A glimpse of a future that may be right around the corner.
Tech thriller Catch-42 offers a mind-blowing tour of potential uses for AI, biotech, quantum computing, and robotics, all within a suspense-filled story packed with unexpected twists.
Dan is an ordinary guy, scrambling to make a living, who has the most extraordinary dream. A mysterious voice from the future asks for his help. He finds himself transported to a technological wonderland where everyone’s dreams can come true. Could this be nirvana, a peaceful and clear state of mind, or is this life destroying the one thing that makes us human? Whose vision of the future should Dan believe: that of the New World Order of WeYou, or the revolution of an underground movement called Teccupy?
Before Dan can make his choice, he must learn how we got from here to there. We are with Dan at every moment as he is forced to choose sides and think the unthinkable, make the impossible possible, and turn a hopeless situation into a solvable problem in his search for the ultimate catch-42.
Brimming with current scientific findings, Catch-42 is a novel like no other that raises fundamental and philosophical questions whose answers depend on us all.
Read on for an interview with Felix Holzapfel and an excerpt of Catch-42.
Q: What inspired Catch-42?
A: Three main elements inspired me:
First, my having worked for two decades in the IT and digital marketing industry.
While explaining the latest trends to an elite audience, I thought that parts of IT are knowledge everyone should have—especially in our day, when technology is omnipresent and about to change some of humanity’s fundamentals.
Second, after selling our company, I took a one-year sabbatical to travel the world with my wife and our two children. I visited creative hotspots and benefitted from fascinating conversations with industry experts, entrepreneurs, and other inspiring people. Many of these inspirations found their way into the book.
Third, we returned home in February 2020, just before Covid-19 changed the world. This extraordinary stroke of fate influenced what I had been thinking about and added new ideas to my initial concept for this book.
Q: What message do you want readers to take away from your story?
A: Don’t ever think you’re not capable of influencing the bigger picture. If everybody felt that way, a few would paint the bigger picture for all of us—a picture that’s not likely to match our expectations. If we each contribute our little piece, the bigger picture of our future will become more significant, more colorful, and more beautiful than we can imagine. Contributing is up to all of us.
With this book, I want to encourage as many people as possible to think—from radically new perspectives—how humanity, technology, the economy, and our society might develop in the future. Even better, I want people to think about how they would like our world to change and how each of us can become an active part in the decision-making process that has already begun.
Q: Your book’s main objective is to motivate people to think about future challenges in technology, society, and humanity, and—best-case—to actively participate in decision-making happening right now. How can each of us contribute?
A: This is an excellent question. Our world is moving faster than ever. Thus, that people can’t see the forest for the trees is no surprise. In Catch-42, I try to take people by the hand, step back, and look at the big picture.
If Catch-42 somehow makes readers think, then they can become active participants in decision-making by following three simple steps that I list at the book’s conclusion. The bottom line for readers is: learn more about the book’s topics that catch your interest, talk with others to gain new perspectives and create a grassroots movement, and don’t let others paint the bigger picture for you. Everyone needs to become an active part of the decision-making-process!
In addition, I included examples of fundamental questions that we should all think about from time to time and try to find consensus—even though we may thoroughly disagree on the answers.
Q: What do you think makes a good story?
A: I enjoy stories that combine an intoxicating plot with elements that teach me something or make me think. I also love stories that turn complex and demanding topics and knowledge into something I want to learn more about. And if people have something to tell, memoirs can make good stories, too.
Q: How do you come up with new story ideas?
A: In my old life—running a digital marketing agency—I needed to find new inspiration almost every day:
- How to address challenge A?
- How to creatively use the latest technology B—often in an environment with challenge C?
- How can I help my colleagues with problem D? And so on.
Usually, everything needed to happen ASAP. I learned that I could find inspiration pretty much everywhere—often at places or opportunities you wouldn’t imagine. That’s why I try to explore the world with my eyes wide open, absorbing as much as possible of everything around me—knowing that the next inspiration is only one thought away and can strike any second. Whenever it hits me, so I don’t lose it, I try to write the inspiration down and use it appropriately.
Purchase your copy of Catch-42 here.
The first contact
Damn! This dull light throbbing in my head is going to
drive me insane—as if how completely drained I feel after my eight-hour shift at the construction site isn’t enough. I know, I know, I’m lucky and shouldn’t complain with jobs being so scarce. Still, I’m only thirty-five. Instead of a machine running at full speed, my body feels like its engine is about to explode. I have five minutes in this parking lot before I have to head to my second job. How can I extricate myself from this dark despair that threatens to smother my last spark of—
A deep voice sounds in my mind.
“Hi, Dan. A lot has changed recently, hasn’t it? And not for the better, right? You think your life sucks? Frankly, this is nothing compared to the future challenges in the world from which I’m speaking to you—the world of WeYou. Despite an explosion of innovation and some unbelievable breakthroughs, we’re stuck—trapped in a dead end. We believe we’ve found everything we need to achieve humanity’s ultimate target: immortality. Yet something mysterious we can’t explain and don’t understand prevents us from using that knowledge. We feel like the final breakthrough for humanity is hidden behind a door that we can’t open no matter how hard we try—and the longer we take to open that door, the more people become victims of a strange phenomenon that destroys their brains. We urgently need to open this door and reveal the secrets behind it to rescue humanity and move to the next level, or we will soon become extinct. We believe we lost the key to this door somewhere between your time and ours, and we need your help to find it.”
What a weird daydream! I want to open my eyes, but for some reason I can’t. The mysterious voice continues:
“Look. You have a major problem with reuniting your family. Well, we have a major problem, too—tick-tock, tick-tock—and you may be the only one who can solve it. Here’s the deal: help us find the, and we’ll see that you get your family back, save your family business, and we’ll throw in a bonus. You scratch our back, and we’ll scratch yours. That simple. What do you say?”
My brain feels like it’s functioning at snail pace. How the heck can I be any help to anyone in this condition?
“Don’t worry. You may have heard that humans use only ten percent of their brain’s capacity. That’s a myth. The majority of your brain is active—even when you rest, sleep, or perform simple actions. But only a minority of your brain is more active, while the majority is less active. If you come to our world, you’ll be able to use all your brain capacity at full speed at the same time, one hundred percent—or more. No more snail pace but thinking with the speed of light, baby. Your world won’t even notice you’re gone! You can continue living in your own world using the more active part of your brain; we just need to transfer parts of your less-active brain capacity to our world. Using your brainpower for only a couple of hours should do the job. What we actually need isn’t your brain capacity so much as your way of thinking. Your brain’s navigation system works differently from the way ours works today. We believe this minor difference in brain function is critical to our finding the lost key and discovering the secrets for which we’re searching. If you help us to solve this ultimate challenge, we’ll be able to help you, too.
“Once we find the lost key, you can return to your world with the ability to use the full capacity of your brain. Think about what you would be able to achieve! You could invent almost anything you can imagine and pave the way to immortality in your world, too. In addition, you could solve all your problems: fix your relationship with your wife, see your kids again, save your family business, get rich, help others. You could do whatever you want. How does that sound?”
Crazy—that’s how it sounds! I’m no Newton, Einstein, or Hawking. I’m an ordinary guy whose life has become a nightmare. How am I supposed to discover the ultimate secret of humanity? It doesn’t make any sense.
“Did you know, Dan, that Albert Einstein was an ordinary civil servant at a patent office in Switzerland before he became one of the most famous scientists ever? He seemed to be nobody special, but extraordinary skills are hidden in all of us. You need to find them and push the right buttons to activate them. In the world of WeYou, you’ll be able to do exactly that. You can be and do whatever you want without limitations. We scanned all humans in your time. Based on the structure of your brain and your way of thinking, and because of your current circumstances and the prospect of improving them, our analysis predicts that you are the most likely candidate to help us accomplish our mission. Think about it . . . Will you help us?”
What do I have to lose? Right now, nothing. But only if I can wake up. Then they can do whatever they want with the capacities of my brain, especially if nobody will notice anyway. All I wanted was a little break. Now I really must get going to my next job.
Just as I’m about to open my eyes, a massive flash hits me, sharpening all my senses. Another voice—a soft voice—whispers from somewhere far down in my subconscious:
“Don’t trust them; they’re evil! WeYou is based on a huge lie! Be careful. Things are not what they seem. After you enter the world of WeYou and the time is right to introduce you to the Teccupy rebellion, we’ll be in touch. Together we’ll rouse humanity and end the WeYou nightmare. Together we’ll bring real enlightenment and freedom to everyone.”
I start, fully awake, as if nothing has happened. All that remains is a strange feeling somewhere deep inside, but I don’t have time to think about any of this. I need to hurry up.
Thinkers 360 recognized Felix Holzapfel as a Top 10 Global Thought Leader in Digital Transformation. During the last two decades, Holzapfel has been privileged to support many global players on their way to the digital age. While he has published several books about technology, trends, and the shift in our media landscape, Catch-42is his first novel and a book he has wanted to write for a long time. Having sold his digital marketing agency to one of the world’s leading IT services providers, he now has time for this passion project.
To learn more, visit www.felixholzapfel.com.