If you’re at all squeamish and worry about the power and ubiquity of companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google, maybe you shouldn’t read the novel “The Circle” by Dave Eggers. On the other hand, maybe you should read it to confirm your darkest fears. And if you’re a fan of said companies, you too should read it as a warning of what the future might look like.
Everyone should read it because it’s a terrific book.
“The Circle” is about a fictional Silicon Valley company of the same name that is more or less a combination of Facebook and Google. The plot revolves around a young woman (Mae Holland) who secures a job at the company through a friend. Almost immediately, the job changes her life for the better. She is praised for her work, the working environment/campus (where employees are encouraged to spend the night) is spotless and fun, and she can even add her parents to her medical insurance. Take that Obamacare!
What’s not to like, right? But the company has a very dark side; it will not rest until every member of the human race has a Circle account. Even more disturbing, it will not rest until its concept of ‘transparency’ is adopted by all. What does transparency mean? No secrets, no private life — everything you do (and this includes sex) will be public. Cameras are everywhere, watching our every move. The company is fond of saying, ‘nothing is deleted’ and everything is on the cloud.
By achieving total transparency, the company elders believe, no one will ever commit a crime again because we can all see what each of us is doing. Children are implanted with chips so no one can kidnap and abuse them. Everything is monitored, everything is tracked to an absurd degree.
Eggers of course takes this all to an extreme but the scariest aspect of the book is that it does not seem all that far-fetched. After reading it, I began pulling back on information I previously had online and lying about other information. If they’re going to watch us, giving out bad information might be our best bet.
I found this book to be a page-turner and harrowing. If the future looks like this, count me out.