The following is a summary of Douglas Coupland’s Seminar “The Extreme Present”, presented as part of The Long Now Foundation’s Seminars About Long-term Thinking. These monthly talks started in 02003 to build a compelling body of ideas about long-term thinking. Links to media and more information about this series can be found at the bottom of this page.
“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?”
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.
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