Kitten Clone and the Engineer’s Lost Soul

Coupland’s Kitten Clone is written in Coupland’s sort of nonchalant style. Entertaining and ironic, without giving the impression of not being serious. And it has a few typical nerdy typographical jokes like making a paragraph brake with


This very well written documentary (leave that up to Coupland), is beautifully illustrated with photo’s from Olivia Arthur, a famous Magnum photographer. A piece of art, this book. Coupland documents his thoughts as he travels over the globe, interviewing staff from the company Alcatel-Lucent, one of the few organizations providing the backbone technology for the Internet. Without this technology and maybe without this company our (cyber) lives would look quite different.

With Tracy Kidder’s The Soul of a New Machine (“the original nerd epic”), I will add ano my earlier post on Kidder’s book here, and Coupland’s own JPod, one of the best books on the soul of engineers.

Kitten Clone is the most analytical and philosophical.

The zeitgeist of the twenty-first century is that we have a lot of zeit but not much geist. I’m appalled I just wrote that sentences, but it’s true;
there’s something emotionally sparse about the present era, and the world just keeps spinning faster and faster. Optical fibres carry forty billion phone calls at once, and soon ten terabits. And I want my Dexter, Season 4, and I want it now, and that’s what’s driving all of this: we want it and we want it now. And on top of that, it sort of feels like we’re all being chased by monsters.

I found the formulation smelling a bit like cultural pessimism, and it feels like every generation has developed this sort of fatigue. However this feeling of this ever increasing speed of need I definitely share, but still I am not convinced this may be a generational gap. And Coupland not just wonders what all this speed is necessary for. This company is mostly invisible to the public, while their product is so fundamentally changing society. It does continue to improve their technology, without seemingly wondering what this technology really enables.

“All of the scientists I spoke with were almost endearingly surprised even to be asked the question of how people will use what they invent.

And while the company does not bother much about the application of their technology, the people using their product create a complete new reality with it.

Right now, half of humanity – the younger half – believes the Internet is the reality.

This lack of apparent self reflection from the this technology company as well as from the people using their stuff, is what Coupland seems to fear most. And with that the conclusion of this documentary story is positive and alarming at the same time. Possibilities of people connecting globally are developing at an increasing speed, but this seems to develop on itself and there is a no grand plan, vision or idea guiding this advancement. Coupland for a moment even longs for religion.

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