BOOKS ISSUE: 'The Circle' projects Bay Area technology culture into a dystopian near-future
The mysterious Kalden, a Mark Zuckerberg-like character who helped create The Circle, explains toward the end that he and others were motivated by a desire to apply technological fixes to any problems they saw, often just to see what could be done, without really thinking through the wider and longer term implications of what they were doing.
"I was trying to make the web more civil. I was trying to make it more elegant. I got rid of anonymity. I combined a thousand disparate elements into one unified system. But I didn't picture a world where Circle membership was mandatory, where all government and all life was channeled through one network," Kalden tells Mae.
We all want to be seen and counted, to be connected to something greater than ourselves, and to be protected from lurking evils in our world. The Circle reminds us to careful what we wish for, and it also offers an intriguing prescription for what ails us.
At the end of the novel, Kalden tries to enlist Mae's help is promoting "The Rights of Humans in a Digital Age," which range from "We must all have the right to anonymity" and "Not every human activity can be measured" down to the final line, written in red ink: "We must all have the right to disappear." *