Sci-fi and the future of tech

Literary heavyweight William Gibson weighs in during ConU’s Thinking Out Loud

Close your eyes for a moment and try to imagine a time before recorded music was available: no flipping through iTunes to hear your favourite artist’s new track, no searching on YouTube for the oldie that’s been stuck in your head all day—a time when technology was significantly different than it is today.

William Gibson invited audience members to do just that during Thursday’s session of Concordia’s Thinking Out Loud conversation series. Gibson, an American-Canadian science fiction novelist, joined Concordia communication studies professor Fenwick McKelvey for “Digital Life, Digital Identity — A Conversation About the Internet, Fiction and the Future” moderated by Erin Anderssen of The Globe and Mail.

“One of the most mysterious things about technology is the way in which we lose the previous mode of existence,” said Gibson. As a celebrated speculative fiction novelist, he’s used to imagining new technologies and presenting them in naturalistic prose. In 1982 he coined the term “cyberspace.” His works—ranging from short stories to novels and trilogies—have highly influenced the world of science fiction writing., and he was one of the founders of the cyberpunk genre.

They discussed the ever-changing popularity of technology and how it’s impossible to determine what will become the next big thing. Not only do developers not know exactly what technologies will catch on, but the way in which different groups in society use technology will also differ. Gibson suggested a poor man and a rich man might use technology very differently.

“How do you, from moment to moment, distinguish when are we being active participants and when are we being couch potatoes?” Asked Gibson. “It seems to me that the distinction is blurred in some weird way.”

While the role of technology is not always clear, it can be helpful in particular circumstances. Gibson recounted his experience assisting people across the world via social media during the March 2011 earthquake in Japan. Gibson, among others, was able to tweet links to information Japanese citizens couldn’t connect with since the natural disaster had destroyed certain networks.

Gibson predicts our current separation between self-identity and digital personas will fade for people as we move into the future. “I think they’ll find the way in which we made that distinction very, very peculiar and they’ll try very hard to understand it,” he said. “We experience now what, in the future, will be regarded as a remarkable degree of isolation.”

As a science fiction writer, Gibson is an expert in creating visions for the future. “There are bits and pieces of possible futures walking all around here, but we won’t necessarily notice them,” he said. He looks for the ones that “have legs,” seeking to balance contemporary perceptions of miraculous new technology “in a way that allows the reader the illusion of experiencing the character’s complete boredom with that technology.”

Student Life

Get green groceries at Le Frigo Vert

Concordia co-op invites you to come in and shop or just sit and stay awhile.

“Are you a member of the co-op?”

Good news is, as a Concordia student, you automatically are. Members, in addition to being vital parts of the community that keeps the co-op running, also benefit from 20 per cent off everything in store.

Minutes after opening the doors, Ms. Forti alternates between serving customers and stocking the chip shelves.

It’s the coffee that draws in the first clients. The co-op’s members are mostly students, and at 50 cents to fill a reusable cup, it’s cheap.

Photo by Sara Baron-Goodman.

Le Frigo Vert doesn’t exist to make a profit. It began over 20 years ago as a bulk food buying group and expanded to a store where it can best serve its mandate: provide affordable, organic food and environmentally-friendly products to students on campus. They keep their mark-ups low and their shelves stocked.

By the time the doors have been open for half an hour, the store has a steady stream of customers buying everything from sprouting seeds to organic cotton tampons. The convenient location just steps away from the Hall building, good prices, and high quality products are what bring in members.

It’s not just their regular weekly groceries that members can buy here.

“There aren’t a lot of spaces downtown where you can just hang out without having to buy anything,” Forti said. The co-op’s back room fills that need. Boasting a kitchen to heat up your lunch, a fully stocked bookshelf to peruse, and a newly renovated seating area, the lounge space is also home to workshops throughout the year.

“It’s fun to work in a store that also has a mandate to put on a workshop series every year,” Forti said. Past events have included anti-colonial dinners, DIY lotion and cosmetics workshops, and information on herbal remedies. Planning for this year’s workshop schedule is underway.

Le Frigo works with organizations around the city dedicated towards important causes such as food justice and the fight against poverty. In the summer months, it’s a drop-off point for local farms’ Community Supported Agriculture baskets. Leftover vegetables are purchased from the farms and sold in the co-op.

The clientele at le Frigo Vert is mostly made up of students. Since they are a fee-levy group, Concordia students are automatically members. Membership for non-Concordia students costs $15 per year.

The community feel of the place is apparent. This isn’t a store that’s set out to pay for a CEO’s yacht. “We’re a collective,” Forti said. “So many people rely on us for their groceries. It’s really important that we have what they need when they need it.”

If you’re interested in getting involved, send an email to They regularly hold volunteer orientations.

Le Frigo Vert is located at 2130 Mackay St.

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