Warning: This article contains spoilers.
One of the most frightening new movies out now has nothing to do with ghosts or murderers on the loose. Instead, The Circle is a chilling tale of a fictional tech behemoth that mistakes disruption for coercion.
The film, which debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival on Thursday, is a James Ponsoldt-directed adaptation of Dave Eggers's 2013 novel. It tells the story of an Internet company called The Circle (think: Facebook meets Google), where Mae Holland (Emma Watson) starts as a new employee in the customer service department. She eventually agrees to let SeeChange, a new camera product that records and livestreams footage, to broadcast her life to the billions of users in the company's network. The experiment, dubbed as "going transparent," feeds into The Circle's ethos that knowing everything is better--and secrets are actually lies.
As if the idea of broadcasting one's every movement in life isn't already disturbing, Holland's "creative" ideas cross the line when she suggests requiring citizens to register with the platform--as a way to vote and pay taxes. The two co-founders, Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) and Tom Stenton (Patton Oswalt) are thrilled by the idea. They immediately strategize a plan to make living a private life outside of The Circle impossible.
The company's intentions aren't entirely corrupt; Mae suggests that lives would ultimately be improved, arguing that everyone wastes hours navigating different sites trying to pay taxes, anyway. Slowly, the small group of leaders grow more and more entitled to make decisions for the population. That said, while it's true that greater transparency leads to greater democracy, it's important for leaders to take a step back and actually listen to the opposing sides. (In once scene, for instance, an employee is ignored and punished after expressing concerns and speaking out against Holland's idea. She leaves the company and later admits to Holland that she was overworked and suffering from a "speed and Soylent" addiction.)
This is where entrepreneurs should consider the value of having workers who challenge ideas or question the implications of company values. After all, in a room full of sycophants who are drunk off Kool-Aid (literally, there is very obvious product placement of Cupcake Wines) there is no one to hit the pause button.
In the end, the founders get a taste of their own medicine. (Bailey put it best with a simple "we're fucked.") Is it hard to imagine that the world envision by The Circle could happen today? Probably not--especially with social media making connectivity easier than ever. That alone is enough to show how the elimination of privacy is more terrifying than a horror movie villain.