(Note: All photos were taken from the web.)
In the first scene of The Circle, a movie that revolves around technology and the glamor (and drawbacks?) of working in a digital company, the main character Mae (Emma Watson) was seen kayaking in the calmness of a lake. No phone. No camera. No wearable tech. Not even a smartwatch was in sight.
It was just a person finding comfort in nature, probably retreating from the stress of receiving regular customer calls/complaints from her temp job.
Fast forward a few weeks after, Mae finds herself working as a Customer Experience agent (“most employees start in Customer Experience”) through a referral from a close friend (how lucky she is) who works for the world’s biggest (and coolest) company — The Circle. The company is an amalgamation of Facebook (TruYou), Apple (those phones and monitors were giveaways), Google (SeeChange, SoulSearch), Tesla/Uber (mention of self-driving cars), Salesforce (Dream Friday?), etc.
For moviegoers that have not read the futuristic book The Circle (released in 2013) where the film was based, one would expect that the story would be around some spectacular technology platform. But to those who have seen Fast and Furious 8, Now You See Me 2, Jason Bourne 5, and even the Korean series K2 (observe Mirror), the 24/7 SeeChange looks rather dull and boring.
The 24/7 SeeChange, which Mae agreed to become the first subject of daily real-time broadcast, is pretty much what livestreaming apps now are like Facebook Live, Twitter Periscope, Youtube Live, Snapchat, etc.
But somehow, The Circle movie expertly predicted / depicted that social media and livestreaming platforms could become the new WMD — weapon of mass distraction/destruction. It has become the coolest tool for fault-finding and public shaming (the popularity of SeeChange came after it uncovered anomalies in a politician, who was seen as publicly criticizing the company The Circle).
Despite the movie supposedly being a technology showcase, it is still about human behavior. The need for wealth, power and fame (whether through legit means or not) was epitomized by Bailey and his cohorts. The need to be in vogue and digitally connected (no more FOMO moments) was shown by the company’s employees (they have all types of support groups). And the need for attention was portrayed by the cyberbullies and armchair critics who have time in their hands to judge others (even those they don’t know personally) and find something that could be a reason to publicly shame someone. Mercer would not have suffer that fate had it not been for the cyberbullies and the judging eyes of strangers.
The inconvenient truth is that technology is not the problem. Bad human behavior is still the number one enemy. If there’s an app to facilitate good manners, we all should download that. That is if we are not distracted by the lives of others online.
The story ended with Mae still in the lake, kayaking. But this time, she has company — the drones, presumably, with SeeChange cameras. This may imply that Mae has overthrown top management. Is she now the new leader? If it is, the title of the movie is very apt. We were just running in circles.
Speaking of using technology, the world’s biggest sport should heed the call for video assisted referees. No more Frank Lampard no-goal moment or Thierry Henry handball or offside goals (non-offside no goals). Other sports has it. It’ll just take 60 seconds to review a video.
It would have been easier to make these penalty decisions last week. No more guess work.