Closing Keynote: Chuck Klosterman


But What If? Visualizing the Far Future (Once "Now" Becomes "Then")

In this keynote, based on his new book But What If We’re Wrong?, Chuck Klosterman visualizes the contemporary world as it will appear to those who’ll perceive it as the distant past. Throughout, he asks questions that are profound in their simplicity: How certain are we about our understanding of gravity, or time? What will be the defining memory of rock music, 500 years from today? How seriously should we view the content of our dreams, or the content of TV? Are all sports destined for extinction? Is it possible that the greatest artist of our era is currently unknown (or—weirder still—widely known, but entirely disrespected)? Is it possible that we “overrate” democracy? And perhaps most disturbing: is it possible that we’ve reached the end of knowledge?

Kinetically slingshotting through a broad spectrum of objective and subjective problems, this talk builds on input from a variety of creative thinkers—George Saunders, David Byrne, Jonathan Lethem, Kathryn Schulz, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brian Greene, Junot Díaz, Amanda Petrusich, Ryan Adams, Nick Bostrom, Dan Carlin, and Richard Linklater, among others—interwoven with the type of high-wire humor and nontraditional analysis only Klosterman would dare to attempt. It’s a seemingly impossible achievement: a keynote about the things we cannot know, explained as if we did. It’s about how we live now, once “now” has become “then.”


About Chuck Klosterman

Author & Cultural Critic

One of the most exciting cultural critics of our generation, CHUCK KLOSTERMAN captures what it feels like to navigate our pop-obsessed, media-saturated culture right now. He shows us why “pop” is a conversation anyone can join in on, and why it matters. And in But What If We’re Wrong? (an instant NYT bestseller) he dispels the “casual certitude” of our era by imagining what culture might look like 100, 300, or even 1,000 years from now.

Chuck Klosterman is not a detached academic who deconstructs pop culture at arm’s-length with a deadening sterility. He’s a regular guy whose intellectual curiosity is insatiable, infectious, and surprisingly insightful. He is the best-selling author of seven nonfiction books (most notably Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs and I Wear the Black Hat) and two novels (Downtown Owland The Visible Man). His ninth book—debuting in its first week at #5 on The New York Times bestsellers list—is But What If We’re Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past. It’s both an earnest attempt to speculate on what, and how, our culture might transform over time, and a rational inoculation against the dangers of assumption. And Chuck Klosterman X—coming this May—compiles and contextualizes the best of his essays from the past decade.

He has written for The Washington Post, The New York Times, SPIN, Esquire, GQ, The Guardian, The Believer, Billboard, The Onion AV Club, and ESPN. He served as The Ethicist for The New York Times Magazine for three years, where he dispensed uncommon wisdom on moral conundrums, and has appeared as himself in the LCD Soundsystem documentary Shut Up and Play the Hits. He also created the web site Grantland with Bill Simmons. He is a native of North Dakota and currently lives in Brooklyn with his wife (Entertainment Weekly TV critic Melissa Maerz).