Mark O’Connell: Has the Apocalypse Finally Arrived?
In conversation with Andrew Keen on the Keen On
The coronavirus pandemic is dramatically disrupting not only our daily lives but society itself. This show features conversations with some of the world’s leading thinkers and writers about the deeper economic, political, and technological consequences of the pandemic. It’s our new daily podcast trying to make longterm sense out of the chaos of today’s global crisis.
On today’s episode, Mark O’Connell, author of Notes from an Apocalypse: A Personal Journey to the End of the World and Back, discusses whether there is a way forward with our current way of life.
From the episode:
Mark O’Connell: I guess part of the underlying idea of the book is that, in one way or another, it’s always the apocalypse. The apocalypse is an ongoing concern throughout history, and it’s an idea that comes up as a response to times of rapid change and uncertainty and in times when the future seems particularly dark and unknowable.
When I was writing the book, it felt as though we certainly were going through one of those times, and it it feels even more so now, obviously. To answer the question in a more blunt way, I would say, of course, it’s not the apocalypse. This is just history going about its business as usual. You know, plagues have always recurred throughout human history, and I think the shocking thing about this is not the idea that it’s the end of the world per se. It’s the idea that we’re no different to people in medieval times or people in whatever time in history. We’re not exempt from these catastrophes, and I think that’s the really shocking thing about this.
Mark O’Connell is the author of To Be a Machine, which was awarded the 2019 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature and the 2018 Wellcome Book Prize and short-listed for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction. He is a contributor to The New York Times Magazine, Slate, and The Guardian. He lives in Dublin with his family.
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