An excerpt from a new novel was recently published in Le Monde (I read it in the monthly English language selection Le Monde diplomatique – sorry paywalled) called La Liquidation by Laurent Cordonnier which could be the first real science fiction response to self-tracking, quantified self and big data. Good sc-fi often provides a way of thinking through the potential logical conclusions of current processes and this book looks to have some good ideas.

From a short extract it is not possible to make a judgement on its literary merit but there are some interesting ideas. For instance, the two characters featured in the passage meet at a ‘brokers’ cafe’ where they pay to sit at a table and monitor the fluctuations of the price of the table on a screen. As the weather conditions (and forecast) change they assess the best time to sell the table on at a profit and leave the cafe.

One of the characters has previously legally changed his name but his friend deliberately uses the wrong name in order to annoy him until he is threatened with court proceedings for ‘damage to identity’.

All characters are also monitored by masses of CCTV cameras but it is possible to pay for the privilege of being digitally removed from all images. Alternatively, some people chose to have maximum exposure to the cameras in order to narcissistically gain as many ‘followers’ as possible and generate income from their image rights.

This section of the novel nicely skewers not only the wide-ranging potential consequences of quantification but also its relation to marketisation. Hopefully the entire novel will soon be translated into English.

If anyone has found any other good representations of big data, quantification or self-quantification I would be really keen to hear about them.

 

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