Thought Police

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by Tom Verreault

How Far to the Future?

Without a doubt George Orwell’s “1984” is the epicenter of themes in science fiction involving thought police. The novel introduced a repressive police state that prosecuted crimethink through psychology, hyper surveillance, and a false flag resistance movement in a dystopian future. Ironically, it sometimes felt as if you were being “policed” for expressing an unaccepted opinion about the novel when forced to read it as part of your sophomore year English class. Perhaps it was just part of the lesson plan to demonstrate the experience of “doublethink”.

The Babylon 5 television series developed the idea of thought police into a genuine agency of telepaths that could truly police your thoughts as well as punish you psychically. Eventually, a telepath war broke out which resulted in greater liberty for telepaths. The setting is a far future reminiscent of classic science fiction with a less oppressive mood.

Star Trek: The Next Generation presented a sexier and more touchy-feely form of the thought police in the character of Deanna Troy. She was an empathic ships councilor who was there to “help you.” In order to explore darker themes the show’s writers had to introduce telepathic characters with less morals for which Deanna became the counter balance and hero of the episode.

Rumors and blogs abound on the internet which assert the military’s development of drones that can read your mind. Reportedly China, Great Britain, the US, and Russia all have programs for drones that can read the mind of a specific individual. One company is working on a mind reading algorithm that can intuitively predict what an enemy pilot might do much in the way an expert human pilot can intuitively predict the same. Another reported development is an actual mind reading helmet.  Is Big Brother about to be looking into our minds?

Or have the thought police already arrived? Do they already live among us under the cloak of political correctness run amok among the sheep? A Maryland teacher was fired and banned from school property as well as had his home searched because of having written a science fiction novel that included a school shooting in its plot. Science fiction writers nominated for Hugo awards have suffered smear campaigns to prevent the fans from voting for their work due to a comment by the author on an unrelated political issue in an attempt to make the Hugo Awards a referendum on political correctness and not an award for the best in science fiction. Political correctness is a ravenous wolf in our society and you just never know who it will sink its teeth into next.

Could it be that with the evolution of political correctness enforced by the masses and the potential for predictive algorithms and other mind reading technology in the hands of the government could converge in the near future into a perfect storm so bleak as to make any Orwellian dystopian setting look like a sunny day in a field of daisies?

Thought police in the real world did not go away with the dismantling of the Soviet Union. They are a very near and future danger. In a world where truth is becoming stranger than fiction they are, without a doubt,  a worthy story element to explore in any science fiction property whether fiction or a game.