Author! Paul Graham Raven meets the collapsonomics crowd

16 Feb

Ask Paul Graham Raven, editor-in-chief of Futurismic, what he does for a living, and he says he worries about the future. He’s not alone:

“On the first floor of a former embassy at the foot of Haymarket in London’s West End, a dozen people are sat around the remains of a Chinese buffet takeaway and a few bottles of wine. In the foyer the glass and steel and expensive furniture spoke of diplomacy and corporate sheen; up here, cheap Ikea light fittings dangle between exposed cables and ductwork, and there’s hardly an interior wall to be seen, except the ones that surround the central lift shaft. Whiteboards are plentiful, as are small clusters of chairs, mute testament to earlier discussions. This is one of those “start-up hubs”: unconstrained spaces whose founders hope to nurture new businesses for a changing world. By day the place attracts architects and designers with big ideas, but every few evenings a week the collapsonomics crowd shows up.”

By day Paul considers how prepared our infrastructure is to withstand major threats. For Arc 1.1’s PRESENT TENSE feature, he’s turned anthropologist, and embedded himself in the culture of people who are sincerely expecting him and his kind to fail, and for technological civilisation to collapse within our lifetime:

“There are some classic hippie variants here, of course, but no more than you’d see at any other festival. There’s also a goodly streak of old punks, travellers and ravers, some more reintegrated into the mainstream than others.

“But I’m surprised by the number of normal-looking Gen-X people present: Guardianista liberals who’ve lost their faith in the shibboleth of Progress and are coming to the unsettling realisation that buying the recycled kitchen roll at Waitrose isn’t making the difference they hoped it would. These aren’t the sort of people I’ve encountered in the protest and ecology movements of the recent past; these are the people we always felt we were failing to reach, failing to engage. Somehow, an urge toward personal resilience and preparedness has replaced the hope that the government will get it all sorted. Instead of reassurances, they’re looking for new stories into which they can write themselves, and new solutions they can take home with them.”

Paul was impressed by these people. But was he convinced? Find out in Arc 1.1, launched next Monday through Zinio for iPhones, iPads, Android devices, Windows PCs and Mac computers, and on Kindle.

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