Rick Smolan is a photographer who used to work for National Geographic and Time and the creator of the Day in the Life series.
Rick Smolan: So, you know, whenever people ask me what my favorite spreads are in the book, it’s a little like which are your favorite children. You sort of love them all for different reasons. One of the ones that has kind of emerged in the course doing the project is someone just anecdotally was in our office one day and showed me a presentation they were giving, and in the presentation was this picture of the old FBI filing system from the 50s.
Of the women with little files, card catalogues in this vast sort of warehouse. I thought it was such a cool picture and so much the opposite of our idea of how we store data today. And then someone showed me a picture of Julian Assange’s data center, a hundred feet underground in Sweden, which had similar shapes. So I thought this is really cool; these are file catalogues, and here are these huge data servers.
And then I thought I wonder if there’s some story about J. Edgar Hoover that Time Magazine did as a hero back then. And we found this wonderful Time Magazine cover and, of course, back then he was a hero; he was the head of the FBI, saving the free world. And now found out that in fact he was using a lot of this information for his own personal purposes. Then we found a Time Magazine cover with Julian Assange, basically being very critical of him and saying he was destroying. It’s very interesting to me; I wonder if 50 years from now we'll look back, maybe Julian will be the hero and J. Edgar Hoover will be the enemy of the state.
The time changes the way that we understand perspective. So I thought that the way that page evolved was interesting and the last thing that I thought about was really fun was that someone made a comment that, in fact, the data center where the WikiLeaks data is stored is actually much more vulnerable to attack than the FBI filing system, which you could've gotten in there and if you did get in then there was no Xerox machine and there was certainly no thumb drives. So the fact that all this data actually ended up in WikiLeaks was basically snuck out on a CD-ROM or on little thumb drives, would’ve been impossible back in the '50s. So that was actually more secure, even though it was much less accessible.
The page has this wonderful sort of echoes back and forth through technology and space and time and politics and history. And it’s one of my favorite spreads in the book.
Directed/produced by Jonathan Fowler and Dillon Fitton
I’m so concerned about the fact that Big Data is going to change the world in every conceivable way.