Dave Eggers’ The Every imagines a world where big tech literally rules our lives. It’s a world we are hurtling towards at the speed of an internet meme: by the time you read these 600 pages, we might already be there.
In this world, Google, Facebook and Amazon have merged into The Every, a platform that regulates every aspect of our lives with a benevolent convenience everyone has bought into, users and employees alike.
It’s chilling not because at its core is an evil capitalist dictator, but precisely because there isn’t. Users become subservient not by force but through apathy, consumerism and a growing paralysis created by unlimited choice. Lubricated by capitalism, this descent into dystopian hell accelerates as other institutions – remember government? - abdicate responsibility. Algorithms take precedence over choice as well as truth, leaving in their wake hollow human shells with suicidal tendencies.
A companion piece to The Circle (but easily enjoyed on its own), The Every uses the same satirical humour to make palatable a rather bleak critique of our tech-obsessed society.
A loose narrative thread follows Delaney, a new recruit determined to sabotage The Every from the inside. As she rotates through departments, she seeds product ideas so outrageous – invading our privacy, codifying our feelings and erasing our very souls – they should logically jolt us awake and shock us into deleting The Every and all it stands for. Yet she discovers the line is never crossed, such is our desire to be told what to do (preferably by a cool app).
The premise is strong, the narrative a pretext – Delaney’s actions increasingly illogical as they fail to upset the status quo. But Eggers’ book is best enjoyed as a series of playful yet frightening essays disguised as fiction.
“Tell me something I don’t know, Mr Eggers,” i kept thinking. When I reached the last page though, it sent a chill down my spine. The terrifying reality? Despite knowing all of this, I’m still glued to my phone, I still accept every unread t&c's, and I surrender more and more agency to tech with each passing year. Isn't this brave new world, I shudder to think, already here?