Douglas Coupland is a Canadian author, artist, and cultural commentator, whose 1991 debut novel, Generation X, introduced the term McJob and gave title to an era. William Gibson, an American residing in Canada, is a novelist credited with inventing the term “cyberspace” and noted for an uncanny ability to write fiction about the future by a process he calls “extrapolation of the present.”
In this hour-long conversation, recorded on the opening night of the 2012 seminar, Coupland leads Gibson through a discussion on culture, technology, and the craft of writing. “What makes us human,” Gibson says, “is our ability to recognize patterns, and to externalize forms of synthetic memory that preserve those recognized patterns.” The internet and its attendant communications technologies, Gibson argues, are a natural evolution of this synthetic memory, the current iteration of the cave painting human ancestors used to record their activities. These technologies function as a “global instantaneous memory prosthesis” and aspire to a transparency of experience whereby distinctions between the “virtual” and the “real” are thoroughly dissolved. “We are already the borg,” Gibson says.
Along the way, Coupland and Gibson address cultural phenomena including the Whole Foods grocery chain and Levi’s jeans, and thinkers including Marshall McLuhan and Jaron Lanier. They also explain why Facebook is like a mall and Twitter is like the street, and ask whether life is best understood as a story or as a spreadsheet.
From KWLS 2012: Yet Another World