Iím not your average computer user. Iíve been knee-deep in the information security industry for more than 15 years, and I can easily come up with droves of privacy and security worst case scenarios. I also read a lot, predominantly books that I can learn something tangible from. Novels are rarely on my radar these days, thereís too much technical material to absorb.
Itís been difficult not to be exposed to the power of The Circle and its omnipresence in the news. Iím one of those people that opt not to watch a trailer before seeing a movie and so I didnít want to read a single review before getting the book. You are probably not like that since youíre reading these words, so letís move further.
About the author
Dave Eggers is the author of several books and founder and editor of McSweeney's, an independent publishing house based in San Francisco. In 2002 he co-founded 826 Valencia, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center for youth in the Mission District of San Francisco. In 2004, Eggers taught at the University of California-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and there he co-founded Voice of Witness, a series of books using oral history to illuminate human rights crises around the world.
Inside the book
The book talks about a near future where the most significant company in the world is The Circle. They don't deal in goods, but in what we all know is the real commodity of the future - information. Most of the population has an account, and that is made possible only by using real, verifiable personal information.
There are no more anonymous trolls plaguing comments on websites, everything posted online can be tracked to an actual person.
There's so much aesthetic beauty and simplicity, one can only wish to work at a place like The Circle, which is a combination of Google, Facebook, and Twitter, to name just a few. At the same time, there's an inexplicable aura of darkness rising as you progress through the book and see characters willingly give up their privacy in the most extreme of ways.
Iím not going to tell you the story in detail since there is really no need to spoil the contents of the book. That being said, the author is a master at showing how ultimate transparency isn't necessary a positive thing. We need privacy, the ability to tune out and remove ourselves from the worldís view.
The best part of this book is that you donít have to imagine much. Eggers is not portraying an abstract world from the distant future where people have uncommon names, weird clothing and the technology is pure science fiction. Based on what we have available today, itís effortless to immerse oneself in the story and identify with both the situations and the characters.
Iíve asked myself this many times while reading the book - can we end up like this?