Will my tombstone be a barcode?
Spotify did the most appalling thing to me today. I say thing – it did two things.
One: it told me that my musical taste matched that of Star Wars’ Kylo Ren: the evil candle-holder for all things Darth apparently enjoys moshing along to Minor Threat and Weezer (?).
Two (and most heinous): Spotify quantified my “year in music”. Yes, some gaunt and goateed hipster produced an algorithm that tore through my listening proclivities and presented them back to me as if I was in need of rehabilitation from a memory-loss inducing illness.
What did I learn from blankly perusing my year of listening to Queen, Michael Jackson and Green Day? Well, for a start that my eldest daughter must have been using my Spotify account. Secondly, I learned the precise number of hours I (and she) had spent listening to music. I was also shown how this compared with the previous year. Apparently, together with my daughter, I listened to 53% more music this year.
It appalls me to think that someone knows that about me: a singularly useless artefact of data; the kind of data that can only be twisted and turned to use for evil (as I imagine Kylo Ren will at some point in this trilogy of trilogies: perhaps by telling Luke Skywalker that he’s been listening overmuch to Toto). I mean, what on Earth am I supposed to do with such knowledge?! Aim to listen to more music in 2016?! Put a lid on my daughter’s headbanging to Michael Jackson’s ‘Ben’?!
Like all God-fearing, moss-watching teachers, I’ve had it up to here [gestures just beyond head] with data. When that bloke wrote that bit in the Bible about the “number of the Beast”, he was referring to Levels, calories and Spotify all in one satanic amalgamation.
In 2016, I don’t want to know anything that doesn’t have a face. I don’t want numbers; I don’t want letters that stand for numbers; and I do not want names that stand for numbers that stand for letters and are rewired back into numbers.
I might let a little bit of data back into my life, once I’ve calmed down and worked off this pent-up rhetoric. But for now: nada, zilch, nowt and zero. Zero: the only number I will condone.
2016 will not even be 2016. Ask me the year and I shall make a continuous circle in the air with one finger and say only “welcome” (like Windows XP). You’ll soon tire of asking me. Where numbers are concerned, I shall temporarily not be your man.
But then, as Spotify have so intrusively demonstrated, perhaps I have no say in my quantification. Perhaps strangers unbidden will whisper to me: “You listened to Total Eclipse of the Heart seven times in May 2014.”
“What of it?” I will say, “The soaring punch of Barbara Dickson’s voice is the perfect foil for Elaine Paige’s plaintive melancholy.”
But will I forever have to defend my life in numbers, both personally and professionally? Can’t I defend it in some other way? With shekels or cabbages – with some improvised barter system? Or am I doomed?
Will my tombstone be a barcode? Will my great-grandchildren scan it and say to one another: “Oooh, he died a bit fat!”
Over my dead body.