Mark Roeder, author of Unnatural Selection, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

by |December 1, 2013

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Mark Roeder

author of Unnatural Selection: Why the Geeks Will Inherit the Earth

Ten Terrifying Questions


1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in London, England and grew up in Sydney, Australia.

2. What did you want to be when you were 12, 18 and 30? And why?

At 12 years of age I wanted to be 18 years of age. At 18 years I wanted to be a lawyer, politician and part-time surfer – which all involve a lot of balancing. At 30 I wanted to be a Writer because I had discovered the power and beauty of words.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at 18 that you do not have now?

At 18, I believed that the world was ruled by politics, money and power. Now I know it is actually ruled by ‘ideas’.

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

1. The death of my beloved wired-haired fox terrier named ‘The Colonel’, whose passing around my 14th birthday was my first brush with mortality.

2. My formative experience as a trainee copywriter at the W.B.Lawrence advertising agency where I met remarkable people like Max Fulcher, Barney Greer and Brian Bona who nurtured me.

3. Discovering the American writers, Henry Miller, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Normal Mailer and Gore Vidal, who opened my eyes to the wonders of the literary universe.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? Aren’t they obsolete?

The electronic media is ephemeral and transient by nature. It is a constant digital chatter without a coherent structure that dissipates into the ether.

Whereas a book can exert an enduring effect on the collective psyche. It provides a narrative structure and contextual potency that resonates with our ancestral memes as human beings. We love stories – not the fragments (or bytes) of stories delivered up by the blogosphere.

For these reasons I don’t do Twitter, Facebook or social media because I have no interest in boring people with the quotidian exigencies of my life, nor reading about other people’s.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

Unnatural Selection examines the rise of the ‘techno-centric being’ – or Geek – who personifies a distinct new phase of human evolution. Such people often have behavioural or genetic traits that were previously considered to be detrimental. But the new environment of the Anthropocene – Age of Man – has created a kind of ‘digital greenhouse’ that actually favours their traits, enabling many non-neurotypical people to bloom. They resonate with the technological zeitgeist in a way that turns their weaknesses into strengths.

More broadly, the book encourages us to take a fresh look at how we are evolving as a species, as we become more shaped by Man-made influences, rather than by natural ones. For we have entered into what is likely to be the most challenging period in human history. It means that many of the old rules about survival and success no longer apply. For our destiny will be increasingly determined by the forces of Unnatural Selection. Those who resonate best with the new technological zeitgeist are very likely to inherit the earth.

Grab a copy of Unnatural Selection here

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

There is a currently a widespread belief that we, as humans are not responsible for our own evolution. This was certainly true up until a few decades ago – we were simply the products of ‘Natural Selection’. I would suggest, however, that recent advances in genetic engineering (and screening), pharmacology, artificial intelligence and so on, will enable us to consciously guide our evolutionary direction. These tools of ‘Unnatural Selection’ will drive a cognitive  revolution – thus enabling many more ot us to have ‘geek’ like levels of intelligence (if we desire them).

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

Stephen Fry. For his humour, humanity and resilience (even though he does ‘Tweet’)

9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

To encourage as many people as possible – through my books – to reflect on the fact that new digital technologies are not just ‘tools’ for us to use. They are profoundly reshaping the way we think, interact and behave. The tail is now wagging the dog.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Write about things that truly, deeply interest you – no mater how bizarre, unfashionable or radical they may seem. For if you are not engaged and moved by the subject matter, nobody else will be.

Mark, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Unnatural Selection here

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About the Contributor

Andrew Cattanach is a regular contributor to The Booktopia Blog. He has been shortlisted for The Age Short Story Prize and was named a finalist for the 2015 Young Bookseller of the Year Award. He enjoys reading, writing and sleeping, though finds it difficult to do them all at once.

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