Dave Eggers: The Circle (excerpt from the novel, 2013)
The circle is a fictitious US company devoted to internet business and technological devices. Bailey, one of the company‘s three CEOs, is presenting a new device to his staff.
He [Bailey] was holding a small device in his hand, the shape and size of a lollipop. "This is a video camera, and this is the precise model that‘s getting this incredible image quality. […] So that‘s the first great thing. We can now get high-def-quality resolution in a camera the size of a thumb. Well, a very big thumb. The second great thing is
that, as you can see, this camera needs no wires. It‘s transmitting this image via satellite."
A round of applause shook the room.
"Wait. Did I say it runs on a lithium battery that lasts two years? No? Well it does. […] And it‘s waterproof, sand-proof, windproof, animal-proof, insect-proof, everything-
More applause overtook the room.
"Okay, so I set set up that camera this morning. I taped it to a stake, stuck that stake in the sand, in the dunes, with no permit, nothing. In fact, no one knows it‘s there. So this morning I turned it on, then I drove back to the office, accessed Camera One, Stinson
Beach, and I got this image. Not bad. But that‘s not the half of it. Actually, I was pretty busy this morning. I drove around, and set up one at Rodeo Beach, too."
And now the original image, of Stinson Beach, shrank and moved to a corner of the screen. Another box emerged, showing the waves at Rodeo Beach, a few miles down the Pacific coast. "And now Montara. And Ocean Beach. Fort Point." With each beach
Bailey mentioned, another live image appeared. They were now six beaches in a grid, each of them live, visible with perfect clarity and brilliant color.
"Now remember: no one sees these cameras. I‘ve hidden them pretty well. To the average person they look like weeds, or some kind of stick. Anything. They‘re unnoticed. So in a few hours this morning, I set up perfectly clear video access to six locations
that help me know how to plan my day. And everything we do here is about knowing the previously unknown, right?"
Heads nodded. A smattering of applause.
Okay, so many of you are thinking, ‘Well, this is just like closed-circuit TV crossed with streaming technology, satellites, all that.‘ Fine. But as you know, to do this with extant
technology would have been prohibitively expensive for the average person. But what if all this was accessible and affordable to anyone? My friends, we‘re looking at retailing these -in just a few months, mind you -at fifty-nine dollars each." […]
"You can buy ten of them for Christmas and suddenly you have constant access to everywhere you want to be -home, work, traffic conditions. And anyone can install
them. It takes five minutes tops. Think of the implications!"
The screen behind him cleared, the beaches disappearing, and a new grid appeared.
"Here‘s the view from my back yard," he said, revealing a live feed of a tidy and modest back yard.
"Here‘s my front yard. My garage. Here‘s one on a hill overlooking Highway 101 where
it gets bad during rush hour. Here‘s one near my parking space to make sure no one parks there."
And soon the screen had sixteen discrete images on it, all of them transmitting live feed.
"Now, these are just my cameras. I access them all by simply typing in Camera 1, 2, 3,
12, whatever. Easy. But what about sharing? That is, what if my buddy has some cameras posted, and wants to give me access?"
And now the screen‘s grid multiplied, from sixteen boxes to thirty-two. "Here‘s Lionel Fitzpatrick‘s screens. He‘s into skiing, so he‘s got cameras positioned so he can tell the conditions at twelve locations all over Tahoe."
[…] "Lionel can give me access to any of the cameras he wants. It‘s just like friending someone, but now with access to all their live feeds. Forget cable. Forget five hundred channels. If you have one thousand friends, and they have ten cameras each, you now have ten thousand options for live footage. If you have five thousand friends, you have fifty thousand options. And soon you‘ll be able to connect to millions of cameras
around the world. Again, imagine the implications!"
29 extant - something very old that still exists
35 tops - at the most
Aus: Dave Eggers, The Circle (excerpt),
copyright © 2013 by David Eggers.