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Douglas Coupland on the future, 3D printing, and the irrelevancy of human beings

The interesting thing about Coupland is that, for all his technological determinism, he frequently appears deeply uneasy about many of the implications inherent in the “inevitable” march of technology. He talks about the fatigue associated with what he refers to as the “asymptote of logarithmic acceleration” where tech is concerned, and the accompanying “existential vertigo.”

“I remember in the 1970s, the only big technological change that happened was the conversion from rotary to push-button phones. And even that was too fast,” he says. “Between the time I started writing the book and today, I’ve actually forgotten what my pre-internet brain was. I used to kind of remember, but now I honestly don’t. I don’t really miss it, it’s just that it’s gone and it’s not coming back.”

Nor is Coupland interested in nostalgia for the way things were. He recalls working at Wired in the 1990s, a time when no one wanted to go on the internet because it was so slow and clunky. “You got a real-time black-and-white weather map of northern California and southern Oregon that refreshes once every 12 hours. And I’m like, ‘That’s the most boring thing I’ve ever seen in my life.’”

“Between the time I started writing the book and today,
I’ve actually forgotten what my pre-internet brain was.”

As to the larger, societal implications of unchecked technological acceleration, Coupland is equally straightforward. The advent of 3D printers, which Coupland describes as “a pathetically simple technology, just a glue gun on an x-y axis,” will have the effect of ruining companies and putting vast numbers of people out of work in the coming years. “You can print aluminum, copper, all these materials,” Coupland says. “You can print out an engine and it’s a flawless engine, and as you do so, thousands of people are exiled out of the middle class forever. But now we have way better engines.”

This shifting ground is typical of Coupland’s meditations on the internet and its associated products. The cloud is “a damn good” metaphor, he suggests, though the literal cloud is nothing more than “a bunch of data storage centres on the Columbia River and these big, ugly, thick cables covered in clams down in Portugal.”


October 10th, 2014

9:00 am

Category: Authors

Tagged with: Douglas Coupland