CONNECTING PEOPLE TO IDEAS AND TO EACH OTHER
CONNECTING PEOPLE TO IDEAS AND TO EACH OTHER
In the Green Room

Technology Forecaster Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

Still Figuring Out the Powers That I’ve Got

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang is a senior consultant at Strategic Business Insights, a visiting scholar in the history of science programs at Stanford and Berkeley, and the author of The Distraction Addiction. Before participating in a panel on the future of public space, he talked about structured procrastination, the irresistibility of Ritz crackers, and his Netflix addiction in the Zócalo green room.

Q:
Where would we find you at 9 p.m. on a typical Friday?

A:
Probably sitting on my couch beside my wife and the dogs, reading stuff. Or maybe playing Mario Kart.

Q:
What’s the last board game you played?

A:
This will sound very nerdy: Settlers of Catan.

Q:
How do you procrastinate?

A:
These days, I just stare off into space usually. Writers have a million different ways to procrastinate. My favorite way to procrastinate doing something is to do something else. There’s a great phrase: structured procrastination. You don’t do it by doing this other thing. Or I take the dogs for a walk. Or occasionally fold laundry.

Q:
What is your fondest childhood memory?

A:
The first one that comes to mind is—I lived in Brazil when I was a kid—a beach that had this wonderful coral reef that had grown up on the ruins of an old Dutch dock, and I used to go snorkeling there. That’s probably my favorite childhood memory. The first time I saw Star Wars, too. I was completely blown away.

Q:
What superpower would you most like to have?

A:
After almost 50 years, I’m still figuring out the powers that I’ve got. I think I would just hurt myself if I had a superpower.

Q:
What are you keeping in your closet that you should have thrown out already?

A:
There is a British army sweater that I bought at a flea market in Cambridge about 30 years ago, and I probably haven’t worn it in 29, but I just can’t get rid of the damn thing. The idea of wearing it is really cool—this British commando thing—but, eh, I can’t pull it off.

Q:
What food are you most likely to binge eat?

A:
Ritz crackers. Full stop. No question. Their flaky, buttery goodness is irresistible. It should be something more luxurious or richer, but Ritz crackers just do that. The one thing I don’t have in the closet or anywhere else is Ritz crackers.

Q:
What surprises you most about your life right now?

A:
Not to sound like I’m sucking up, but I’m kind of amazed, sitting here in a place like this. I had my book come out last year, and the fact that I go to really interesting places and talk to really interesting people about it is forever going to be mystifying to me. … That, and I turn 50 next week—and my mental age doesn’t seem to have changed since I was about 30 or so. I don’t know what it is. Your sense of yourself changes rapidly when you’re a kid and when you’re in college, and I expected to feel different than I did when I was 30. But I don’t, despite kids and a house and a Labrador and all the other trappings of respectability and responsibility. I’m kind of waiting for that shoe to drop, too.

Q:
When did you last get a traffic ticket, and why?

A:
1991. This was when I was on my bicycle, and I ran through a stop sign and got pulled over by a police officer also on a bicycle.

Q:
What are you most addicted to?

A:
Netflix.

*Photo by Jake Fabricius.
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