Douglas Coupland's Guide To The Next Decade

Writer Douglas Coupland coined the term "Generation X" with his novel of the same name. His most recent book is Player One. He drops in to share some fearless predictions from his recent article "A Radical Pessimist's Guide to the Next 10 Years."

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GUY RAZ, host:

Not to pile it on here, but novelist Douglas Coupland isn't too optimistic either. He's the man who coined the term Generation X, which was also the title of one of his books. And a few days ago, Coupland put out his predications for the coming decade. He calls it "A Pessimist's Guide to the Next 10 Years," and he shared some of those thoughts with us. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The full title is "A Radical Pessimist's Guide to the Next 10 Years."]

Mr. DOUGLAS COUPLAND (Author): I think way back, the '20s or the '30s, when Kodak came out with the Brownie and they put a list of instructions on the box, like how to use this thing, I think someone arbitrarily said, make sure the person in the photograph is smiling. And we went from that one sort of set of industrial instructions to this whole culture of perkiness.

In the future, it's going to get worse: no silver linings, no lemonade. The elevator only goes down, and the bright note is that the elevator will, at some point, stop.

No matter how bad things are, you have to be, like, oh, there's always a silver lining, or, oh, we can still be friends, or we can be happy. And I'm not quite sure if that's a smart thing to be doing in 2010.

In the future, you'll spend a lot of time feeling like a dog leashed to a pole outside a grocery store. Separation anxiety will become our permanent state. The middle class is over; it's not coming back.

Remember travel agents? Remember how they just kind of vanished one day? Well, that's where all the other jobs that once made us middle class are going, to that same magical, class-killing, job-sucking wormhole into which travel agency jobs vanished, never to return.

We are all experiencing the same things. We're in it together. We have these new technologies we don't even have words for that are making us feel things we can't describe.

In the future, we'll try to live near a subway entrance. In a world of crazy-expensive oil, it's the only real estate that's going to hold its value, if not increase.

In the same way, you can never go backward to a slower computer. You can never go backward to a lessened state of connectedness. Enjoy lettuce while you still can, anything else that arrives in your life from a truck, for that matter. For vegetables, get used to whatever it was they served in railway hotels back in the 1890s: jams, preserves, pickled everything.

We really have to define a set of questions we have to ask. And I think the comfort to be found in a pessimistic world view is that you actually get a sense of community. People are in this together. The future is just happening so quickly. Acceleration is accelerating.

Money isn't money anymore. Time doesn't feel like time anymore. Your sense of community, it's evaporated, too, or it's turned into something you visit at 2 a.m. on a website.

In the future, dreams will get better. Being alone will become easier. Stupid people will continue to be in charge, only to be replaced by even stupider people.

You will live in a world without kings, only princes in whom our faith is shattered.

In the future, knowing everything is going to become dull. And we're not going to make progress by, you know, just being cheerful and putting a smile on it and hoping it works for the best. We have to ask tough questions and make some tough assertions.

In the future, IKEA will become an ever more spiritual sanctuary. In the future, your dream life will increasingly look like Google street view. Everyone will be feeling the same way as you, and there's some comfort to be found there.

In the future, we will accept the obvious truth that we brought this upon ourselves.

RAZ: That's author Douglas Coupland with some of his predictions for the next 10 years. He originally wrote them for the Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail. Coupland's 11th novel is out now. It's called "Player One."

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