Interview with John Thackara: how to thrive in the next economy

On the occasion of the U.S. launch of his new book, How to Thrive in the Next Economy: Designing Tomorrow’s World Today, John Thackara sat down with Core77’s Allan Chochinov to talk about the book, changing attitudes about the future, and where we might be heading.

Let’s talk about optimism. I find the new book to be extraordinarily optimistic about the possibilities around our future, yet at the same time quite critical and biting where it needs to be. How were you able to ride that line?

I prefer to think that I’m being clear rather than “biting”—but it’s true that I took a conscious decision to stop giving succour to the ‘do less harm’ school of green thinking. For a long time I was perplexed by a dilemma. As I said just now I learned that people don’t respond well to bad news—or to be realistic, they just zone out—so I tried really hard to focus on the positive in my work. But there came a moment—a real life epiphany, which I write about the the book—when I realized that “doing less harm” in a growth-at-all costs economy means doing more harm in the medium term. This epiphany took me straight back to the doom-and-gloom narrative. (Sighs). I’ve tried to deal with that in the book by putting all the reasons why a return to business as usual is not going to happen in chapter one. Faint-hearted readers should simply skip the first chapter.