Review by Karl Verhoven
Damian Bradfield is a contradictory character. He’s founder and CEO of WeTransfer, used by millions for transferring money abroad, and yet also author of The Trust Manifesto, explaining exactly how major online companies harvest personal data, why they want it, and asking what sort of internet we want in the future.
That ties in to his approach on Alogorithmic Reality, in which he provides glimpses into a future that’s not too far away, where data is personal currency. He opens with an allegory about how data harvesting applies. A man tries on a pair of shoes at a shoe shop, but leaves having decided not to buy them. He’s followed out by the store assistant asking if he’s sure. She then pops up when he’s in other shops asking if he’s certain he doesn’t want to buy the shoes, offering pictures, and eventually manifests in his home still asking if he doesn’t want to buy the shoes. It’s a human face to the persistence of data harvested and transformed into electronic promotion.
Everything is drawn very simply by Dávid Sanchez, echoing bland online instructional animation. It’s deliberate, but not showing Sanchez at his best. Skill is apparent, though, in the designs and the storytelling, but the artistic purpose means no-one will pick up Alogorithmic Reality because they’re stunned by the art.
Bradfield notes why keeping physical objects is worthwhile, why there’s a vested interest in dispensing with the use of cash, and that it’s a bad idea to let an insurance company connect to your personal data, no matter the reduction offered. “Now, if you can just connect your bank, email, Google, maps, Amazon and Facebook accounts”, suggests the insurance agent, “we can make the sign-up super simple”. It’s intended to frighten about the type of world we’re sleepwalking into, where only the positive aspects of the data cloud are ever stressed, and where shopping with phones makes life so much easier, but is Bradfield only preaching to the converted? If so, that would be a great shame, as we should all be talking about what he lays out.