Every by Dave Eggers Magazine – Big Tech is Watching You | fiction
Eearlier this year, Dave Eggers announced that the American hardcover book of his latest novel, The Every, would not be distributed through Amazon, presumably acknowledging that it would be absurd to increase the fortunes of the omnipotent online retailer while at the same time undertaking to satire it mercilessly. “I don’t like bullies,” he told The New York Times. “Amazon has been kicking the sand in the face of independent bookstores for decades now. But no novelist who really wants to sell their book can avoid Amazon for long, and the Eggers boycott contained some fine print: unlike the hardcover, the paperback and electronic versions of The Every will be available on the US website and there will be no restrictions on the sale of UK editions. The whole‘s thesis is that big technology represents a form of twenty-first century totalitarianism to which resistance can only be symbolic, and therefore futile. It is questionable whether this lukewarm boycott was not designed to prove this point.
The novel follows Eggers’ 2013 dystopian satire, The Circle, in which Mae Holland joined the eponymous social media company, a mashup of Facebook and Google, and rose through the ranks. It opens after the Circle acquired “an e-commerce giant named after a South American jungle” and rebranded itself Every – “alluding as it did to ubiquity and equality ”. This time our heroine is Delaney Wells, who joins the company with the aim of ending her “evil reign on earth”. She plans to destroy it from within by sowing ideas so disgusting that rational people will surely turn away in droves. “Mankind,” she argues, “will finally turn away from endless violations of decency, privacy, monopolies, consolidation of wealth, power and control.
One of Delaney’s most devilish suggestions is Friendy, an app that measures the trustworthiness of his friends by analyzing facial expressions, eye contact and vocal intonations, placing a numerical value on the quality of friendship: ” Think how much more genuine and authentic our friendships could be if we just apply the right measures to them. But other ideas are starting to proliferate, including the introduction of a ‘measure of beauty’ for ‘paintings, music, poetry or any art form’ and an app called HappyNow.? designed to “respond, in real time, if the user is satisfied”. Even the development of a sinister surveillance technology, HereMe (a Big Brother version of Alexa), designed to anticipate abusive behavior in the home by listening to keywords, is not seen as too much of a step.
Eggers exposes an Orwellian vision of the near future in which high technology has “transformed proud and free animals – humans – and made them endless points of acquiescence on screens.” The Every is hosted on a California campus with “the appearance of a hastily assembled film set.” The massive adoption of Lycra (“every curve and every hinged bulge”) is a common gag that symbolizes the abandonment of individuality. The big screens propagate “Every” ideology: “Sharing is loving“;”Secrets are lies“; “The world wants to be watched”. The employees, known as Everyones, are exhausted by relentless surveillance under the guise of self-improvement apps that monitor everything from physical activity to political correctness. Consumers sacrifice their privacy on the altar of an endless accumulation of applications.
All of this should paint a terrifying picture, but it isn’t (although I do admit that the possibility of eye-tracking technology keeping you from flying over War and Peace is truly frightening). The problem is, neither of the characters are given anything that looks like a personality, let alone an arc – except for the purpose of following when they start to give in to Every ethics. It seems that there is no inner life. Not only are the characters subordinate to the plot, but they’re entirely subsumed by the controversy of the novel, so there’s nothing at stake.. The whole‘The other problem is that as a result of the self-parodying behavior of big tech – the Amazon anti-union scandals, the Elon Musk-Jeff Bezos space race, the rebranding from Facebook to Meta and the launch of the Metaverse – satire begins to seem redundant. (Meta surely proved it with these October launch videos that kicked off a thousand memes.)
Eggers is a gifted writer who couldn’t write a bad novel; although it’s not great, it has several fun sequences strung together with sharp phrases: “All that God has offered – answers, clarity, miracles, baby names – the internet is doing better…, so far, is Am I good? ” And he administers a youthful critique of the venality of big tech, although it would be much more successful if it weren’t for that long. During Delaney’s probationary period, a Everyone said, “No book should be more than 500 pages, and if it is more than 500 pages, we have found that the absolute limit on anyone’s tolerance is. of 577. ”That kind of conscious metafictional wink is a hallmark of Eggers, but here it had the distracting effect of reminding me that there were still 370 pages to go to reach his self-attributed 577 pages. , which made the novel appear to be 370 pages too long..
The result of all this is that The Every is often entertaining, but not effective. He issues an urgent injunction to save mankind without ever really talking about the kind of humanity you will remember after turning the last page – the kind that might be the only weapon we have in the fight against big tech totalitarianism. . From the start, when Delaney ponders possible ways to destroy Every from the outside, his friend Wes is impassive: “Maybe one of us is writing a novel. What a pity, then, that this novel looks like a wet firecracker.