With the birth of my daughter, and immobility that breast feeding brings, I decided to get back into reading real books. This is not to say that I’m not also reading online articles on my smartphone, but I want her to get excited about reading by seeing me read a real book.
One of the first books that caught my eye (The Circle by Dave Eggers) took me over a month to finish due to diaper changes, endless laundry, etc. but it was also one of the most thought provoking books I’ve read in a long time.
Overview of the book:
The Circle is a “science ficiton” novel that outlines the employment of Mae at a company called the Circle, an Internet company based in California that has created a universal login for Internet users (that links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system). The Circle also creates other compatible technologies that (while making everyone’s lives easier) also increases the amount of tracking and surveillance of not only Circle users, but also of everyday citizens.
The tracking and convenience starts with Internet searches and progresses to wearable devices that track biometric data (and provide feedback), wearable cameras, and drones.
You watch Mae get sucked into the appeal of working at the Circle with its extensive campus, employee perks, and social activities driven to keep Circlers (the employees) on the campus more and socializing online to an extreme degree. The description of the Circle campus reads like a description of Facebook or Google’s campus.
The Circle = a book about Google
Throughout the entire novel, I keep thinking. This is Google. He’s talking about Google, and the social issues that Eggers brings up about the Circle are ones that we should be thinking about in relation to Google.
We should question things like:
- With our universal login to Google (which includes wearable devices) are we loosing critical personal privacy in exchange for the illusion of more social connection and convenience?
- What does constant social media posting and commentary do to our social interactions? There are many studies that suggest (and the novel hints at this as well) that it might make us more lonely.
- Can our brain handle the level of information and data being directed our way? (Some studies suggest we can’t). What are the impacts of that type of brain overload?
- Does all of that online interaction limit our ability to have moment of deep reflection and contemplation?
- Where is the legislation that is watching Google’s monopoly over our information? Or Facebooks?
- While it’s cool that we are training computers to recognized images, when should we become concerned when that technology is used? What if someone uses the technology to quickly scan surveillance video to find known felons (as the book proposes) or to catch a CEO kicking his dog?
- And when we as a society has access to what (without cameras) would be a private moment, when do we respond? What should our response be? An Internet petition to boycott the CEO’s company?
- When should we use drones and unnecessary web cams? How should we legislate them?
Personally, the book has lead me to a few personal decisions:
- I need to disconnect more so that I can interact more in real life
- I need to monitor my own personal information overload and take steps to give my brain a break
- I should support Google competitors and legislation that limits the amount of its monopoly
- I need to stay abreast of legislation that addresses video surveillance and its use. And the use and legislation of drones for that matter.
I highly encourage anyone who works in the Internet marketing industry to pick up a copy and give it a read.