🔎

Filmed on Tuesday November 1, 02016

Douglas Coupland

The Extreme Present

Author and visual artist Douglas Coupland has written 13 novels including Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture and Microserfs. His art works have shown at museums and public sites worldwide.

Douglas Coupland has done so much more than name a generation (“Generation X”—post-Boomer, pre-Millennial, from his novel of that name). He is a prolific writer (22 books, including nonfiction such as his biography of Marshall McLuhan) and a brilliant visual artist with installations at a variety of museums and public sites. His 1995 novel Microserfs nailed the contrast between corporate and startup cultures in software and Web design.

Coupland is fascinated by time. For Long Now he plans to deploy ideas and graphics “all dealing on some level with time and how we perceive it, how we used to perceive it, and where our perception of it may be going.” A time series about time.

Future now

“The present and the future now coexist at the same time,” Coupland began. “It’s why time doesn’t feel like time any more. We’re inside the future.” He wondered if the constant acceleration of acceleration that we experience might lead to some kind of “collective cracking point” for humanity.

As an installation artist Coupland said he was highly impressed by the short truisms of the New York artist Jenny Holzer, such as “MUCH WAS DECIDED BEFORE YOU WERE BORN.” And so he began a “slogan project” of sayings that “make perfect sense now but would make no sense if you saw them 20 years ago.” Examples included:

I MISS MY PRE-INTERNET BRAIN

HOARD ANYTHING YOU CAN’T DOWNLOAD

LIVES ARE NO LONGER FEELING LIKE STORIES (“I call this process ‘de-narration.’”)

WE’VE NEVER BEEN SMARTER. WE’VE NEVER FELT STUPIDER.

THINKING ABOUT THE FUTURE MEANS YOU WANT SOMETHING

DEMOCRACY SEEMS INADEQUATE TO DEAL WITH THE PRESENT

For an installation in Shanghai, Coupland created some “slogans for the 22d Century:”

MONEY WAS OVERRATED ANYWAY

DON’T MENTION THE CLOUD

YOUR BORDER IS YOUR BRAND

Coupland ended with what he considers the three leading questions of our time: “Does the need to be remembered eclipse the right to be forgotten?” “Will the internet favor the individual over the group?” “Will the internet favor secularity or religion?”

At the end of the evening, Coupland looked at the camera and said, “Hello posterity. What are we doing right now that is scaring the crap out of you?”

More Seminars

🔎

SALT Summaries Book

$2.99 Also available as a paperback book

Condensed ideas about long-term thinking summarized by Stewart Brand
(with Kevin Kelly, Alexander Rose and Paul Saffo) and a foreword by Brian Eno.

Seminar Sponsors

Will Hearst • David and Abby Rumsey • Kim Polese • Shel Kaphan • Garrett Gruener • Stream Guys Media Streaming • The Libra Foundation • Peter Baumann • Brian Eno • Greg Stikeleather • Richard and Angie Thieriot • Nion McEvoy • Cameo Wood • Susie Tompkins Buell Fund • Panta Rhea Foundation • Patrick Tufts • Ping Fu • Peter Schwartz • The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation • Dean Ornish • The Long Now Membership

We would also like to recognize George Cowan (01920 - 02012) for being the first to sponsor this series.