Fforde's story considers how much of our dataselves we have given awayby Jasper Fforde / December 12, 2013 / Leave a comment
Published in January 2014 issue of Prospect Magazine
Jasper Fforde is the bestselling author of the “Thursday Next” novels, including The Eyre Affair, First Among Sequels and The Well of Lost Plots, which won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for comic fiction in 2004. After giving up a career in the film industry, Jasper now lives and writes in Wales. “I wrote ‘The Button Guy’ five years ago, pretty much around the time it became broad public knowledge just how much of our dataselves we had given away,” says Fforde. “Not just how quietly and easily, but how we had accepted such meagre trinkets in return: a few pence off our groceries and free use of social networking sites. Sadly, the concept of rigorously policed data self-determination is a ship that has already sailed—and no one saw it leave, or seemingly, even noticed the empty berth. Or at least, not yet.”
There are some who call me “The High Priest of Data” but I think the title is a misnomer. I don’t collate, censor, manipulate or distribute the data; in fact, aside from my own small chunk, I don’t even own it. In one respect, however, the title may be just. A priest might look after your spiritual well-being to protect your soul, but I look after your informational well-being to make sure no-one lays claim to your data. I’m the ultimate personal archive protection; the last line of defence against bad governance and future despots. Or at least I am for the next six minutes. I’m the Button Guy, and I’m up for retirement.
After my isolation in the secure apartment that I have called home for thirty years, retirement will be something of a relief and full of welcome pleasures. Instead of being incarcerated inside a Welsh mountain with a thousand yards of solid limestone on every side, I will get to walk barefoot on dewy grass, feel the breath of wind upon my face and smell something other than my own sweat and the clinically scrubbed air of UniDat’s climate controlled environment. Most of all, I look forward to watching the sun slowly merge with its reflection on a placid sea. I’ve seen it on live HD-UTube many times, but the sun at second hand, like everything else, can never match the real thing.