Two things particularly caught my eye over the weekend. On Saturday an article in the Telegraph review section (below) profiled Dave Eggers, a novelist whose book The Circle takes a very negative view of current technology trends, in which he believes we are all sleep-walking into a world where big corporations know and "own" everything about us. The fact that on the same day I attended a school talk on the subject of internet danger and how to deal with it as a parent meant this chimed particularly strongly. Clearly there are lots of good things about new technology, but we are in a world which is changing enormously fast and we don't yet fully appreciate all the implications of that change. Meanwhile, keep blogging I guess.
On the other hand, last night on BBC R4's "In Business", the programme focused on the Circular Economy, a longstanding idea currently being championed by The Ellen MacArthur Foundation: see this link: http://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-economy
The theory is that we need to find a solution to the current take/make/dispose linear economy model which is going to exhaust our natural resources within all too short a time. The circular economy, being actively pursued by such large and credible businesses as Unilever, seeks to look at businesses' involvement in the whole production and consumption life-cycle, and to separate out biological materials, which need to be recycled through the normal decomposition cycle, and technical materials which should be kept in operation and use in a loop entirely separate from the biological side. Along the way it leads to a view that many of the technical products we currently consume by buying from producers are actually better dealt with in a lending model. There is much more to be said on this and I have only skated over the surface of some of the ideas.
It feels like there are dots to be drawn between these two issues, some obvious, some less clear. One outlook, that of Dave Eggers in his book, is more negative and dystopian, the other more optimistic and utopian. Reality will no doubt be more confused. But both are thought provoking, in any case.
I ask if his recent surge of fiction, in fact if all his writing, is impelled by a sense of social mission or moral indignation. “Oh, absolutely......it often comes from a place of outrage, or a place where you feel like, all right, if no one else is going to say anything, I guess I’ll say it.” In the case of everyone handing over their data on the web and their smartphones, Eggers decided nobody else was saying it. “There isn’t anyone really blowing the whistle or saying whoa, whoa, whoa. I thought: OK, well I have sort of a unique place to comment on it as an insider-outsider. I think novels can be just baubles you put on a shelf,” he says. “But I also like them if they can be a hammer that smashes something.”