An ex-Google employee’s novel set inside a fictional search firm got made into a TV show — and it’s a bacchanal of sex, drugs, and data
- 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 AI programme that can predict human behaviour on an unprecedented scale.
- Author Filip Syta said his book was rooted in reality — and the new TV show is a timely reminder of the dangers of data misuse during the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
"Did you ever wonder what it's like to work for a company more popular than God? It's f*****g orgasmic." Welcome to "The Show," the new TV show based on a novel of the same name by a former Google employee.
Set inside fictional search company 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.
"The Show" is streaming on Black Pills, a free app that hosts phone-sized drama targeted at millennials, and it doesn't take a Google engineer to work out it's something of an allegory on 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 AI programme. The programme that sucks up user data and uses it to predict human behaviour on an unprecedented scale.
Black Pills' show diverges somewhat from ex-Googler Filip Syta's original book, which is a more functional tale of an ad sales executive at The Show, but the author says its arrival is timely amid Facebook's data woes.
"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, referring directly to the scandal in which Cambridge Analytica scraped the data of 87 million Facebook users.
But how much of "The Show" is real? Well quite a lot, according to Syta, who worked at Google as an ad sales executive between 2012 and 2014. He told my colleague Jim Edwards in 2016 that 90% of the book is true, or inspired by real events, referring specifically to the culture of narcotics and meaningless sex.
This is prevalent in Black Pills' version of "The Show." That plan to destroy The Show's AI programme is concocted between the story's two main protagonists in 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 from the fictional company's VP of operations. Below is 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 that 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*****g orgasmic."
The similarities to Google are obvious. For example, that 2.3 million searches per second figure is strikingly similar to Google data from 2016, which showed it processed exactly the same number of requests 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. There's a lot good [online], but it's also dangerous," he said.
Download the Black Pills app on Apple or Android to watch The Show. Here's the trailer for the series:
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