Monday, 18 September 2017
The Circle (4 Stars)
This is a good film that deals with important issues.
Mae Holland (Emma Watson) applies for a job at a large Internet company called The Circle. At first she treats it as only a job, but after a few weeks she's criticised for not taking part in the company's after-hours and weekend activities. It's expected that The Circle should be her whole life. She begins to get more involved with the social life surrounding the company, and she finds that she enjoys it.
The Circle is a company that is seeking 100% transparency, both on the Internet and in real life. "Secrets are lies" becomes a company slogan. Small video cameras are placed all over the world which are monitored at The Circle's headquarters. Mae volunteers to be the first person to let herself be monitored 24 hours a day. Almost 24 hours. She's allowed a three minute break when she goes to the bathroom. People all over the world observe her with voyeuristic pleasure.
Mae is completely in agreement with the company's goals, and she wants The Circle to be given more power, which pleases The Circle's founder and chief executive officer, Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks).
There's so much that be said about the implications of the film that I hardly know where to start. The film is a social commentary on the use and the abuse of the Internet today, but it's also a warning about what could happen in the future.
In the 1940's George Orwell wrote a book called "1984", in which he predicted that a world would come in which the state, "Big Brother", would monitor everything that people do. He was wrong. In today's world the Internet and social media encourage people to allow themselves to be monitored. So many people, mostly young people, live their lives on the Internet. They post messages to Facebook many times a day to let their friends know where they are and what they're doing. Sometimes this goes to ridiculous extremes, too much information, as in the case of a friend of mine.
Post 1: "I'm about to go to the toy store".
Post 2: "I'm caught in a traffic jam".
Post 3: "I'm almost at the toy store now".
Post 4: "Now I'm in the toy store".
This might seem ridiculous, but my friend considered it natural to make these posts.
Another example of potentially unwanted information is the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine. President Putin insists that no Russian soldiers are invading Ukraine and it's just a civil war. However, Russian soldiers have been posting photos of themselves in Facebook with messages like, "My assignment to Ukraine will soon be over". Vladimir Putin lies, the Internet doesn't.
Would I like my whole life to be recorded? Yes, definitely! My earliest memories are when I was four years old, and even my later memories, up to 14, are patchy. I wish I had a recording of my whole life so that I could be reminded of everything that happened from my birth onwards. The recording would be for me, primarily, but I'd like to be able to show incidents to other people when they don't believe what I tell them.
Would I like this recording to be publicly available? That's a difficult question. I don't mind the mistakes that I've made in my life being publicised, as long as they're shown in context. I believe that whatever I did that was wrong was motivated by good intentions. Most things, anyway. When I was 11 I broke an ornament in my uncle's house, and I hid it under a chair rather than admit it. When I was six I kicked a dirty football against my mother's washing on the clothesline and denied it was me. That's the first time I've ever admitted these two wrong-doings, and I feel so free! There might be other similar transgressions that I can't remember.
I'm not ashamed of my sexual fetishes being publicised. It's not a problem for me, because none of them are illegal. Or are they? A few years ago the pornography laws were tightened in England. Among other things, films that feature face-sitting were made illegal. I was quite horrified when the changes happened. Reading between the lines, it seemed that all domination practises that appear to be non-consensual were outlawed. Could I be arrested if my life's recording showed the many times that women have suffocated me by sitting on my face?
It's not just about me, of course. There are people who have led less moral lives than me. A thief wouldn't want his thefts made public. A paedophile wouldn't want recordings of himself looking at child pornography to be revealed. But from my point of view, activities like that should be revealed to the world. Criminal acts shouldn't be hidden.
Maybe a compromise could be made. A person's whole life could be recorded for the public, with the option to block certain areas. For instance, a whole house or certain rooms could be excluded from being monitored. It's still possible for crimes to be committed. For instance, a man can kill his wife within his own home. However, it would still be enough to identify the crime. If the wife is missing, the recording would show when she last entered the house and that she didn't leave again, so the police can check if she's been buried in the cellar.
The biggest problem of absolute transparency is the possibility of abuse by a totalitarian regime. A government that expects absolute obedience might punish citizens who visit opposition rallies. There are endless dangers.
This is a subject I'd like to discuss with my readers. Please leave comments.