Eli Dourado

Douglas Coupland, radical pessimist

Douglas Coupland has written “a radical pessimist’s guide to the next 10 years.” I can’t resist adding my own commentary to some of Coupland’s tips.

1) It’s going to get worse

Better to think in terms of mean reversion. Things get better. Then they get worse again. That’s just how things go.

2) The future isn’t going to feel futuristic

The present already feels futuristic. And yesterday we learn that Google has a fleet of autonomous vehicles, and that commercial availability of this technology may be only eight years away. To the people who have given me hell for my claim, on long car trips over the last five years, that autonomous vehicles are only 15 years away, you know who you are and I am ready to accept your apologies.

6) The middle class is over. It’s not coming back

“Remember travel agents? Remember how they just kind of vanished one day?” Yes, and it’s awesome. Those people are now doing more productive things. Quality of life for the middle and lower deciles continues to rise.

7) Retail will start to resemble Mexican drugstores

Retail is going to resemble Amazon Prime. You order something online and it will be at your door astonishingly quickly.

8) Try to live near a subway entrance

“In a world of crazy-expensive oil, it’s the only real estate that will hold its value, if not increase.” No, no, no. First of all, any future value-holding of real estate near subways is already capitalized into its price today. Second, if real estate value is going to collapse, it’s much better just to rent and not own.

13) Enjoy lettuce while you still can

I hate lettuce.

15) Make sure you’ve got someone to change your diaper

I hope not to need this in the next 10 years.

16) “You” will be turning into a cloud of data that circles the planet like a thin gauze

“your shopping trends, blog residues, CCTV appearances – it all works in tandem to create a virtual being that you may neither like nor recognize.” You may not like yourself, but to the extent this data can give us more realistic pictures of ourselves, is that an unalloyed evil?

18) Untombed landfills will glut the market with 20th-century artifacts

The future is not going to want your parents' crap, especially not in the next 10 years.

20) North America can easily fragment quickly as did the Eastern Bloc in 1989


35) Stupid people will be in charge, only to be replaced by ever-stupider people. You will live in a world without kings, only princes in whom our faith is shattered

That’s not so different.

37) People will stop caring how they appear to others

That’s some serious wishful thinking. If it were true, it would be an incredibly large positive productivity shock as people suddenly found they had tons of free time and resources.

42) You’ll spend a lot of time shopping online from your jail cell

I hope that accompanying the fragmentation of North America (see #20) will be a better matching of preferences and laws. This means less jail, not more.

Please feel free to respond to any of Coupland’s tips (including the ones I ignored) in the comments.