Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Dave Eggers gets Orwellian

My weekly book post on the s+b blog is about a novel that does a better job of driving home the dangers of digitization than any nonfiction polemic to date:

How Creepy Is Your Company?

The Circle, Dave Eggers’s creepily engrossing novel—about a Google-like company with a user base and product portfolio so broad that it begins to transform the world into a techno-dystopia—got a lot

of attention when it was published in October. It was widely compared to George Orwell’s 1984—a comparison that Eggers purposefully elicits by utilizing, for example, Orwellian slogans, such as “SECRETS ARE LIES” and “PRIVACY IS THEFT.”

Using a model that is currently driving exuberant valuations for real-world social media companies like Snapchat (take the money if you still can, boys!), Eggers’s fictional company provides free services that offer convenience, security, and the warm embrace of society in return for the attention and personal data of their users. Want to know where your kid is? Implant the Circle’s ChildTrack chip at birth. Want to eliminate crime? Place the Circle’s SeeChange wireless micro-cameras all over your neighborhood. Want to ensure a tension-free first date? Use the Circle’s LuvLuv database to ferret out your date’s likes and dislikes in minute detail. There are, of course, a few minor downsides to these services: the death of privacy, dogged commercialism, and the velvet fist of a corporate Big Brother. But, in Eggers’s world, only an anti-social Luddite or a criminal would be so ungrateful as to complain... read the rest here

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