- A former Google employee’s novel about a fictional search company got made into a TV show, called “The Show.”
- It’s a story of sex, drugs, and the destruction of a data-hungry artificial-intelligence program that can predict human behaviour on an unprecedented scale.
- The author, Filip Syta, says his book is rooted in reality – and that the new TV show is a timely reminder of the dangers of data misuse amid the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
“Did you ever wonder what it’s like to work for a company more popular than God? … It’s f—ing orgasmic.”
Welcome to “The Show,” a new TV show based on a novel of the same name by a former Google employee.
Set inside a fictional search company called The Show, it’s a story of drugs, sex, and data that wouldn’t look out of place on Netflix’s “Black Mirror” – except parts of it are rooted in real experience, according to the author.
“The Show” is streaming on Blackpills, a free app that hosts phone-sized dramas targeted to millennials. And it doesn’t take a Google engineer to work out that it’s something of an allegory of the omniscient power of Silicon Valley.
It follows a human-behaviour expert (Nadja Bobyleva) and a coder (Colin Bates) who during their first day at The Show’s plush campus devise a plan to destroy the firm’s top-secret artificial-intelligence program, which is designed to suck up user data and use it to predict human behaviour on an unprecedented scale.
The TV show diverges somewhat from the original book, which is a more functional tale of an ad sales executive at The Show. But the author, Filip Syta, says its arrival is timely amid Facebook’s data woes – specifically, the scandal centering on the political-data firm Cambridge Analytica’s improper harvesting of the personal data of up to 87 million Facebook users.
“It’s similar to what’s going on in reality right now, and I’m happy ‘The Show’ sparks the debate about the danger of big tech, especially among millennials,” Syta told Business Insider.
But how much of “The Show” is real? Quite a lot, according to Syta, who worked at Google as an ad sales executive from 2012 to 2014. He told my colleague Jim Edwards in 2016 that 90% of the book was true or inspired by real events, mentioning a culture of narcotics and meaningless sex.
That’s prevalent in the Blackpills version of “The Show” – the two protagonists’ plan to destroy the AI program is concocted during a steamy bathroom sex scene that dominates the final minutes of the first episode.
And that’s not the only nod to Google.
The quote about The Show being more powerful than God is taken from a monologue by the fictional company’s vice president of operations – here’s pretty much the full quote:
“You trust me, even though you never met me. You trust me to find a restaurant for your date. You trust me to find a dry cleaner who won’t ruin your shirts. You trust me to tell you what school to send your children to. You trust me with your erectile dysfunction. You trust me with your lives.
“Does make you stupid? No. It’s just the opposite – it makes you a human who uses a search engine.
“You are part of the 1.17 billion people who on a daily basis use The Show to ask 2.3 million questions per second. We tell you where to drive. We tell you what to wear. We tell you how to impress women, how to talk. And we get it right.
“Some say we are doing God’s work. All I can say is 64 million Americans went to church on Sunday – and that same day, every single American went to The Show twice.
“Did you ever wonder what it’s like to work for a company more popular than God? I bet you think it’s awesome. I bet you think it’s amazing, unbelievable. Well, the honest truth is it’s f—ing orgasmic.”
The similarities to Google are obvious. For example, the “2.3 million questions per second” figure is strikingly similar to Google data from 2016, showing that it processed the same number of searches a minute. Even the logo for “The Show” has a Google-like inverted G. This is not subtle stuff.
Ultimately, Syta hopes it will help young people think more carefully about the information they hand over to tech giants in the future.
“I hope this will make people think about what they use and how much they share and understand the implications of what they do online,” he said. “There’s a lot good [online], but it’s also dangerous.”
Download the Blackpills app on Apple or Android to watch “The Show” – here’s the trailer for the series:
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