Think Piece: The Circle
Created on March 7, 2022
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Think Piece by
Julius Makowski, Tram Anh Nguyen, Hermann Stolzenburg 12
TruYou is the first program that was created by the Circle and is a necessary foundation for many others that are introduced later. It combines every account, for example social media, forums, e-mail and streaming services, into one single account with both a password and biometric authentication. Since every user can only have a single account, their identity is verifiable, identity theft becomes much harder. Furthermore, since online anonymity no longer exists, cyber mobbing and trolls are a thing of the past.
YouthRank is a program made for educational systems. It takes data like test results, class ranks and the school’s relative academic strength to rank every student by their strength. The leaderboard is updated daily and allows for easy comparison of one's academic strength, which, according to the creator and Mae, eliminates stress and doubt.
The camera you can see here is part of “SeeChange”, a program all around surveillance. They are “the size of a lollipop”, self-sustaining and have good image quality. They are first introduced as being useful in a variety of fields in the everyday lives of people, for example for checking out the surfing conditions or making sure one's grandparents are fine. However, it’s already said that they would also be useful for surveillance, thus aiding in the fight against crime and thievery. This program plays a very central role throughout the book, as it enables situations like Mae being caught using a Kayak without permission. Furthermore, the tool “SoulSearch” is partly based on the image and video data collected by these cameras.
Through this metallic bracelet, The Circle is able to track all health- and body-related information of a person. It’s connected to a chip that the user swallowed, creating a mostly complete profile. This data, in connection with regular check-ups, is used to prevent outbreaks of diseases and secure the health of individuals the best possible. The program is called CHAD, which stands for “Complete Health Data program”. Ironically, this is also the name of an ex-boyfriend of Dr. Villalobos, who is responsible for Mae’s health in the book.
LuvLuv is the modern-day Parship, matching people based on all data it has about one’s hobbies, habits and interests. The more data collected, the better the recommendations will be. When it’s first presented, Mae is used as an example. This makes her very uncomfortable, since she feels it’s displaying an incomplete image of her character. This program isn’t of any further significance in the book.
PastPerfect is a lineage-tracking software that, based on archives and other documents, reconstructs the history of a person's family. It uses AI-powered analysis, genealogical software and facial recognition.
ChildTrack is a service based on SeeChange cameras and a newly-developed, implantable chip, that allows parents and authorities to track all movements of their children. This reduces the risk of abductions and other dangers greatly.
Through her contact to Annie, a friend whom she met in collage, Mae is able to get a job at the Circle. Like most so-called 'newbies', she starts in CE, which is short for Customer Experience, the department responsible for communicating with the Circle's customers. After the first few weeks, Mae is very impressed by the amount of equipment she is supplied with, as with every addition to her tasks, she gets a new screen. While chatting with customers, she constantly stays in contact with her co-workers and boss, is active on social media and answers queries to help companies improve their products.
Mercer Medeiros is an ex-boyfriend of Mae and the most present opponent of the Circle and its services. He represents a non-digitized way of living and a force of resistance against the flow of society. Mercer proves that he would rather end his life than live one dominated by the tracking and control of a monopolistic company.
"It's not that I'm not social. I'm social enough. But the tools you guys create actually manufacture unnaturally extreme social needs. No one needs the level of contact you're purveying. It improves nothing. It's not nourishing. It's like snack food. You know how they engineer this food? They scientifically determine precisely how much salt and fat they need to include to keep you eating. You're not hungry, you don't need the food, it does nothing for you, but you keep eating those empty calories. This is what you're pushing. Same thing."
Mae Holland is the main character of the books and movie "The Circle". She represents a person that, even though she enjoys her privacy and time alone, is manipulated and almost brainwashed throughout the book to end up fully supporting the company and its goals. Towards the end, Mae is so convinced by the idea of everything being centralized and accessible that she tells on Kalden (Tyler) to keep the company on track and her viewers convinced that everything the Circle is doing is in their best interest.
Mae in one of her regular checkups with Dr. Villalobos
In this photocollage, you will find everything you need to know about the book 'The Circle' to have room for thought and to draw your own conclusion about the topic. For example, you will learn about the many programs and services the company 'The Circle' established.
"We don't delete at the Circle". That line is said multiple times throughout the book, and it means exactly what is says: once any information, any photo, video, post of profile, enters the servers of the Circle, it is saved in the cloud never to be deleted again.
Eamon Bailey is one of the three "Wise Men" and by far the most present and prolific one in the book. He is the casual face of the company, and many "Circlers" love him for that. Concerning the Circle's ideas and goals, he is very idealistic and genuinely convinced that the company will improve everyone's life.
Tyler Gospodinov, mostly known as "Ty" and, due to his secrecy, "Kalden", is the founder of the Circle. He is a genius that continuously comes up with new commercializable ideas that he is able to implement himself. While he was convinced of his work, the idea of "completion", which is what the company is working towards, frightens him. In the end, he asks Mae to stop the company from reaching that goal while revealing his identity.
More than 770 million CCTV cameras are currently operating worldwide, 54% of those in China alone.
Clearview AI is an American company founded in 2017 that specializes in matching faces with the help of an AI and their database that consists of ten billion pictures, with the goal to reach 100 billion in one year, by harvesting social media content and using the photos posted online, which the said platforms did not approve of in the past. Originally purely focusing on law enforcement and providing their service to 3100 law enforcement agencies including contracts with the FBI and the DHS, they are now planning to expand to retail and e-commerce. Beforehand, it was already revealed to the public, through a data breach in 2020, that their customer list also included commercial organizations. Moreover, they don’t want to keep it limited to facial recognition, but adding ways to recognize people by their walk and scanning their fingerprints from afar is the goal. It is no surprise that the plan of Clearview AI was not well received by many. Furthermore, a wave of lawsuits and complaints has reached the company from all over the world. France and Australia want to delete the data of their citizens from the database.
Universal Health Care (UHC), which many define as the access to good quality health services for everyone in a community without worrying about financial hardships, has been on the SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) agenda since 2015. Presently, not even half of the world’s population has access to the needed health care. The country most notable for having no UHC is the USA, the only country in the top 20 most developed countries. Each year roughly 100 million people fall into poverty as a result of health expenses. Moreover, 800 million people spend at least 10% of their household income on health services. Because of that, the WHO has multiple goals they want to reach soon. They have a triple billion target: one billion more people benefiting from UHC in 2025, one billion more being better protected from health emergencies, and one billion more enjoying better health and well-being.
China has been trying to develop its so-called Social Credit System (SoCS) since 2001. In its pure form, the system is supposed to rate individuals alongside companies based on their “trustworthiness”. This is being done both from a financial standpoint, with a separate system called the Sesame Credit, and from a political point of view. Additionally, there is the possibility of being put on a blacklist for people with a final court judgment against them. However, this is not based on your everyday behavior, as some superstitions suggest, but on official violations of laws and regulations. It is important to note that the law in China is very CCP (Chinese Communist Party) and ideologically driven, meaning open criticism against the regime can lead to judicial actions. There is no nationwide mandatory system implemented in China yet.
Possible punishments of the blacklist:
limitation of buying plane tickets
limitation of buying high-speed rail tickets
children prohibited from attending private schools
no entertainment such as nightclubs, golf courses, inns (on the higher price end only)
When you need to track someone, there are multiple ways to do so. One of them are Apps like “Life360” or pre-installed features on the smartphone like Apple already has. Additionally, an external GPS chip can be implemented in any accessory like a watch or a necklace. However, an internal GPS chip in your body isn't possible with today’s technologies.
There are 4.2 billion social media users. Those spend more than 2 hours on average daily on these platforms.
78% of people share things online to stay connected to others they may not stay in contact with otherwise. 43% of the teens feel pressured to have an online presence, and 37% feel pressured about likes.
Cloud computing is commonly used in today’s world. May it be Dropbox, iCloud, or Google Drive, many use them daily. Furthermore, the latter has over a billion active users. Most of us use a cloud service for uploading photos or using an email service, for instance. Even a vast majority (81%) of enterprises are using a multi-cloud strategy. At present, 40 billion terabytes of data are stored on cloud services. This development doesn’t seem to stop rising as the number of enterprises using cloud computing rose by 5% in the last year.
While many countries have a voluntary voting system, in case they have elections implemented in their political structure, there are quite a few that had or still have mandatory voting. In total, 36 countries in the world have a compulsory law. Nevertheless, not every state is enforcing that law. Only 16 countries enforce it with sanctions for the citizens if they don’t vote. As a non-voter, you either have to hand in a legitimate reason as to why you didn’t vote, or you have to pay a fine. There are also countries like Belgium, which was the first country to introduce obligatory voting in 1892, that will disenfranchise you if you missed voting too often. Studies have shown that the voter turnout is 7% higher in countries with compulsory voting compared to non-mandatory systems.
All the Big Tech companies have spent a total of almost 70 million dollars in lobbying efforts in the past year, with no shrinking to be seen.
Globally speaking, the market structure is defined as an oligopoly. That means that a small number of companies dominate the whole market in our case, those would be the collective called the Big Tech. Alphabet (Google), Meta (Facebook), Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft are considered a part of it. Many of those big companies aspire to offer the user a round experience and they try to expand their business outside of the original idea as well. Google, for instance, has a wide variety of utilities, Google Pay, Google Maps, YouTube, and many more.
Only 44,3% of the world's countries (45,7% of the world's population) have a democratic government, and 31,7% of those are flawed, with a decreasing trend.
Besides many of us using Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) to unlock our phones, this technology is also widespread and used in areas like crime investigation. To put it into context, 98 countries have FRT in use. Additionally, only two countries, Belgium and Luxembourg, have explicitly banned it. The consensus in the EU seems to be against FRT if you look at the public’s opinion. 83% have said they do not want to share their face data with authorities, and even more refuse to share it with private entities.
Nevertheless, FRT is a popular technology used more often nowadays. More than 60% of the countries use it in financial institutes, on large-scale governmental issues, in airports, as well as giving police forces access to it to some extent. Depending on the field of utilization, the percentage can rise to 80%. Less common places for FRT are schools, public transport such as trains or buses, and the workplace. Another use for it is the tracking of the COVID-19 spread, with approximately half of the countries making use of FRT here. With little surprise, China is the only country having all of the implementations nationwide in their country.
Dating sites only operate the way that only the information the user approved to be known is on their profile.
Google offers its employees a great number of benefits. From extended health insurance to unlimited on-campus places to take a break and entertain yourself, along with testing out new technologies.
More than 230 antigovernmental protests have errupted worldwide. Additionally, 78% of authoritarian/ authoritarian-leaning countries experienced significant protests in the past.
In this photo collage, you will find a great deal of input concerning the topics mentioned in the book. The difference is that this slide will talk about the real world. It shall give you enough information to eventually make your mind as to how close the two are.
After comparing the society of "The Circle" to our society nowadays, we want to contrast both systems directly by using the present situation of the worldwide pandemic, to analyze how both influence one’s daily life. By focussing on some aspects, we want to show how the Circle would deal with such a pandemic in comparison to the government of Germany in this photo collage.
It’s needless to say that Germany has been having heated debates over vaccinations and whether or not to make them mandatory. Currently, there is no obligation to get vaccinated. Of course, the state is still aiming for a high percentage of vaccinated people, which is why there are many advantages for those. Naturally, the ones who aren’t vaccinated try to gain no disadvantage by faking their vaccination status. There is no overarching system to track who has or hasn’t been vaccinated, making it easy for others to fake it.
Contrary to that, The Circle would have no issue providing such a system. Moreover, TruYou will prevent fake identities and names. It’s also imaginable that it won’t be too hard for them to develop something out of this world. May it be the sensors in your body now being able to track antibodies or the vaccine itself being more effective.
We are living in a free country with freedom of speech. Thus, protests against vaccines or regulations imposed by the government are allowed. These protests often occur nowadays, with police regulating demonstrations in cities.
In the world of "The Circle", this would not be allowed and other opinions were to be oppressed by either the state or the Circle itself. Legal demonstrations could not form, and the governmental rules would be enforced. The freedom of speech would be limited significantly.
An important point to focus on are the reglementations to prevent infections by the government. These can be different measures such as making it mandatory to wear masks in public places, having to be vaccinated or tested negative to participate in certain events, or only being allowed to meet with a fixed number of people.
This is a point that would be very similar in the world of "The Circle". There would be rules for everyone to control the number of infections in the best way possible.
Lockdowns are seen as one of the most annoying parts of the pandemic by many people. Not being allowed to go to certain places or being entirely prohibited to leave the house significantly limits what you are able to do. This precaution had been imposed at the beginning of the pandemic, when vaccines did not exist yet and scientists hadn’t collected enough knowledge about the virus yet. It is hard to say if lockdowns would occur in the world of “The Circle”, because the rate of new infections and their spreading could be tracked way more easily, which would make it unnecessary to impose such hard measures. However, if there were to be a lockdown, implementing all rules quickly would be easy due to surveillance and GPS-technology.
There is one big problem with the regulations right now. The rules vary in different countries and states. This leads to mistrust in the population because of differences depending on the state. One thing that is nonidentical is how long the status of recovery lasts. In some places, it lasts three or six months, in other ones twelve months.
This problem would be solved if the Circle was to impose the policies. Worldwide, rules would be the same or would alternate with the current situations of infections in the same way. Global communication would allow a more linear contact with the pandemic.
Many measures were imposed as a precaution to prevent infections. The government wanted to act carefully when scientists did not have enough information on the virus to precisely estimate the future situation. This would probably not occur in the world of “The Circle” due to more data being available about the virus. Using utilities like bracelets, the course of an infection could be tracked and studied easily. Thus, necessary measures would have to be imposed. Furthermore, the current situation of ill people could be observed in real-time.
In Germany, there are certain rules to prevent infections, alternating with the current situation of infections. To use public transport, you have to be vaccinated, recovered, or tested negative for the virus. Additionally, wearing masks is mandatory. Most people observe these rules. However, trains are controlled rarely, which allows people not to wear masks without any extensive consequence. If they are inspected, it's mostly security guards who work for the train company and would impose a monetary fine on people who do not follow the rules. The measures are all relying on trust.
This aspect would completely differ if a society like we know it from "The Circle" was to deal with this pandemic. With the use of permanent surveillance, it would be easier to spot people in public places who refuse to wear masks. This would also cut down the number of security guards needed to check public spaces regularly. Furthermore, technological devices would be established to check if people are vaccinated, recovered, or tested. These devices could communicate with the bracelet everyone would wear, which saves the information if one of these three conditions is fulfilled.
During the pandemic, apps like “luca” were established in order to track chains of infections and thus prevent the uncontrolled spread of the virus. However, these apps are not used by everyone and only partly effective. In the world of the Circle, apps like this would not be necessary because health data collected by bracelets would be uploaded instantly and automatically. With this technology, a large part of the infections could be prevented.