In 2004 danah boyd described social software as being "autistic" because it required you to decide if someone was FRIEND or NOT-FRIEND. Shades of gray were impossible. Despite danah's valiant complaints, the world didn't care. 750,000,000 people on Facebook were happy to adopt the new meaning of "friend," a binary, irrelevant, yes-no kind of thing that has only an historical relationship to the old English word "friend". Although the Internet has thoroughly broken the words "friend" and "community," the original concepts still exist in real life, it's just hard to actually talk about them.
Now with Google Circles, we have to decide what circles to put people into. Is that better than the old binary system? Less autistic? Or is it even more autistic that we now have to constantly think about what circles someone is in?
There is probably something wrong with me, but I find it almost impossible to decide which circles people belong in. The more I think about it the more upset I become. Google+ is constantly asking me to make decisions that I don't want to make. Is X a friend? Ex-co-worker? Industry buddy? Well, he's not family, that's for sure. What about Y? He's a distant cousin in the same industry with me who I've never met. And I'm constantly being asked to make decisions on my godfather, who passed away several years ago but whom I have not had the heart to remove from my address book. The mental friction is insane.
So I have to conclude that having to make multiple "circle" decisions for each human being is even more autistic than just deciding whether or not someone can be a "friend" with the new, meaningless social-network-meaning of the word "friend."
If I had to guess, I think that Mark Zuckerberg will be proven right and the Google Circles theorists will be proven wrong ... most people would rather have a stupid, ahistorical version of the word "friend" so that they could make quick up/down decisions about who to connect to, because the mental stress is so much less than making multiple decisions about whether or not real people actually fit in real categories. In other words, Google Circles asks us to categorize everyone we know into categories of our own choosing, for which we feel some responsibility (now that my sister is separated, is her husband family any more? Do I have to stop being friends with his awesome sister?) Whereas Facebook let us off the hook, saying, effectively, "dude, don't take this 'friend' word so seriously. Just decide if you want to share with them."