THE CIRCLE by Dave Eggers is a creatively written scientific fictional thriller. In the age of constant social media attention and out desire to share our movements on various platforms like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc., we explore the ultimate possibilities of a not so far-fetched world, a place where the human become addicted to information, not only what concerns them but what doesn’t as well.
Mae Holland, a vigorous competitor and technocrat, lands her dream job at The Circle with the help of her friend, Annie. “It’s heaven”, she remarks the her first day at her job.
The Circle is the most powerful company in the world, created by ‘Three Wise Men’. It has encapsulated all transactions, social, financial, medical, educational etc. into a single identity on TruYou. It aims to achieve an info-democracy where everyone has access to the every piece of information.
The company demands transparency in everything, anonymity is despised. Everyone’s past is to be revealed, the present broadcast live in video and sound along with their location, heart rate and other physical parameters. No data will be erased, howsoever personal it may be.
The ultimate aim is to channel every aspect of human existence through it, from elections to romance and from medicine to law enforcement, so much so that it’s platform becomes indispensable.
One of such experiments to attain such a goal is to insert organic chips in children to track them, conceivably to prevent child trafficking and kidnapping. The additional benefits being a constant monitoring of a kid’s bio-physical and mental parameters. Additionally, the chip has no way to be removed. So, that good intent to stem child-crimes becomes mass surveillance in a decade and a half.
Everyone must become ‘transparent’, making everything about them available in public by wearing gadgets designed to record every bit of information you come across and transmit it live to anyone who wishes to hear.
Such ideology is not just confined to The Circle. The followerd and the like breed think of their world along similar lines asking why these cool things didn’t happen when they were kids.
‘SECRETS ARE LIES, PRIVACY IS THEFT,SHARING IS CARING’
Mae begins working at CE i.e. Customer Experience where she provides answers to clients questions and complaints. She is rated by them which accounts for her performance, the ratings being available to all. She quickly rises through the ranks to the inner echelons of the company.
She becomes as ‘transparent’ as one can get, her every move being fed to millions of followers who incessantly send ‘zings’ and messages to her. In the washroom, the audio is muted for three minutes while the camera is focused on the back of the door. Her elongated silence worries her followers who express their concerns through messages.
She becomes one of the most visible and influential Circler. While she finds her electronic demands ‘delicious ‘, she becomes removed from her non-Circle life i.e. her parents, her father’s multiple sclerosis, her ex-boyfriend etc. She begins to find them cynical and dismissive of the technological advancements of her beloved company. Although she feels terrible occasionally, the improbability of such emotions entails no introspection on her part.
Can she be saved from the Circle? Enter mysterious Kalden who takes her to unseen locations in the company after jamming her transmissions, for not to be seen. He warns her time and time again, of the dystopia, of the monster she had helped develop but she hardly cares. All she longs for is support of her followers and the approval of ‘Three Wise Men’. Everything else becomes peripheral.
Towards the end, a manhunt to chase down her ex-boyfriend, who has secluded himself into the woods to prevent himself from the surveillance and not wanting to be found, paints a dismal picture of the very interface of technological advancements and human desire. Her friend Annie goes into coma, following revelations about the ancestral lineage when she finds uncharacteristic things about her parents.
While Anne is in the hospital, Mae thinks creatively. ‘What was going on in that head of hers? It was exasperating, really, Mae thought not knowing. It was an affront, a deprivation, to herself and to the world.’ She plans to bring it up with her bosses. ‘They needed to talk about Annie, the thoughts she was thinking. Why shouldn’t they know them? The world deserves nothing less and would not wait.’
Overall, it was a thrilling technological ride.