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February 17 2011

Margaret Atwood on solar flares and author needs

Margaret Atwood's keynote speech was one of the highlights of the 2011 Tools of Change for Publishing conference. Atwood noted that publishers moving into the digital age must not forget — or accidentally eliminate — the author. To illustrate her point, she created the following drawings:

Using a touch of deadpan humor, Atwood addressed the largely tech-filled audience with a perspective from the author's point of view. She warned that the transformation to digital publishing may have unforeseen consequences:

Technology is just a tool, and every tool has three sides: the sharp (or up side), the dull side (or down side), and the stupid side, which is the side you didn't anticipate and has consequences you did not intend.

One of those unintended consequences could even be a blast from space:

The stupid side of electronic information includes: one big solar flare and it's gone. If there's something you really, really want to save and you think there's going to be a solar flare or an electromagnetic pulse of any kind, get yourself a lead-lined safe and put it in there. Also, if the tech changes, you can't read it anymore — how many have had the floppy disc experience?

Atwood's full keynote is embedded below. We also had the opportunity to interview her one-on-one — that clip is available in O'Reilly's YouTube channel.


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