I’ve finally got round to reading The Circle. Now it’s being turned into a movie with Emma Watson and Tom Hanks, no doubt lots more of us will be familiar with it soon. But if you haven’t come across it yet, it’s by Dave Eggers (he of Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius fame) and is set in a near-future world in which one Silicon Valley tech firm has triumphed over Google, Facebook and the rest and has become almost omnipresent in everyone’s lives.
The protagonist is a young woman who manages to blag a job at The Circle courtesy of her college room-mate, but who quickly moves through the ranks until she is soon selected to go ‘transparent’ – have wearable tech on her every day, broadcasting everything she does live to millions of followers. At this point, things start to get ominous, but I won’t give any more away.
It’s good. Eggers can’t resist making some unsubtle points about the dangers of where-we’re-all-heading-if-we’re-not-careful, but it doesn’t detract too much from the enjoyment of actually reading the thing. He does a good job of capturing the general feeling of antsiness that can be a side effect of being offline for any significant period of time, and the Circle engineers’ view that tech can solve everything and don’t worry too much about the consequences (a critique often made of Google in particular) comes over, too.
The book was actually published in 2013 and it seems even more prescient now. I suspect the novel and, when it’s released, the movie, will be useful teaching aids as I try to make some of these points to students on a couple of new tech-related modules I’m planning at the University of Huddersfield. It’s well worth the £4 I paid for it from, naturally enough, the Kindle Store.