Sometimes, I feel that all this was made up just for my benefit. My older readers will remember a movie called The Truman Show, in which manic comedian Jim Carrey discovers that his whole life is a reality TV show played out for the entertainment of the masses. It’s the little things that, eventually, give it away.
For me, it’s names. Striking and wonderful names which, somehow, give pause for thought. Quite clearly, it is a game being played by those who are running my personal show – seeing how just how far they can take it before I have to stand up and say ‘c’mon guys – really?’
It started quite innocuously. President Canaan Banana. Rugby player Austin Healy. Emma Dale. The news reporter, Julia Caesar. Recently, however, it’s become quite serious. Obviously, the directors of my show – confronted, I imagine, by collapsing ratings befitting a programme probably entitled ‘The Not Very Inspiring Life and Times of the Rather Humdrum Jeremy Probert’ – need to provoke me to some sort of reaction.
So they’ve thrown me into contact with Hubertus Funke, Elly Button and – I kid you not – Ting Ting Dong. (Never mind the spurned mistress of billionaire Samuel Tak Lee, who tried to blackmail him for £3m – take a bow, the entirely-appropriately-named Fuk Wu.) But it’s not just amazingly named people that are the cause of my disquiet.
Toward the end of 2013, The Wall Street Journal (I have to say, I think Big Brother could have done better with that one) published a list of companies entitled ‘The Billion-Dollar Start Up Club’. These are startup companies that are valued at $1bn plus by venture capital firms. Running down the list, we see included Jingdong, Zalando, Houzz, Jasper, Deem and – oh, yes – MongoDB.
Now, the so-called ‘Wall Street Journal’ (I’m on to your game, sonny) has a back-story for each of them – quite convincing as it turns out – but even then, there are the little clues, the in-jokes, the oh-so-arch references that give it away. Take Palantir. Valued at $9.3bn in the last quarter of 2013, its data mining software is used by ‘the CIA and the FBI to distil large amounts of information’.
Of course, everyone here will know that a Palantir is a creation of JRR Tolkien in his Lord of the Rings trilogy. An artefact of great power, of Elvish creation, it was an early form of mobile communication device (although the largest of the Palantiri suffered from the same design flaw as the Motorola DynaTAC in 1973 – it was the size of a small room) combining some of the features of Cisco’s TelePresence. More germane to my argument, however, is that fact that when we see a Palantir in action – so to speak – in The Lord of The Rings, it’s being used by Sauron, the Dark Lord.
And, arguably, he’s using it to ‘distil large amounts of information’. Coincidence? I think not. (Yes, I realise that it is possible that the founders of Palantir decided to use the name for EXACTLY THE REASONS I HAVE OUTLINED HERE. But they can’t have – because that would be the conclusive proof I’ve been looking for. Wouldn’t it?)
Another unmistakeable hole in the fabric of what I will laughingly call my ‘reality’ is, of course, the frankly silly numbers that are being attached to these startups. In the WSJ’s list, Snapchat’s there with a value of $2bn. (Twice the value of Mogujie, as it turns out. See? See what I mean?) Today, and following a judicious investment of $20m from the VCs, it’s got a valuation of $10bn. Not bad, Messrs Murphy and Spiegel, for a few months work on something that doesn’t actually generate any revenues (no surprises there, then).
Frankly, with all of this going on, you cannot expect me to believe I’m living in a sane and rational ‘real world’. I’ve been Jeremy Probert. Thank you for watching.