The circle: dystopias of the near-future

After reading The New York Times’ review of The Circle, by Dave Eggers, I decided to download the book, and must say that I have found it thought provoking. As a rule I tend to read more non-fiction than fiction, and was more than happy to have the opportunity to read a novel related to my professional interests.

The Circle is well written, accessible, with a well-rounded characters, and that provides a convincing vision of the dystopias of the near future: situations and contexts that we tend to associate with science fiction, but that could take shape tomorrow; some people would say that they are beginning to happen already.

Which isn’t to say that the book doesn’t have its weaknesses, as Wired points out in its review (watch out for their spoiler alert). The author is clearly not somebody with a great love of technology and the way that it is shaping our present, nor does Eggers appear to have done much homework on the subject of the internet. On the basis of a few references to what the internet is about, along with how the social networks affect our lives, the book takes us to a future world of absolute transparency, where everybody shares everything they do with everybody else, a world without privacy, a world where privacy has negative connotations, where everything is in the public domain. This is an Orwellian nightmare world where low-cost devices are used by everybody, and where we are constantly be checked up on, constantly be bipolarization ing observed. Eggars’ vision may not be entirely believable if we view the novel through a strictly technological lens, but is sufficiently well written and argued to sustain the logic of the points he is making.

Many readers say that The Circle, the all-powerful company that leads the world unchallenged and that looks after its workforce from the cradle to the grave, is a metaphor for Google. Whether the author meant this or not, there are many aspects of the book that make it worthwhile making the comparison, as with the polarization he identifies between those who are happy living in this transparent world, and those who are not able to adapt to it. Obviously, at the end of the day, this science fiction, a novel. But the picture it paints of where our society might be heading will be all-too familiar. Definitely worth a read.

(En español aquí)