Douglas Coupland: The average IQ is now 103 and the present is melting into the future

We live in 'cloud time' too, says jet-lagged author in speech

Man browses his tablet and ignores the beach. Photo by shutterstock

A jet-lagged Douglas Coupland, recently departed from "The Lab" in Paris where he was "artist-in-residence" at that mysterious wing of the Google Cultural Institute, whatever that is, declared in a pre-written speech that "the future is already here".

Speaking to an audience of Konica Minolta customers in Berlin, the author of Generation X began to fill his contractual speaking time by noting how "something changed" three years ago when the networked populace began to collectively experience "the sensation that we're missing out on something".

We are now constantly connected and hungry for data, anxious about our own ignorance and unable to recall facts without turning to Google, from whose chalice the writer seems to have drunk deeply.

"The present and the future have melted together," he said, and for some reason we all feel dumber, even if we're not. "The average IQ now is 103," he continued, referencing the intelligent quotient which is actually weighted so that the average is always 100 – and whether this was a calculated jibe at the audience's eagerness for management speak or a genuinely believed ludicrous notion was unclear.

"We're experiencing time differently," said the author. Just as "the industrial revolution gave us the weekend, and NASA gave us the takedown" a new means of experiencing time is approaching. For many of us, organic experiences are now rare: we go to work in front of a screen and come home in front of a screen... Artificial Intelligence is already here, it's called everyday life, it's called your job."

Talking to The Register, Coupland said: "Exchanging data through organic experience seems to be the only satisfying answer to this pervasive issue right now, and I think it has a darker side which is your tolerance for data gets higher and higher. Two summers ago a friend brought over what was then the state-of-the-art Oculus Rift, and we were trying it, and then you take it off and you're like – augh! – the real world, it's hideous, oh God. So now, not even time's hideous, your sense of self-perception is nullified. Time's screwed up.

"The one thing that I missed in that space was the ability to use my hands, and I think that's probably the billion-dollar grail right there. If they can figure out some sort of mitts or something that you can put on..."

We hate being separated from our connectivity, he further argued. "Remember when you forgot your iPod? Real time is now scary. We're now in cloud time," he reckoned. "We measure time in data. Data has become the measure of experiences."

"The cloud is the new infinity," he offered.

And on to yet another topic after the successful delivery of a soundbite, Coupland ruminated on Greece "with its cyclical budget crises... there's not much to do." This was a big issue, and he stressed the difference between doing nothing versus having nothing to do. "How does Greece rearrange the tasks of the office so that little work feels like doing a lot of work?

"In the future, there's going to be less to do. Both on a labour level and a political level, too many people with too much free time is a disaster. It's best to kept occupied. At Facebook, in Menlo Park, Wednesday is a work-from-home day. In the future, every day is going to be a Wednesday," he said. There would be "no more living for the weekend" and no more meetings, no middle class and no management.

And presumably no carrying thoughts on to their logical conclusion. The heavily jet-lagged writer told The Register: "It really sounds traitorous to biology, but almost everything about electronic worlds is way better," Coupland told us. "I'm not sentimentalising or being nostalgic for the past, it seems like we're in a genuine moment in human evolution here."

Coupland was ostensibly at the gig to speak about the future of work, though he described himself as unqualified to discuss Konica Minolta's new product and how that might affect the workplace. "I think 9-5 is barbaric. One day we'll think about it the same way we think about child labour in the 19th century."

Tomorrow's workers are people with a new sense of time, Coupland offered. "We might call these people millennials. Actually, we're all millennials now." ®


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