is well-known that media and entertainment has been always been used by those in power to control and instil ideology. In a world where the population engages in nothing else but the media, there is nothing left to do but control the dissidents.
Amazingly, in the “The Pedestrian” this is not even done by humans, but by police robots, “as he passed the front window of the car he looked in. As he had expected, there was no one in the front seat, no one in the car at all” (Bradbury, 1). In the film version, Meade remarks with irony, that the government could all be dead for all they know, while the robots continue to go around patrolling the streets. Referring back to dependence of society on technology, the dystopian future could very well be the technology controlling humanity. Except the irony is that in a scenario like that, it will not be a brave war of humans against the machines as shown in Hollywood movies. It would be a quiet succumbing of humans to their own desires and media devices, where we become slaves to the very technology which was meant to enrich our lives and bring us together.
There are numerous benefits to technology, but at the societal level, driven by the industries of social and mass media, it has become a tool of conformity. Technology is so rapidly developing, that people are unable to determine its impacts. However, despite being bombarded with information, people become less intelligent, losing focus and memory; despite being interconnected on social media, people are more secluded and private in a physical sense. Bradbury’s “The Pedestrian” provides a chilling warning for society if it follows this trajectory, becoming a shadow of humanity while under control of technology and those who yield it.
Bradbury, Ray. The Pedestrian. New York: Doubleday & Company, 1954. Web.
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