If you’re familiar with Ira Levin at all, it’s probably through some of the movies based on his novels (Rosemary’s Baby, The Boys from Brazil, The Stepford Wives, Sliver). My favorite Levin novel, This Perfect Day, hasn’t (to my knowledge) made it to the big screen. It describes a scary future:
“Uniformity is the defining feature; there is only one language and all ethnic groups have been eugenically merged into one race called “The Family”. There are only four personal names for men, and four corresponding names for women. Instead of surnames, individuals are distinguished by a nine-character alphanumeric code. Everyone eats “totalcakes”, drinks “cokes” and wears exactly the same thing – every day.
The world is ruled by a central computer called UniComp which has been programmed to keep every single human on the surface of the earth in check. People are continually drugged by means of regular injections so that they can never realize their potential as humans. They are told where to live, when to eat, whom to marry, when to reproduce, and which job they will be trained for. Everyone is assigned a counselor who acts somewhat like a mentor, confessor, and parole agent; violations against ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ by themselves and others are expected to be reported at a monthly confession.”
I read This Perfect Day in 1970 (the year it was published). The telecomps used by counselors to remotely connect with UniComp sound remarkably like wi-fi enabled laptops. Fortunately, instead of connecting with a single all-powerful computer, we’re connecting with lots of little ones…and each other.
On a more metaphysical plane, This Perfect Day poses the question: Are we really as “awake” and “conscious” as we think we are? My latest re-read reminds me –once again– trust yourself, don’t trust governments.