The coronavirus and lockdowns have fueled a surge in the use of technology, whether for making art, doing business, relaxing or simply staying in touch. “The irony is not lost on me,” laughs my lunch companion.

In her breakthrough novel, published in 2014, Emily St John Mandel imagined a rather different outcome to a pandemic — a post-technology world. The few survivors of an apocalyptic virus have to rediscover how to generate electricity; the smartphones and credit cards on which they once relied are inert objects of curiosity in a ramshackle museum in an abandoned airport. She assumed it would be “pandemic and then no technology”, the Canadian novelist tells me from her home in Brooklyn. “And it’s been exactly the opposite.”..

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