Just Read: Reaching the limits of open data and name authenticity: The Circle

Eggers D. The Circle. Vintage Books; 2013. Amazon.comDownload from your local library

The flash opened up into something larger, an even more blasphemous notion that her brain contained too much. That the volume of information, of data, of judgments, of measurements, was too much, and there were too many people, and too many desires of too many people, and too many opinions of too many people, and too much pain from too many people, and having all of it constantly collated, collected, added and aggregated, and presented to her as if that all made it tidier and more manageable—it was too much.

This is a spooky/sataristic fictional view of what happens when the “circle” of social media/privacy loss is completed. My reading of it was prompted by the #MakerDocsDC visit to the US Green Building Council Headquarters (@USGBC) 2 months ago, when we were looking at the brand new LEED dynamic plaque (see: MakerDocsDC: Introducing doctors to green building and LEED at USGBC World Headquarters | Ted Eytan, MD).

The book was well reviewed in the publications below, and yes it’s spooky, and causes some reflection around the notion that we may fill all of our cognitive surplus with tweets, retweets, zings, and counterzings. It’s set in a futuristic place of employment that resembles the GoogleBook campus of the future, where a new employee finds one screen on her desk multiplies to 2 to 3 eventually to 9 as her responsibilities to feed the cloud grow.

Likewise, everyone at the Circle there had been chosen, and thus the gene pool was extraordinary, the brainpower phenomenal. It was a place where everyone endeavored, constantly and passionately, to improve themselves, each other, share their knowledge, disseminate it to the world.

And then there’s the Facebook – LGBT and specifically transgender dustup, from September-October of this year. Interestingly, the reasons given for requiring “authentic names” (their term) on the social network are mirrored exactly in the fictional narrative of The Circle, written one year earlier.

No question about it, it’s tough to operate a large social network, and we’re going to have to manage the data we collect and connect it to useful outcomes (in the case of the LEED plaque, better overall health). In most cases it’s going to be worth it, and we can definitely, on balance, use more transparency in health care and in business. And…you can’t know the limits of technology unless you use it, or in other words, if you know technology you know its limits well, and part of the MakerDoc ethic is to understand technology and its limits, right? See everyone in a few days…

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