By Dave Eggers
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780345807298, April 2014, 512pp.)
The Short of It:
In a world that is nearly 100% transparent, how does one survive?
The Rest of It:
The book opens with Mae Holland on her first day of work at the Circle. Think Google or Facebook but kicked up a notch. Jobs at the Circle are hard to come by, but Mae’s friend Anna, pulled some strings and got her a seat in Customer Experience. Mae’s job is to answer questions and obtain a satisfaction rating of 97% or higher. At the Circle, everything is driven by customer satisfaction and positive reinforcement from the supervisors. Every click is tracked. If your CE rating goes up, you received dozens of chat room comments congratulating you and if your CE rating falls, you get a call from the boss.
In addition to the job itself, Mae is expected to maintain transparency at all times. Every feeling and thought needs to be documented somewhere for the benefit of others and when a new project lands in Mae’s lap, her every move is documented as well. Pulse is recorded, tests are taken randomly to ensure health, regular visits to the doctor to maintain the status quo are all a part of the job. Mae’s fascination with the technology and the Circle’s promise to extend health care to her uninsured parents make her a loyal employee.
But at what cost?
I work in technology so I see the benefit of technology daily, but I also see what’s lost in the exchange. The constant need to be connected is wearing thin with me. Cell phones, data plans, Wi-Fi and the like mean that people no longer talk to one another. We spend hours on our phones and at work, how much of your day is spent answering email? Years ago, when we left the office the work was left behind. Now, the work follows us wherever we go and I hate it.
Every day companies try to out-do each other with wearable technology. If you don’t believe it, consider the recent rise in fitness trackers. More affordable than you think and fitness enthusiasts love them. Then there’s Google Glass. Not an affordable piece of technology, which will ultimately be its downfall but someone, somewhere picked-up on the idea that people want to be connected all the time. How sad is that?
The world that Egger’s creates is totally blown-up and exaggerated but not by much. We are heading down a dangerous path. One that cannot be maintained by normal human beings. I mean, how can a person be “on” 24/7 without falling apart at some point?
The Circle is a terrifying read. Everything is wonderful until it’s not, right? It really makes you think about society and where it’s headed. Will we ever be able to return to simpler times? A part of me thinks so. After upgrading my phone this past December, I now feel as if I should have just went with a regular phone and skipped the “smart” part of it. Frankly, I am tired of it. I am tired of the constant stream of information. I am not a true abuser of it either but I feel as if I am unable to turn it off sometimes. When you are watching a show and have a question, you Google it. Looking for a restaurant? You pull out your phone to see what’s close to you. Instant gratification and it’s making me sick. Literally.
Have you read The Circle? Do you plan to? It’s a frightening read in a lot of ways but an effective way to relay the fact that society is headed for the $hit*er (if it’s not there already).
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