PBS Idea Channel recently celebrated their one year anniversary. One year of provocative and funny questions to view the world from a new perspective. I am a big fan of the Idea Channel from PBS Digital Studios. In honor of their anniversary, over the next couple of days I'll be sharing some of their recent work, catching up with some and introducing new ones.
If you're like us, you LOVE Game of Thrones. But if you're also like us, you may not, technically, have... cable. So how are we seeing this amazing show on HBO, which is stuck behind a pay wall? A huge amount of viewers (not us of course, no no no) are downloading the show illegally. But despite being the most pirated show of 2012, the Game of Thrones DVDs are top sellers, breaking HBO's own sales records! Could it be that piracy is actually HELPING the show?
Living in the consumer culture that we do, we've learned that specific brands can carry very different meanings and values. We're willing to pay hundreds or thousands more for a specific brand name item, but sometimes it can be tempting to go the way of the knock-off for a fraction of the price. The counterfeit industry is huge and isn't going anywhere, and companies spend huge amounts to dissuade people from buying "fakes". But are knock-offs REALLY a negative for the brand?
If you've watched past episodes of Idea Channel, you know we're huge fans of Minecraft. This totally amazing video game allows you to build your own world from scratch, what's not to like? But it may be good for more than just fun and games. Some experts have brought Minecraft into the classroom, allowing teachers to customize lessons and students to engage with concepts in new ways. And while educational games aren't new, Minecraft has some unique advantages that could usher in a new direction in education. In the future, students across the world may spend their class time punching trees.
A meteorite crashed into earth! This wasn't the first time and it won't be the last, but it is the first time such an event was captured by SO MANY CAMERAS! The incredible number of views and angles filmed was made possible by Russia's bizarre driving culture and the MILLIONS of car dash cams installed all over the country. But besides providing the world with some hilarious, frightening, and amazing footage, the dash cams also make us think about surveillance, and what role it will play in the future.
If you've ever played Team Fortress 2, you know how valuable hats are. To those who haven't: yes, HATS! If a community agrees on the value of something, then that thing can become a currency, to exchange for other goods. Just like american dollar bills (or euros, yen, or any other currency), or... bitcoins. Bitcoins are an online currency worth over $200,000,000, and though they are just 1s and 0s, some think that this is the future of money. On the other hand... mo bitcoins mo problems.
Transhumanism is a scientific philosophy that says technology will solve all our human biological constraints and that immortality is right around the corner (well not RIGHT around the corner, but WAY closer). They envision a world of endlessly euphoric robo-humans that represent the next step in evolution. And while this sounds super awesome, we had to ask, will this really make us happy? If you watch Futurama, than you know that the answer is probably NO. While not an exact illustration of transhumanism, Futurama does show a future of vast technological ability, where today's everyday problems are rendered moot, and yet the characters on the show still seem to find themselves in some very non-euphoric emotional states. Does this disprove what transhumanists expect for our future?
If you've ever talked to a vinyl purist (or are one yourself) you know that people can be pretty passionate about what format is king when it comes to music. And based on how much people like to brag about what band they saw live and how many times, we clearly value the authenticity of the live performance above all else. But when we see a performer live, we're judging them based on what we know from the mp3 or record that we've already listened to 1000 times. . . because what is a song SUPPOSED to sound like anyway? As music has evolved from solely performance into "media", the issue of what the most authentic even IS has become increasingly complicated. So which is the most authentic?