Nothing is more inspiring than the idea that anything is possible. This open-endedness is what makes the Future beautiful; its inherent uncertainty mixed with perfection - a screen on which to project our dreams. Often these dreams get dashed on the rocks of reality; but not always. The hope that someday, maybe, these wishes will come true, is universal. This post will look at the ways online environments are affecting how we construct our identities and tell stories.
I grew up in a house where TV was banned. Sugar cereal and candy were frowned upon, but television, especially Saturday morning cartoons, was the ultimate forbidden fruit. Prohibition rarely works and in my case that proved true; I begged for gum in the line at the supermarket, enjoyed orange-flavored aspirin a bit too much and looked longingly at lollipops dropped in parking lots. But nothing trumped TV. I remember waking early and sneaking downstairs to illicitly watch as the test pattern segued into Looney Toons. Yet my stealth was insufficient -- one day in 1975 my mother caught me and kicked a hole in the TV's screen. I'll never forget the days as the shattered set lay on the curb waiting for the garbage crew to haul it away.
Her logic was pretty simple (I think the words "rotting your brain in front of that wretched tube" may have been used). She wanted me to read, to love books, to learn in a particular way. Was she right? Well she may have been and today I'll explore the affect that the evolution that media is having on the stories we tell, how we think and the culture that we create.
Almost 1 year ago, I joined IPG to build an Emerging Media Lab in New York City. IPG Mediabrands' challenge was that with the evolution brought by digital media, planning had become more and more complex. Visualizing solutions was a necessity - it was the best way to show how we orchestrate thousands of touchpoints that can often feel intangible. We focused our energy on creating an experience that could show clients what was possible; to paint a picture of the strategic potential of using the most cutting edge media technologies. We were driven by the belief that by pairing consumer insight with imagination, software and data, could drive bottom-line results. Tonight, it's with total pride that we launch the result of that labor.
Since March, the Mediabrands website has been running a countdown clock, As we pop the corks, I thought I'd post some before and after photos. More importantly, I want to humbly thank everyone involved.
I've taken a few days to pause and catch my breath after the exhausting pace of the first 16 posts in this series. Tomorrow night we'll begin again, but for tonight I thought I'd just share some of the feedback you've give and a couple of image I dug up that I thought were cool.
First, many people have insisted that this blog's address is absurd and they're right. Problem is, I haven't settled on a name for it yet that matches an available URL, so stay tuned. I plan to have that sorted out within a week. Any suggestions for names are more than welcome.
Secondly, a lot of folks have told me that they love the stuff, but that it's overwhelming. I agree - it's also taking a lot of time, in some cases 5 hours from start to finish (much of it reading and doing a bad job of image creation.) So, once I reach the 23rd installment, which is as far out as I've planned, I'll relax and shorten the posts so they can be read with much less time investment.
Finally, here are the pictures, one called "History of the World" and the other the famous cover of the Beatles "Sargeant Pepper's" album. They appeal to me for a variety of reasons but mainly because of the way they compress time - I could stare at each one for hours, and try to mesh together the "Where's Waldo" anachronisms. A Larger Version of the first image can be found here. How many people can you name in each?
I finished the last post by asking for readers' help figuring out how to complete the journey that began here. Many thanks for all the feedback, I really appreciate how thoughtful and considered it has been. Now to the subject at hand.
This post has been the most challenging, inspirational and (I hope) valuable part of the series.
Putting this together has caused me break the pace of daily dispatches; it was just challenging to synthesize everything but I think it's been worth it; I've had insights that have eluded me until I reached this topic. I'm amazed it took me until the 16th dispatch to realize my that my central theme is that in visualizing the future we keep telling and retelling stories about the Past to understand the Present and imagine the Future.
Stories are the language we understand; they are the organizing principles of our lives and we care about how they end. It is through stories that we place ourselves within the timeline of history, connect with others, makes sense of life and derive meaning. Stories are Universal.
I said in the last post that this post would be a continuation of my thoughts on the Singularity. I've changed my mind for a few reasons:
The topic has humbled me. When I signed up to do a series of 23 daily posts called "Visualizing the Future" 11/11/11 , I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I promised my wife not to stay up all night tonight. ;-)
I've been making these up as I go along.
I'm starting to appreciate just how interesting the Future is.
It's become clear to me that by definition, none of us has a clue what will happen in the Future, least of all me. It's why we talk, wonder, gamble, imagine and dream. It's what keeps life interesting and magical.
Depending on who you ask, Ray Kurzweil is either a genius or a madman. I believe both.
He's a prolific inventor, futurist and the leading proponent of the idea of the Technological Singularity. Often referred to simply as "The Singularity", this refers to a time in the future when the sum of computer intelligence exceeds human intelligence. While estimates for when such an event might occur range from 2020 to 2045 (Kurzweil is on the "conservative" end of the spectrum) the implications of such an event are profound.
From this year's prestigious Google Zeitgeist, I give you 12 minutes of Ray K at his most epic. He starts with a mellow, laid back delivery, but start paying attention around the 2 minute mark. Just give a frightened squeak at the end and I'll peel you up off the floor and read the rest of the blog to you, petting your hair whilst curl up in a fetal position and suck your thumb.
Let's begin today with a backwards glance. We're just over halfway through the 23 part series; so far we've covered quite bit of ground. Here's a quick graphic review:
Today's topic is a fun one, but before I start, here's BLATANT SCREAMING DISCLAIMER: (The title of today's post is intended to provoke thought and debate. I am well aware of the fact that this topic is often treated with starry-eyed breathlessness and a lack of scientific rigor. My intent is to simply to conduct a thought experiment, not to invite you to join the Borg)
First things first, let me explain what may otherwise feel like a jarring segue from Ponzi Schemes and the Financial System to a discussion of the internet as a brain. In developing this series, I've looked at how societies have developed, how technology has affected how we think about the future and the effect of these technical innovations on media and commerce. Once I reached yesterday's topic, I was surprised that how fuzzy the line was between a Ponzi or Pyramid scheme and the international financial system. I'm not yet sure where I come out with respect to the rage of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, but something generationally defining is happening and about a broken economic system with a message spreading at net speed.
At a fundamental level (jump in here economists), both Ponzi Schemes or Health Finanacial Markets only work insofar as participants trust in the system and have faith that debts will be honored. (I covered this in detail in "The Future of Money") . I remember in 2008 during the Financial Collapse watching the headlines in the WSJ grow daily to larger and larger typeface. Running a startup at the time, each days headline made me queasier and queasier so I wrote a short piece for AdAge called "In Shaky Times, Relax". Looking back on it 3 years later, it seems both naively hopeful and creepily accurate:
"Financial institutions are repositories of trust, which they accumulate, hold and invest in the form of investors and depositors' money. As soon as the trust placed in them erodes, the funds quickly follow. The phenomenon we're witnessing right now is the result panic-amplifying feedback loops that happen in our highly networked world.This is the the societal equivalent of a healthy person who knows he will drop dead if his heart rate exceeds 160 beats per minute. Everything is good unless he starts thinking about it. And his heart-rate rises. Which worries him. And his heart rate rises and rises and then . . .pow.. . . . .The reality is that nobody will escape unscathed because we are all so fundamentally interconnected. "
No discussion of the web's evolution towards sentience would be complete without Kevin Kelly's epic talk at the 2007 TED Conference entitled "The Next 5000 Days of the Internet". In it he masterfully chronicles the first 15 years of the web and compares it's quantitative elements to the circuitry and memory of a brain. I recommend watching the whole thing, but for me the pull quote comes 5 minutes in - despite it's immensity, the Internet (in 2007) was roughly the size of 1 human brain.
Tonight's post involves some sleight of hand. If you've ever watch a shell game or 3 card monty, you know that being told you're going to be tricked doesn't help at all. You're still the shill and you always pick the wrong shell.