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‘A Brief History of the Future’ offers hopeful antidote to cynical tech demands | TechCrunch


Cynicism is an almost taken-for-granted trait in tech journalism, and of course we’re as guilty as the next publication. But the risks and promises of technology are both real, and a new documentary series seeks to highlight the latter without losing sight of the former. “A Brief History of the Future” Hosted by Ari Wallach and being a PBS production, it also has the compelling quality of being completely free.

The theme of the show is simply that while the dangers and disappointments of technology (often due to disruption by commercial interests) deserve to be considered and documented, the other side of the coin should also be emphasized, not out of naivety, but because it is truly important and intriguing. Attention.

I spoke with Wallach, who has unapologetically embraced the “futurist” moniker from the start, demonstrating the risk of turning a blind eye to the transformative potential of technology, startups, and innovation. (Full disclosure: I met Ali many years ago when he went to Berkeley with my brother, although that was coincidental.)

“The theory in this case is that when you ask 10 Americans, ‘What do you think about the future?’ nine out of 10 will say, I’m afraid of it, or they’ll say it’s all about technology.” Wallach Explain that this is, in part, an intervention on two things.

He said that the future is not just what Silicon Valley PR people tell you, or what the “Great Dystopia” warns you about, or even what TechCrunch writers predict.

In this six-episode series, he talks to dozens of individuals, companies and communities about how they are working to improve and secure a future they may never see. From mushroom leather to ocean cleanups to death doulas, Wallach finds that people can see that we face the same horrific future, but we choose to do something about it, even if that thing seems hopelessly small or Innocent.

“We want to bring the future into people’s living rooms, and they don’t typically think in a critical, open way about the future you create,” he said. Because right now, there are many reasons why, culturally speaking, being critical and cynical is considered smart and conscious. But now we’re at a point where if we continue to do this, we’re going to lose the thread. We’re going to lose the entire narrative of the greater human plan.”

In other words, the point is not to pretend that the problems don’t exist, but that enough people are already talking about them. Shouldn’t someone be looking at what people are actually doing to solve the problem?

The expected themes of artificial intelligence, automation, and climate are all there, of course, along with food, art, and architecture, as well as more philosophical questions like governance and value.

The most common objection raised in my cynical mind while watching was the classic “How does this expand?” and Wallach is quick to admit that most of them don’t.

“How it scales, how it monetizes — it’s kind of like Silicon Valleyization, a sandy hill road to the future. And there’s a time and a place! It may move forward, it may move forward.” No. This is not the point. We try to inform and educate on how to think differently about tomorrow, and here are examples of people doing just that. This is exemplary behavior and action that can give people a sense of agency. Like, are we all going? Living in a 3D printed house? Maybe not. But if we think about the 2-3 billion homeless people on the planet and how we’re going to house them, this could be part of it,” he continued.

“This is a solution-focused question rather than purely a VC solution-focused question. It’s about how do we solve the problems we have today through the lens of opportunity, rather than ‘we’re all going to die’ Perspective, the latter is usually the case. Headlines, right?”

Wallach’s paper earned his team a golden ticket to travel around the world and talk to so many interesting people and companies. Vertical farming, mushroom leather, coral propagation. Pete Buttigieg, Emmanuel Macron, Reid Hoffman, Grimes, football player Kylian Mbappe. I feel comforted that everyone seems to be able to talk about future hopes rather than future threats.

When I asked Wallach where or with whom he would like to spend more time, he had three answers. One was a professor in northern Japan who, in a dramatic but apparently quite effective way, asked senior students to think about the future. , let them pretend they are visiting. The second is Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where, he said, the level of innovation and ambition is unspeakably high. Third, “death doulas” who help people escape anxiety about the outcome of their own existence. (While technology is often discussed, it’s far from the only topic.)

Image Source: public broadcaster

If you’re wondering what wealthy special interests are trying to appease you with this benevolent presentation of a kinder, wiser future… don’t worry, I ask.And the shadow company behind this well-produced documentary is evil. public broadcasting serviceAs mentioned above, this means that not only is it free on PBS.orgas well as on YouTube (which I’ll add below once the first episode goes live), but it’ll also be on regular linear TV every Wednesday at 9pm (“After Nova”).

Wallach reminded me that the target audience for this kind of show is not TikTok, or even the streaming service. Millions of people, especially older people who are not yet confident about their future, turn on their televisions after watching the show. Have dinner and watch local news, internet shows, and maybe a documentary like this one.

Wallach and his team also created classroom-specific versions of the show that include educational materials to follow up with students on topics covered.

“This will be the first national future course available on the PBS Education platform to over 1.5 million teachers. That’s the equivalent of 20 million kids. That’s cool. And it’s free.”

As he parted, Wallach mentioned the TV shows he grew up with and what a “pinnacle job” it was to be able to create something modeled after classic TV shows like “Cosmos” and “Power” – though he was careful not to describe himself as works to compare with them. Myths and connections.

“”Cosmos” changed my view of the universe; “The Power of Myth” changed my view of faith, meaning, and psychology; I hope “A Brief History of the Future” can change people’s view of the future and tomorrow. This is what we want The company to be is.”



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