Dave Eggers “The Circle” – a frightening reminder that we are moving towards an inevitable obsoletion of privacy.

| August 18, 2017 | 0 Comments

From the first look, it looks like another sci-fi dystopian genre book, with the same formula that we’ve seen before.

We have the authoritarian regime that gains too much power and control over the people and attempts to create a utopian system with perfect humans. The only problem is that humans are not robots and their natural imperfection makes the utopia feel as a dystopia, that has to be destroyed.

The author even referenced George Orwell’s 1984’s famous quote – “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. ” In the circle, the employees are being “brainwashed” with a corporate slogan “Secrets are lies. Sharing is Caring. Personal is theft.”

So these time the authoritarian regime comes not from government but from a corporation. From silicon valley like alike tech company to be more accurate. A company that created products that can control every aspect of human life and makes them public.

However, there is one big difference that separates the “Circle” from the dystopian sci-fi genre. A quite frightening difference. It doesn’t feel like the events are happening in some unreachable future time. In fact most of the times it does feel more like we are reading about the present time than future time. What’s so futuristic in that book that didn’t happen yet?

Chip implants? One company already ask all of their employees to have one.

Live streaming your life ? Most popular stream site Twitch has  the whole category called IRL where people Livestream their own everyday life. Ice Poisedon being one of the most popular.

Tech company monopoly? While we don’t have it in tech industry yet, we definitely have an oligopoly. The main reason why we didn’t see any new big start-up break in the last years.

What else?  A campus with concert venues? Silicon Valley and Google’s campus come in mind, but Facebook apparently is planning to overdo even what was in the book and create a whole village for employees so they would not need to leave Facebook premises ever. 

The Wristbands and smartwatches now keep track of our sleep patterns, activities, location and store  this info online, so companies could easily spy on us.

If that’s not the case, then we will voluntarily give up information about our location on social networks or use one of the most popular app that tracks our location and shows on the map in real time.

Tech company that wants to change the world vibe? Well, at this point it become a running joke.

The only huge difference in “the Circle world “from the real world (besides some technology aspects) was how openly and audacious the tech company villanize the personal privacy. In real-world tech giants are careful to hide such motives and then allegedly laugh how dumb people are to give all private information to them.

Meantime The Circle company creates the whole new philosophy where it is a human right to know and a private information is a direct validation of this right.

This disparity definitely helps a reader to start contemplating the digital world that we are living in now. Sometimes the look from outside perspective and open motives are all that it takes.

Were we frogs in the boiling water and never truly anticipate the side effects of the digital world? Did the enthusiasm for the progress of technology and a need to validate our existence made us all blind?

Dave Eggers as a writer does an excellent job to prove that every civil right regarding privacy can be stripped with the most compelling and well-worded arguments about how the change will prosper our lives and potentially solve essential world problems.

So all aspects of the society slowly and voluntarily become under surveillance.

This book may become one of the most important books of this generation. Cause by now it’s quite obvious that people take for granted such issue. When Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks revealed that the USA government can access personal citizen’s data without a warrant, barely anyone batted an eye. Only for Libertarians that became the main issue.

Talking about Libertarians, this book should definitely find a place in Libertarians’ bookshelf. And not only because of the privacy theme. The novel brings a lesson about how the private company can be an even bigger threat to civil liberties than a government.

The only regret reading this book was that Dave Egger didn’t put too big effort to show the arguments about the importance of privacy in our lives. Besides some classic arguments about real talks vs internet chats and that humans are not capable to know too much, we are left to find the true value of our privacy on our own.

But it would have been a good addition to a story about tech company’s greed to own our privacy.

Overall it’s an easy read with a subplot about love triangle and friendship with some Hitchcock level suspicious elements that made this novel very engage and worthy.

Will this book make some people be more aware of privacy issues and more skeptical of tech companies pitches? Hopefully, if nothing else this is a good reflection of our transitional period to a new world.

P.S. I know that there is a movie loosely based on this novel, that is available on iTunes and Netflix, but I strongly recommend to read the book first. Hollywood screenwriters truly ripped to shreds the story.

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Category: Books, Fictional

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