What’s your earliest memory?
Running to greet the new sibling cradled in my mother’s arms, shouting, “My brother! My brother!” The scene in my mind is exactly as my mum tells the story, which means this so-called memory is probably assembled from her description, like the result of an AI text-to-image generator.
Who are your heroes?
My childhood hero was Jo March in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women: awkward, unconventional and determined to become a proper writer. My adult heroes are investigative journalists such as Kashmir Hill on privacy, John Carreyrou on fraudster founders, and Carole Cadwalladr on the exploitation of our data. In a post-truth era, we are sunk without their commitment and integrity.
What book last changed your thinking?
Sea State by Tabitha Lasley. I read it at a point when I needed to disregard rules and put my fullest possible vulnerability on the page. She does all that to stunning effect.
Which political figure do you look up to?
The US politician Andrew Yang is a rare bird in that he focuses on the impact of AI and automation. We need more people like him, so that tech’s impact on society is shaped by informed governments and regulators, not by the market.
What would be your “Mastermind” specialist subject?
I have the odd distinction of being one of the world’s foremost experts in digital afterlives.
In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?
England in the late-19th and early-20th century, during the arts and crafts movement, which championed handicraft and kicked against the dehumanisation of industrial labour and mass production.
What TV show could you not live without?
At times when I just need to feel better, Schitt’s Creek is the obvious remedy.
Who would paint your portrait?
Everyone I’ve ever interacted with or been influenced by would paint a bit. I wouldn’t have a sense of “self” without this legion of others. The portrait would be a mess, simultaneously chaotic and coherent: in other words, a good likeness.
What’s your theme tune?
“Strangers” by the Kinks was released in my birth year. It captures our interconnection and interdependence with other humans, whether they’re known to us or not.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
When I was chasing degrees, my mum advised that “self-esteem doesn’t come on a sheepskin”. I told her that degree certificates don’t either, these days.
When were you happiest?
When I wrote stories as a child, with joy and abandon, and with no concern about how my work might be received.
In another life, what job might you have chosen?
The question is what job I’d eventually have if I were born this year, due to hit adulthood in 2044. I used to believe that the jobs I do, writing and psychotherapy, were immune to automation. I’m not so sure now.
Are we all doomed?
To what? Doomed to disconnection, dehumanisation and meaninglessness? No, unless we agree to it. Doomed to death? Yes, thankfully, because life would be sucked of its vitality if we were immortal. I’ve yet to meet a contented vampire.
“Reboot: Reclaiming Your Life in a Tech-Obsessed World” by Elaine Kasket is published by Elliott & Thompson
This article appears in the 06 Sep 2023 issue of the New Statesman, Crumbling Britain