We meet Alan at a real low point in his life. He's essentially jobless, nearly homeless, and has no sense of purpose or personal value—an Everyman for the U.S. in the early 2000s. His run-in with a spiraling economy is just the beginning. He's also trying to make it at a time when advances in tech meant the virtual death of manufacturing in the U.S.
And just like that, Alan's made obsolete.
This loss makes Alan question our relationship to the machines that now rule the world. Are we really so much better off? The emotional disconnect he feels convinces him that we're nothing more than quaint machines. Alan's story throughout A Hologram For the King becomes, in some ways, an important PSA: be careful how much of your humanity you cede to machines.
Questions About Technology and Modernization
What part does Alan play in the movement of manufacturing outside the U.S.?
Why does Alan feel so alienated from society in general? Why does he feel out of place with the Reliant crew?
How does globalization of the economy affect Alan and others of his generation? How does it specifically affect the U.S., according to Eggers' work?
How does the development of technology change the way humans interact with each other—and even how they behave—according to Eggers?
Chew on This
Developing technology drives a wedge between people and personal responsibility in this work.
Alan's loss of identity and sense of personal value is directly related to changes in the global marketplace and his professional life.