Discover where 21st-century humanity stands in series ‘The Future Starts Here’

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“The Future Starts Here,” an online series with eight five-minute episodes, is packed with rapidly delivered information and kaleidoscopic animation. It explores ways humans can train their minds to attain social freedom and earthly awareness by using the powers of technology and media instead of being controlled by them. As the average human attention span keeps on getting shorter, “The Future Starts Here” presents itself like a red pill: realistic, therapeutic and easy to swallow.

Tiffany Shlain, the series’ creator and the founder of the Webby Awards, expresses thoughts and real-life stories that span from the positive effects of daydreaming to her father’s fascination with Leonardo da Vinci. Shlain is full of moxie; her energy and enthusiasm complement the series’ objectives.

“We want to elevate the conversation,” she said during the series’ post-screening session. “And I think people are ready to go into a higher place online than cat videos.”

Every episode of “The Future Starts Here” creates a dialogue about intriguing matters that people tend to think of as far-fetched. But the melodic, calming music and shifting animated scenes help keep the audience’s minds alert and attentive. The most effective aspect of “The Future Starts Here” is the significant knowledge one can acquire in just a short period of time.

In “Transboom,” Shlain and Sawyer Steele, the series’ senior producer and co-writer, talk about the sudden explosion of transgender themes in mainstream culture, as well as the different gender options people can officially identify with on social networking sites. The idea for “Transboom” comes from Steele, a trans man himself. Although films and TV shows such as “Boys Don’t Cry” and “Orange is the New Black” have garnered acclaim and positive attention for their honest portrayal of transgender culture, “The Future Starts Here” gives more intimate insight to further understand where we stand on this issue as a society.

A show about the future wouldn’t be a show about the future without the invasion of robotics. In “Robots, Botox, and Google Glass,” Shlain recalls her encounter with a person donning Google Glass and the discomfort she felt with not knowing if the person was looking at her or not. According to UC Berkeley professor Ken Goldberg, the episode’s guest and robotics professor, lifelike objects and the sensation of surveillance trigger a primitive reflex in our brain called the uncanny.

“Since technology is getting more sophisticated, it’s becoming more and more lifelike,” Goldberg said. The uncanny reflex is necessary to keep humans on the edge of awareness and to keep technology and other artificial things from being too human or natural.

“The Future Starts Here” is witty, delightful and informative. Its premise fits into the web-series format, just as Shlain’s ideas themselves fit into a plausible futuristic world. Schain is edgy, informed and tech-savvy enough to not fall into the trappings of technology. Her filmmaking finesse reflects the series’ smart editing to create smooth transitions and to strategically build conversations without drowning the viewers in boring discussions.

In the convenient and fast-paced world humans currently live in, “it’s important to understand when your mind is so supple and build that more into your life,” Shlain said.

“The Future Starts Here” doesn’t preach to shut electronic devices and digital lives down. It suggests that humanity can face the uncanny if well-equipped, alert and, most importantly, knowledgeable.

Watch episodes 1-4 of “The Future Starts Here” at the Moxie Institute online.

Contact Majick Tadepa at [email protected].