By Marc-Uwe Kling
QualityLand is a very funny book that hits close to home because it understands that the best satire only needs to tweak its subject a little bit to work.
We can relate to Peter’s struggles after a drone delivers him a pink dolphin vibrator from online retailer TheShop. This must be a mistake, but the system can’t be wrong. Hence what gets dubbed Peter’s Problem: when reality is fully customizable, a bad profile can lead to your being booted into the wrong world.
Peter, accompanied by a hacker girlfriend and a family of discarded robots, then leads a crusade against such faulty profiling under the Howard Beale-ish slogan “The system says I want this, but I don’t.”
But how can one’s profile be wrong? “Machines don’t make mistakes,” is the motto of QualityLand, and the entire economy depends on that supposition. We are our data, that vast collection of digital DNA shaped by our browsing histories, purchases, and all the other threads of our online lives. In QualityLand clicks have turned into kisses, and every one seals our fate a little more firmly, making sure that each of us becomes what the system believes us and wants us to be.
You may think you’re smarter than that system, or think you’re something more than your profile, but the data says you’re not. When we look into our screens our screens are looking far more deeply into us. We are, in every sense of the word, products of the algorithms.