5 Predictions ‘Fahrenheit 451’ Got Right About the Future

Ray Bradbury was a literary icon who, it seems, was spot-on about the future. Let’s look at the accurate predictions in one of his best works, Fahrenheit 451.

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Fahrenheit 451

Though the 1953 novel’s events take place sometime in what was then the unknowable future, it’s almost as if Ray Bradbury got a sneak peek. Fahrenheit 451 is part of many high schoolers’ curricula and creates discussions around censorship and authoritarianism. But now that we’re in an age where nearly everything seems possible with technology, it’s interesting to consider what about the novel was actually pretty accurate. Bradbury lived until 2012, so he did see the creation of some of his imaginings, but we can only wonder what he would think of how close to reality his writing is now. Let’s get into it.

“Seashells” or “Thimble Radios”

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Seashells or thimble radios are essentially today’s version of earbuds or Bluetooth headphones. In the book, Montag’s wife wears the seashells to fall asleep and listens to music, news, and entertainment and drowns out the world around her. In today’s world, we have an endless array of our own seashells produced by various companies. We even have noise-canceling headphones, which are literally meant to keep the world around you out and whatever you’re listening to in. Though they’re generally viewed positively, unlike Bradbury’s writing, students tend to get in trouble at school for wearing discreet earbuds during class.

Social Isolation and an Obsession with Large Screens

The parlor in Fahrenheit 451 has walls that captivate Mildred, Montag’s wife, and isolates her and others from the rest of society. At the time, it was best described as a flat-screen television. Flat-screen TVs on their own are honestly even a little bit outdated for us at this point. Now, it’s what we can do with our screens. Many are interactive and offer endless activities that keep people indoors and isolated for hours or even days. The advancement of technology has definitely resulted in social isolation in terms of physical socialization. People socialize online and through the digital world, which Bradbury also predicted, but to a much larger extent than he probably anticipated.

Digital Social Networking

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Though people in the novel were isolated physically, they did communicate through the digital walls. This must have seemed so far-fetched in the 1950s, but it’s exactly what happened. We even have little rectangles in our pockets that let us video call each other at a moment’s notice. Even more, the pandemic made us rely on this kind of “digital wall” communication. Zoom became the primary group video call platform among businesses, schools, and even friends.

We were socializing entirely through the digital world for months out of necessity, but there are definitely negative side effects. Younger kids might show social deficiencies now that they’re back to real-life socialization. Before this, there was a digital wall people wrote on to communicate as well – Facebook walls. It’s a technology that consistently develops and will continue developing as we see the rise of incredibly realistic virtual realities and metaverses.

Sensationalized Media

fahrenheit 451
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Nobody listens any more. I can’t talk to the walls because they’re yelling at me, I can’t talk to my wife; she listens to the walls. I just want someone to hear what I have to say and maybe if I talk long enough it will make sense.

Guy Montag

Today, platforms like Twitter, TikTok, and even news outlets are flooded with traumatic events, funny content, news, and fake information all at once. And all of these different kinds of media drown each other out. They make it easy – even necessary – to become desensitized to being bombarded with all different feelings and information within seconds of each other.

Unless a certain event is turned into a sensation or a spectacle, people tend to move past it very quickly. Montag said, “…maybe if I talk long enough, it will make sense.” Similarly, in our world, if people want to be heard, they must not only speak long enough but loud enough, to be heard over the millions of other sensational things going on around them. This is the eeriest similarity between Bradbury’s science fiction dystopia and our very real world.

Video and Electronic Surveillance

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The mechanical hound in the novel was created to find people who read books or were generally going against societal norms. At one point, Montag was chased by the mechanical hound, and the government videotaped the entire chase. It’s a form of surveillance that wasn’t necessarily widespread around 70 years ago. Today, police have (or are supposed to have) body cameras on their person.

We also have CCTV or security cameras in most public places, and some people have them on their own property or at home. Other than that, people are generally wary of surveillance conducted via personal data or personal information with our electronic devices. Many of our phones use fingerprints to unlock or face identification rather than made-up passcodes. Fahrenheit 451 was almost optimistic in its limits to surveillance and the intrusion of technological advancement in daily life.

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