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Insights from Douglas Coupland – Effects of Consumerism & Technology

Information Technology, Interviews


January 14, 2019, 9:25 am

Q: What causes you the highest level of anxiety when it comes to looking at the future? What about excitement?

A: I don’t get anxiety about the future — I think it’s a terrific place. I’m always baffled when people think the future is somehow doomed. Throughout my entire life, the world has only gotten better. Why should that stop?

Q: What was a contemporary turning point for you when you realised that our world has changed forever?

A: Nine-Eleven. How could it not be?

Q: Will there be room for art in a world dominated by robots and AI?

A: I think that’s like asking if there will be art in a world filled with TVs and cars. Robots and AI are simply tools created by human beings. They’re not from outer space. Mostly, the human need for art is permanent, these new tools will just allow us to create new art forms. I find it impossible to get agitated or engaged by this line of thinking.

Q: In a world dominated by instant gratification, what are the messages that convince people to stop and think and make sustainable decisions?

A: You think the world is about instant gratification? I think it’s about zero gratification. And telling people to stop will only make them go faster. Also, who am I to try and convince people that my way or your way or anyone’s way is somehow better or sustainable? And maybe making people stop is a terrible idea. It sounds nice, but slowing everyone down would have 7.7 billion humanoids out in the real world wrecking things; it’s possibly better to have people glued to devices and not destroying the physical world. Imagine 7.7 billion people with too much free time on their hands! What a mess that would be.

Q: Are there any positive aspects of consumerism and technology? If yes, can you name a few and explain why they are beneficial?

A: Go live in North Korea for a month and come back and see if you want to ask this same question.

Q: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future? Why/why not?

A: I grew up in the 1970s when the future — usually described as the year 2000 — was supposed to be a horrible place with no food or clean water or oil or sunlight… and yet here we are in 2019 and it’s actually a really great place. Negativity makes for catchy magazine articles, but the truth is that the world is in a very good place, and it’s our perverse human nature that fools us into thinking otherwise. All of the truly intelligent people I’ve ever met are optimistic — all of the people with genuine measurable intelligence and proven track records of wisdom.

About the author:

Douglas Coupland is a hugely influential figure in contemporary literature and visual art, who since the publication of his debut novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture in 1991 has been a major commentator on the effects of consumerism and technology on our lives and culture.

Coupland will discuss his insights into the world of 2019 in an up-to-the-minute conversation with his friend and Age of Earthquakes co-author Shumon Basar, at the Emirates Literature Festival. The session takes place Friday 8 March 2019, 7.30-8.30pm, in English.

Click here to book your seats now.

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