Connect with us

Tech

Dave Eggers’ heartbreaking list of staggering tech concerns: ‘We’re never unstudied’

blank

Published

on

de-headshot

Dave Eggers has concerns.

Brecht Van Maele

In Dave Eggers’ latest sci-fi dystopian vision, The Every, apps rate your friendships and your parents and tell you how much you enjoyed your last meal. Tracking tech has made surveillance de facto mandatory, even in the wilderness, under the guise of safety concerns. Even worse: Eye-tracking hardware ensures you read every word of every user agreement, contract or legal disclosure.

It’s a near future where current tech trends have advanced just enough to land in a disconcerting place somewhere between inevitable and absurd.

And it’s truly chilling stuff.

Like so many headlines from Eggers’ long-running humor site, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, the full title of the book gives away the entire story and its author’s stance on his subject matter. It spreads across two pages in large-type print: The Every or At Last a Sense of Order or The Final Days of Free Will or Limitless Choice is Killing the World.

the-every-pulp-round2

The Every is out now from McSweeney’s books at independent booksellers.

McSweeneys

The 500-page-plus satire is the sequel to the novelist and journalist’s Best-selling 2013 novel The Circle. It returns us to that familiar parallel reality, in which the world’s largest online retailer (referred to only by its nickname, “The Jungle”) has merged with The Circle, itself bearing a strong resemblance to a merged Google-Facebook entity.

The Every is published by McSweeney’s books division and available as a hardcover edition exclusively through independent bookstores. The paperback, e-book and audio edition will be available everywhere, including Amazon, on Nov. 16.

“I think generally speaking, humanity has spoken, and humanity has said that they want monopolies,” Eggers told me via a landline phone from his office in downtown San Francisco.

The writer famously does not own a smartphone, has almost zero social media presence and does most of his writing on an ancient laptop he says has never been connected to the Internet. (It’s good to know Clippy might still be alive somewhere!) Conducting our interview via Zoom or another video platform was never an option.

Unsurprisingly for such a reputed Luddite, Eggers isnt so comfortable with the monopoly power of tech companies that collect server farms worth of our personal information, track our movements, preferences, and to some extent, our deepest thoughts.

“As a species,” he says, “we’ve proven that we want convenience, safety, certainty, all of these things that are made possible through data and surveillance, and we’re not as interested in humanity, freedom and mystery as we are in certainty, convenience and safety.”

In The Circle, which was adapted into a 2017 film of the same name starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson, Eggers explores the dangers of the Silicon Valley social media surveillance system most of us willingly opted into years ago. The story follows protagonist Mae Holland and her rise from idealistic college graduate to top exec at The Circle. By the end, Holland is transformed into a megalomaniac drunk on the company Kool-Aid, convinced of the purity of The Circle’s hegemonic mission and willfully blind to its destructive potential.

Mae returns in The Every as the head of the new mega-company. But the sequel centers on another idealistic young protagonist, Delaney Wells, and Mae is the final boss Delaney will inevitably have to face down after working her way through the corporate maze. Unlike Mae, however, Delaney has adopted the subversive mission of attempting to destroy The Every from the inside. Motivated by the decimation of her family’s small business at the hands of The Jungle, Delaney and her roommate/accomplice Wes conspire to seed all sorts of purportedly awful product ideas within the company as they rise through its ranks.

Eggers tells me he didn’t have to look far to find inspiration for such ideas. He points to one passage about measuring laughter in the office because laughing is considered good for your health.

“There was a design firm here in San Francisco that was measuring laughter, for the same reason, because scientists said it was good. So then they said, ‘Well, the obvious next thing is to have a device in the conference room that will measure how much we laugh, and that’ll tell us how healthy our company is.’ It’s far beyond anything Monty Python or anybody could have dreamed up, but it really happened.”

Eggers embeds his warnings in a darkly hilarious narrative that doesn’t just hit close to home. It burns the home down and then coldly assassinates all insurance adjusters who arrive on the scene to offer redemption.

Delaney and Wes continue to up the ante as a violent backlash to The Every begins to grow more bold. They champion an app allowing people to film and tag misbehaving children with tracking chips embedded in their ankles, among many other ideas that fail to have the desired effect of inflaming the public’s concern for privacy, freedom or basic mental health.

Predictably, the company and the dopamine-addicted public embrace each increasingly absurd and deleterious new offering with a sense of gleeful gluttony.

While The Circle explored the potential of our ubiquitous technology to corrupt the individual, The Every pushes further — just like its main characters — to emphasize the broader dystopia that exists alongside the shiny, futuristic techtopia sold by Silicon Valley. This is no metaphor: In the novel, a literal shantytown has been set up outside the gates of The Every’s pristine campus.

The Every, like The Circle before it, reads like an exaggerated, farcical version of real life. Wired and others criticized the first book for misunderstanding aspects of the internet and other technologies.

But today we are swimming in the wake of two US presidential campaigns (and arguably a presidential term) conducted largely via social media and against the online tide of pandemic and vaccine-related misinformation. From this vantage point in 2021, Eggers’ visions come across as more clairvoyant than cartoon.

‘Unprecedented path of aggravation’

Eggers initially rose to fame in the late 1990s, at the tail end of the web 1.0 era and the original dot-com boom. He founded McSweeney’s in 1998 and his widely acclaimed memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (AHWOSG) catapulted him to literary rock star status when it came out in 2000.

The book came out during a tumultuous year for me and anyone else with a foot in tech. I left college for a job in San Francisco I wasn’t qualified for, and rapidly saw my company sold, the 1990s dot-com bubble finally burst and the tech-focused publication I worked for shuttered. I was back to finish college in less than half a year.

Much like The Every’s Delaney, the experience of uprooting to chase that silicon dream only to land back on my Midwestern university campus a short time later left me feeling a bit burned by tech. Entire that time I had been reading AHWOSG and was inspired by Eggers to instead double down on writing and journalism. I was captivated by the playful way he approached the tragic subject of his parents’ deaths and his sudden obligation to raise his younger brother while still a young adult himself.

Eggers’ trademark irreverent style is present on even the copyright notices of his books. Before AHWOSG even begins, the copyright reads:

Published in the United States by Simon & Schuster, a division of a larger and more powerful company called Viacom, Inc., which is wealthier and more populous than eighteen of the fifty states of America, all of Central America, and all of the former Soviet Republics combined and tripled. That said, no matter how much money they have or make or control, their influence over the daily lives of and hearts of individuals, and thus, like ninety-nine percent of what is done by official people in cities like Washington, or Moscow, or Sao Paulo or Auckland, their effect on the short, fraught lives of human beings who limp around and dream of flying through bloodstreams, who love the smell of rubber cement and think of space travel while having intercourse, is very, very small, and so hardly worth worrying about.

Twenty-one years ago I was inspired by this little scrap of beat poetry snuck into the backside of a title page. But when I read it again in 2021, my response was WTF? Eggers kicked off his celebrated career in letters by declaring that corporate monopoly power was “hardly worth worrying about?”

When I spoke with Eggers on the phone, I gratuitously read him the entire passage from that 21-year-old copyright notice and asked him how the author of The Circle and The Every feels about the last sentence today in 2021.

“I would say that my views have evolved from that,” he tells me with a chuckle. “The big five tech companies are infinitely more powerful than Viacom has ever hoped to be… a new thing in the history of humankind is that you have to have a tether via your smartphone to participate in commercial society or democratic society. You are never untethered. And we’re never unstudied.”

In The Every, one company project studies data from countless e-readers with built-in eye-tracking to determine the formula for the ideal novel. Here’s a particularly interesting passage:

“We found so many things!” Alessandro said. “Overall number of pages is fairly clear. No book should be over 500 pages, and if it is over 500, we found that the absolute limit to anyone’s tolerance is 577.”

Naturally, the hardcover edition of The Every comes in at 577 pages. I guess you can avoid the tyranny of the algorithms when you create the fictional alternate reality that spawned them. But back here in the real world, the algorithms continue to grow more insidious, and perhaps a bit self-aware. I swear I’m not being (too) paranoid; I can explain.

When I interviewed Eggers, I recorded the call and fed the audio file to a speech recognition algorithm that automatically transcribes it for me.

After the first quote I used in this article, the one where Eggers told me “we’re not as interested in humanity, freedom, mystery, as we are in certainty, convenience and safety,” he then continued:

“To have both it takes some decision making and it takes some rebellion against the aggregation of power and wealth, but I don’t think that we’re necessarily on that path. I think we’re really on an unprecedented path of aggregation of power among a very few companies.”

Oddly, the algorithm — from a startup just down the road from Google — actually transcribed that last sentence this way:

“I think we’re really on an unprecedented path of aggravation of power, among the various You companies.”

Now, I don’t actually think this piece of software is trying to change the meaning of the words of one of Silicon Valley’s most vocal critics, but I am now wondering what the 21st century algorithmic equivalent is to a Freudian slip.

Fortunately, for now, no matter how much Eggers aggravates powerful companies who have made you (and me and everyone else) their primary product to sell, they don’t (yet) control the narrative.


Disclaimer: This post has been auto-published from an agency/news feed without any modifications to the text and has not been reviewed by an editor.

Source link

Tech

Best Deals On Smartphones, Laptops & More During Happiness Upgrade Days

blank

Published

on

blank

Amazon Great Indian Festival sale has been refreshed with “Happiness Upgrade Days.” The month-long flagship sale of the e-commerce giant has now offers new bank offers along with new deals. Amazon is now offering a 10 percent discount on Axis Bank, Citi Bank, and RuPay card users. This is a new phase of the sale that will end on October 17. Let us take a look at some of the best deals on smartphones during the Amazon Great Indian Festival sale’s Happiness Upgrade Days.

Apple iPhone 11 is being sold at Rs 40,999 during the Amazon sale as against its Rs 68,300 sticker price. The smartphone is further available at an exchange discount of up to Rs 12,350. Now, this is not the lowest price we have seen on the iPhone 11, but it is still good enough for you to consider if you’re looking for a new phone. There will be other bank and payment offers applied, so the price will come further down.

Apart from the iPhone 11, the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE is being sold at a price of Rs 39,990 as against its MRP of Rs 74,999. The smartphone is bundled with bank and payment offers above this, along with up to Rs 12,350 off on exchange.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 is also being sold at a heavily discounted price of Rs 44,990 as against its sticker price of Rs 86,000. This is further bundled with up to Rs 12,350 off on exchange and 10 percent off on Axis Bank, Citi Bank, and RuPay cards.

Apple iPhone XR is priced at Rs 32,999 as against its normal price of Rs 47,900. The iPhone XR also comes bundled with an exchange offer of up to Rs 12,350 off.

Vivo sub-brand iQoo’s iQoo Z3 5G is also available at a very reasonable price of Rs 17,990 as against the Rs 22,990 sticker price.

iPad Air 2020 is also down to Rs 46,900 during the Amazon Great Indian Festival Sale Happiness Upgrade Days. The iPad Air is otherwise priced at Rs 54,900. Buyers can also avail an exchange offer of up to Rs 13,750 on exchanging their old tablet.

Asus’ TUF Gaming F15 laptop is down to Rs 58,990, as against its Rs 84,990 sticker price. Over and above, there is an exchange offer that can get users up to Rs 17,850 off on the laptop. Another gaming laptop is the Victus by HP Ryzen 5 5600H 16.1-inch gaming laptop, that is down to Rs. 61,990 during the Happiness Upgrade Days. There is an exchange offer of up to Rs 17,900 off.

Read all the Latest News, Breaking News and Coronavirus News here. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Telegram.




Disclaimer: This post has been auto-published from an agency/news feed without any modifications to the text and has not been reviewed by an editor.

Source link

Continue Reading

Tech

Bitcoin may soon touch Rs 45 lakh mark! Dodgecoin continues to decline

blank

Published

on

blank
Bitcoin continued its uptrend, giving investors good news on Tuesday. On October 12, this cryptocurrency was trading at $57,000 (about Rs 42 lakh). It has touched this figure for the first time since the month of May. At the time of writing the news, the world’s most popular cryptocurrency was trading at around $57,490 (approximately Rs 43.3 lakh) on Binance and CoinMarketCap, while the value of BTC on Indian exchange Coinswitch Kuber is already over $59,000 (approximately Rs 44.8 lakh). Is. The cryptocurrency reached an all-time high of $65,000 (approximately Rs 48.9 lakh) in April this year. If its current rally continues like this, then soon it can set a new record.

At the same time, Ether and other altcoins also appeared in green color in the bottom row. Ether opened at Rs 2,79,134 (about $3,740) on CoinSwitch Kuber on Wednesday, according to Gadgets360 cryptocurrency price tracker. It gained 1.29 per cent. Although its speed is not as fast as bitcoin, but it continues to grow.

Talking about other altcoins, Cardano, Tether, Ripple and Polkadot all continued to lose 2 to 3 percent on average. It looks like DodgeCoin is also fighting a battle to turn its fortunes around. It saw a decline of 3.58 percent. On Wednesday, it was trading at Rs 17.96 (about $ 0.24). Meanwhile, the Mimecoin Shiba Inu tightened its grip to some extent. It has climbed 19.65 percent against other altcoins.

On the other hand, Bakkt has partnered with Google in another cryptocurrency related news. Bakkt is a platform for institutional investors to store and trade digital assets across a global network. After joining hands with Google, it has now come to the fore that users will now be able to link their virtual debit cards with Google Pay. Through which they will be able to buy goods and services through offline and online medium. Last month, El Salvador recognized bitcoin as a legal tender. Now countries like Brazil and Switzerland are also on the same path and soon good news can come for bitcoin fans from these countries as well.

Download the Gadgets 360 Android app and follow us on Google News for the latest tech news, smartphone reviews and exclusive offers on popular mobile phones.

Related news


Disclaimer: This post has been auto-published from an agency/news feed without any modifications to the text and has not been reviewed by an editor.

Source link

Continue Reading

Tech

Refinance rates on Oct. 13, 2021: Climbing but still low

blank

Published

on

blank

Saul Loeb/Getty

Yes, mortgage rates continue to increase — but it’s still a great time to refinance your home. Though the 15-year fixed and 30-year fixed rates are up a handful of basis points from last week, they’re still quite low. And the overall economic conditions that have led to historically low rates over the past two years remain largely in place: surging home values, COVID-19 migration and low interest rates. As such, the market is quite favorable for homeowners looking to refinance, even though mortgage rates aren’t quite as low as they were earlier this year.

Read more: If you’ve been considering refinancing, now is the time for action

30-year fixed-rate refinance

The average 30-year fixed refinance rate right now is 3.17%, an increase of 9 basis points from what we saw one week ago. (A basis point is equivalent to 0.01%.) One reason to refinance to a 30-year fixed loan from a shorter loan term is to lower your monthly payment. Because of this, a 30-year refinance can be a good idea if you’re having trouble making your monthly payments. Be aware, though, that interest rates will typically be higher compared to a 15-year or 10-year refinance, and you’ll pay off your loan at a slower rate.

15-year fixed-rate refinance

The average 15-year fixed refinance rate right now is 2.41%, an increase of 5 basis points over last week. With a 15-year fixed refinance, you’ll have a larger monthly payment than a 30-year loan. On the other hand, you’ll save money on interest, since you’ll pay off the loan sooner. Interest rates for a 15-year refinance also tend to be lower than that of a 30-year refinance, so you’ll save even more in the long run.

10-year fixed-rate refinance

The current average interest rate for a 10-year refinance is 2.37%, an increase of 7 basis points over last week. You’ll pay more every month with a ten-year fixed refinance compared to a 30-year or 15-year refinance — but you’ll also have a lower interest rate. A 10-year refinance can be a good deal, since paying off your house sooner will help you save on interest in the long run. But you should confirm that you can afford a higher monthly payment by evaluating your budget and overall financial situation.

Where rates are headed

We track refinance rate trends using information collected by Bankrate, which is owned by CNET’s parent company. Here’s a table with the average refinance rates provided by lenders across the country:

Average refinance interest rates

Product Rate A week ago Change
30-year fixed refi 3.17% 3.08% +0.09
15-year fixed refi 2.41% 2.36% +0.05
10-year fixed refi 2.37% 2.30% +0.07

Rates as of Oct. 13, 2021.

How to find the best refinance rate

When looking for refinance rates, know that your specific rate may differ from those advertised online. Your interest rate will be influenced by market conditions as well as your credit history and application.

Generally, you’ll want a high credit score, low credit utilization ratio, and a history of making consistent and on-time payments in order to get the best interest rates. Researching interest rates online is always a good idea, but you’ll need to connect with a mortgage professional to get your exact refinance rate. And don’t forget about fees and closing costs which may cost a hefty amount upfront.

It’s also worth noting that in recent months, lenders have been stricter with their requirements. As such, you may not qualify for a refinance — or a low rate — if you don’t have a solid credit rating.

One way to get the best refinance rates is to strengthen your borrower application. If you haven’t already, try to improve your credit by monitoring your credit reports, using credit responsibly, and managing your finances carefully. Also be sure to compare offers from multiple lenders in order to get the best rate.

When should I refinance?

Most people refinance because the market interest rates are lower than their current rates or because they want to change their loan term. While interest rates have been low in the past few months, you should look at more than just the market interest rates when deciding if a refinance is right for you.

A refinance may not always make financial sense. Consider your personal goals and financial circumstances. How long do you plan on staying in your home? Are you refinancing to decrease your monthly payment, pay off your house sooner — or for a combination of reasons? Also keep in mind that closing costs and other fees may require an upfront investment.

Note that some lenders have tightened their requirements since the beginning of the pandemic. If you don’t have a solid credit score, you may not qualify for the best rate. If you can get a lower interest rate or pay off your loan sooner, refinancing can be a great move. But carefully weigh the pros and cons first to make sure it’s a good fit for your situation.


Disclaimer: This post has been auto-published from an agency/news feed without any modifications to the text and has not been reviewed by an editor.

Source link

Continue Reading

Trending