Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Blogger Attack On Dave Eggers' Future Fantasia Novel

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 1, 2013

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Dave Eggers is a popular author and one of San Francisco's leading lights in its literary scene through his work with local writers, workshops, and publishing projects.

His new novel "The Circle" is set in a dystopian future. The New York Times published an excerpt: We Like You So Much and Want to Know You Better 

Felix Salmon, blogger at Reuters read the excerpt and didn't like it all -- he didn't like it a lot. How Dave Eggers gets Silicon Valley wrong.

While other readers characterized Mr. Eggers' story as a satire on Silicon Valley's dominant ideologies, a hash of Google/Facebook/Singularity, Mr. Salmon saw no elements of satire, all he saw was ignorance.

Eggers' glaring mistakes, when it comes to Silicon Valley culture, make it all too easy to dismiss his whole book as the work of someone who hasn't got the faintest clue what he's talking about...Eggers, at 43, is now settling into Old Man mode.

Not only is the author social media ignorant, Mr. Salmon says that Mr. Eggers has completely missed a common character type found in these parts:

[Silicon Valley is] populated by people who consider themselves above the rest of the country -- intellectually, culturally, financially. They consider themselves the cognitive elite; the rest of us are the puppets dancing on the end of their strings of code.

I agree with Mr. Salmon when he writes: 

There are problems with Silicon Valley and with technology -- don't get me wrong. But they're invidious, rather than being overt...[Eggers] thinks that if technology is causing problems, then the cause must always be technologists with maleficent ulterior motives.

Silicon Valley's technologists aren't evil but they often have an Aspergerish amorality about certain decisions and ventures. However, many shades of grey in morals and ethics doesn't build drama in a work of fiction and so black and white scenarios and characters are common.

Mr. Eggers wasn't claiming to have captured the soul of Silicon Valley in his book but Mr. Salmon thinks he was, and that he failed badly.

It's always a lot easier predicting the future of technology than predicting how we will live in that future. Mr. Eggers prediction of life in that future doesn't match Mr. Salmon's experience of life today. But maybe he should wait and bit and see how things rollout?

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