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   Author  Topic: A glossary of new terms for a messed-up future  (Read 2618 times)
David Lucifer

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A glossary of new terms for a messed-up future
« on: 2010-10-10 12:15:47 »
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author: Douglas Coupland
source: Globe and Mail


The acceleration of acceleration.

The Weather Test

If human beings had never existed, would the weather outside your window right now be exactly the same? Of course not. So we've obviously changed things. It becomes an issue of figuring out how different the Earth would have been minus human beings.


Know that feeling you get in your stomach and soul when you realize you've forgotten your cellphone and it's too late to go back and retrieve it? That mental state is assigned the scientific value of exactly one connecton, and is the defining measurement of the next decade. Having one's home Internet connection go down is roughly 27 connectons. Having one's laptop fail while in another city is roughly 1,325 connectons. Young people stripped of texting devices during a science class experience roughly 0.75 connectons. The chronic, nagging worry that one's technology is somehow out-of-date or buggy lends a persistent 0.23-connecton background buzz of disconnection to your daily waking experience.

Blank-Collar Workers

Formerly middle-class workers who will never be middle-class again, and who will never come to terms with that.

Crystalline Financial Theory

The belief that awareness of time and the possession of free will are the only two distinctions that separate humans from all other creatures. Money is a convenient way of crystallizing these two distinctions. The current financial malaise is an indication of collective consensus on how to exercise our free will in a timely manner.


The act whereby putting “the” in front of any sort of technological term or brand name renders it amusingly geriatric sounding.


Lessness is the truth that there is much less to come. For frugal people, increased lessness won't be an issue. But for mall addicts, lessness is going to be brutal.

Web-Emergent Sentience

The belief that globally linked computer systems will one day erupt into some new form of overriding, post-human sentience. Sometimes referred to as Singularity. But what emerges need not be a super-intelligence – it merely has to be something, anything, that didn't exist up until its emergence. Don't expect HAL 9000. Expect something more like an angry two-year-old discovering the existence of the word “no.”


The inability of humans to create genuinely alienating situations. Anything made by humans is a de facto expression of humanity. Technology cannot be alienating, because humans created it. Genuinely alien technologies can be created only by aliens. Technically, a situation one might describe as alienating is, in fact, “humanating.”


Whatever technology it is humans will make that ends up becoming smarter than humans.

Transhuman Conundrum

If technology is only a manifestation of our intrinsic humanity, how can we possibly make something smarter than ourselves?

Me Goggles

The inability to accurately perceive ourselves as do others.


A recognition of the fact that it is a burdensome amount of work to be an individual; many human beings were not necessarily cut out to be individuals and are much happier being lost inside a collective environment or a self-denying belief system. Individualism may, in fact, be a form of brain mutation not evenly spread throughout the population, a mutation that poses a threat to those not possessing it – hence the ongoing war between religion and secularism.

Web-Sentience Release

The relief people can feel if they accept that the newly evolved Web sentience has liberated them from the crushing need to be individual.

Unwitting Permanence

The notion that by, say, throwing a Coke bottle off a ship's deck and into the bottom of the Marianas Trench, that bottle will remain there, unambiguously, until the sun eats up the planet. Most of the world's landfills display Unwitting Permanence.


Behaviour that stems from wiring irregularities in the brain. This leads to a larger discussion about Spectrum Behaviour: sliding scales of behaviour connected by clinical appearance and underlying causation, ranging from mild clinical deficits to severe disorder. Psychiatric disorders understood along spectrums include autism, paranoia, obsessive compulsion, anxiety and conditions that result from congenital structures, brain damage and aging. There are many more, however, and each category itself can be broken down into more specific spectrums.

Time Snack

Often annoying moments of pseudo-leisure created by computers when they stop to save a file or to search for software updates or, most likely, for no apparent reason.

Interruption-Driven Memory

We remember only red stoplights, never the green ones. The green ones keep us in the flow; the red ones interrupt and annoy us. Interruption. This accounts for the near-universal tendency of car drivers to be superstitious about stoplights.

Romantic Denial

Dislike of having the traditional notion of personality reduced to a set of brain and body functions.

Kill-Proof Demons

Rilke said that if we lose our demons, we lose our gods too. Well, even if we stripped all human behaviour down to a table of contents of structural and chemical functions, it doesn't change the fact that we're human. And remember, just because we think we know it all, it doesn't mean we really do. Remember Guck Wonder. What is Guck Wonder?

Guck Wonder

The brain has always been poorly understood. Warriors on ancient battlefields must have wondered what the grey guck was that spilled out when they lopped off someone's skull. At least, with a heart, you knew it was doing something useful. Maybe they saw the brain as excess material the gods used to fill skull cavities, the way pet-food manufacturers bulk up tinned pet foods with grains.


A micro-targeted drug of the future designed to stop fantastically specific obsessive-compulsive-disorder cases, in this case the inability of some people to convince themselves their stove is turned off after leaving the house. As science further maps out the brain, such micro-targeted drugs become ever more plausible.

Somnitropic Drugs

Drugs engineered to affect dream life or that will increase your ability to remember your dream life. At the moment, we have only a few, unintentional somnitropics such as loratadine, strong curries and melatonin – and melatonin causes nightmares.

Standard Deviation

Feeling unique is no indication of uniqueness, and yet it is the feeling of uniqueness that convinces us that we have souls.


Dislike of feeling like an individual.

The Red Queen's Blog

The more one races onto one's blog to assert one's uniqueness, the more generic one becomes.


Willingly diluting one's sense of self and ego by plastering the Internet with as much information as possible.

Undeselfing (a.k.a. Reselfing)

The attempt, usually frantic and futile, to reverse the deselfing process.


People who click on the Internet but not in real life when they go to meet their hookup at an airport cocktail lounge; to be contrasted with Room Getters, people who click both on the Internet and in real life.

Narrative Drive

The belief that a life without a story is a life not worth living – quite common, and ironically accompanied by the fact that most people cannot ascribe a story to their lives.


The process whereby one's life stops feeling like a story.

Time Shrink

Describes the way in which your perceived life shrinks when it becomes over-efficient from multitasking, and not enough down-gaps are left between specific experiences.

Gap-induced time-stretching

Leaving small gaps of inactive downtime between successive tasks has the long-term effect of making one's life feel “longer.”


What time feels like when you realize that most of your life is spent working with and around a computer and the Internet.

Random-Sequence Buzz

The small, pleasant chemical reaction experienced in the brain when hearing the next song in a randomly sequenced finite song list – not to be confused with DJ-Sequence Buzz

DJ-Sequence Buzz

Wherein songs are drawn from a reasonably well-defined yet still open-ended supply of music.

Cover Buzz

The sensation one feels when hearing a cover version of a previously known song.


A pill that makes one feel as if the events of 9/11 never occurred. A variation of Millennial Tristesse, a longing for the 20th century.

Rosenwald's Theorem

“All the wrong people have self-esteem.” – American graphic designer Laurie Rosenwald.

Permanent Halloween

The ultimate expression of individuality is to arrive at the point where one wears a Halloween costume every day of the year. Writes Louise Adler, “The more like ourselves we become, the odder we become. This is most obvious in people whom society no longer keeps in line; the eccentricity of the very rich or of castaways.”

Omniscience Fatigue

The burnout that comes with being able to find out the answer to almost anything online, usually on your phone.

Sin Fatigue

Hearing about the sins of others ceases to be compelling. A condition most commonly experienced by religious and medical professionals, but increasingly in the Web-worn general population.


The desire in daily life and consumer life to cling to “generically” designed objects. This need for clear, unconfusing forms is a means of simplifying life amid an onslaught of information.

Invariant Memory

The process whereby the brain determines when looking at an animal whether it is a dog or a cat. There exists no perfect model of a cat or a dog and yet we can instantly tell which is which by rapidly moving up and down long lists of traits that define cat-ness and dog-ness. The brain's ability to form invariant representations is the root of all intelligence. Some people refer to invariant memories as idealized Platonic forms, or as generic forms.


By repeating a noun twice, one invokes the noun's generic form, its invariant memory form. “No, I don't want blue khakis with pleats. Just give me clean, generic khaki-khakis.” Or: “Officer, I tried to remember what kind of car the getaway car was but I can't – it was just a car-car.”

Rapture Goo

The stuff that gets left behind. The only thing that really defines “you” is your DNA – so Jesus gets your DNA. That's all he gets: roughly 7.6 milligrams of you, and left behind on the floors and car seats of the world are all the blood and guts and bones and undigested food and everything – hair extensions, toupées, jewellery, dental veneers, crowns, pacemakers, breast implants, metal pins left from bone surgeries, ink from tattoos. … Remember to leave mops for those left behind.

Negative Nonprocessing

The fact that the brain doesn't process negatives. Try not thinking of peeling an orange. Try not imagining the juice running down your fingers, the soft inner part of the peel, the smell. Try, and you can't.

Attack Moderates

A common political tactic used by members of extreme orthodoxies. By forcing people in the political middle to polarize over issues over which they don't feel polar, a desired end state is achieved – one in which the hyper-amplification of what was not very much to begin with creates a tone of hysteria amid daily cultural discourse. This hysteria becomes a political tool used by the instigators to push through agendas that would never have been possible in a non-hysterical situation.


God's anger at always being asked to perform miracles.

Metaphor Blindness

The exceedingly common inability to understand metaphor, which often leads to the avoidance of art forms where metaphor might be encountered – such as books in which writers write too visually. Metaphor-blind people often need to be told how to feel and are easily whipped into frenzies.

Mallproof Realms

Universes that willfully exclude commerce. For example, the Bible or Star Trek.


Things made by humans that exist only on Earth and nowhere else in the universe. Examples include Teflon, NutraSweet, thalidomide, Paxil and meaningfully sized chunks of element 43, technetium.

Doug's Law

You can have information or you can have a life, but you can't have both
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Re:A glossary of new terms for a messed-up future
« Reply #1 on: 2010-10-12 14:31:01 »
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Great post; you beat me on posting that one. Coupland really gets, how to turn a convention on its side and reframe it.

What time feels like when you realize that most of your life is spent working with and around a computer and the Internet.<snip>



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Where there is the necessary technical skill to move mountains, there is no need for the faith that moves mountains -anon-
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