The Orwellian Future

1984 has been a tough read. It’s not by any means difficult to read, but the fact that many of its prophecies have come true one by one that it leads to this question –

Is our future inevitably Orwellian?

Maybe the Orwellian future is already here. It’s just not that widely distributed.

The war on the sovereign, independent-thinking individual is real.

The Sovereign Collective

A hypothesis:

Humans are evolved to live and thrive in small collectives with an optimal range of number of individuals within the group.

Alignment of incentives between that of the individual and the group will occur within this optimal range. Conversely, as the group grows in size exceeding the optimal ceiling, it gets harder to get the incentives to align, leading to the centralization of power among the few.

Individuals may search for truth, but groups will always search for consensus. These two are likely to conflict with each other with increased group size. With no consensus, groups fall apart.

Hence, a group can be collectively sovereign up until the theoretical size, after which individual sovereignty diminishes in the favor of the minority which controls the collective. The controlling minority must enforce consensus on the group at the cost of individual sovereignty.


I was browsing through my shelves for a good read, and found a copy of Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan – bought nearly 23 years ago in Oxford.

Flipped it open and saw this note from my friend Travis:

Being the oaf I was I had foolishly tried to debate him on the utility of knowledge, and why certain things were worth learning “more” than others (“My engineering will beat your philosophy up, Travis!”). He showed me the error of my ways, after which I had promptly trotted down Broad Street and bought a couple of philosophy books from Blackwell’s, one of which was Leviathan.

Thank you, Travis. I stand corrected.

Jennifer Pike at Mansfield College Library

A couple of hours ago, Jennifer Pike (and the London Mozart Players) had performed Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” inside the Mansfield College library.

What’s not to like? I think Vivaldi was probably the best Baroque composer there ever was, and hearing the Four Seasons performed inside the hallowed halls of Mansfield was a real treat.

And, the icing on the cake was getting to see the table where I had toiled over my engineering problem sheets for a couple of years. Nostalgic.