Blue Zones

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Concept Image of Google Dome via Google

Blue Zone is defined as an area of the world where sociologists have concluded that people have a statistically higher chance to lead a longer life. When applied to discussions of future society, it means those with means and those without it. When automation leads to masse unemployment and historic wealth inequality, living in a blue zone could literally mean the difference between life and death.

A few months back, I discussed the pitfalls of various futurist visions, namely their inability to foresee problems — or more likely that they just don’t care. The post was titled Trickle Down Tech, a play on words inspired by trickle down economics.  In both cases, wealthy folks promise average working people that if they wait a little longer the profits, or technological innovation will increase their quality of life.

This promise of better quality of life is a faulty promise. Research continues to show warning signs about AI, and predicts that by 2025, a third of our jobs will be automated. By 2050, some researchers theorize the majority of our current workforce could be out of work. While many in Silicon Valley, like Google’s Ray Kurzweil, assure us AI will also create new jobs — this time is different than the rest of history.

It is smart for Silicon Valley elites to not ring the alarm bell. It would lead to revolt, and the potential to have their VC cut off, or have their inventions be subject to preventative regulations. These people are in it to make a profit and to test the limits of technology because they can.

Meanwhile within their circles, the Technorati have already begun to talk about future blue zones and how to prepare now for the coming societal unrest.

“They already know millions will suffer…the population of earth which is overpopulated will have to decline…it is a matter of resources, even if we can 3d print them, there is only so much space on earth.” This is what a friend of mine currently studying advanced artificial intelligence at a major west coast research institution told me. He had attended  a retreat with his peers, the term “blue zones” actually came up. All theorized that because of their jobs within the tech community, they would have the requisite skills to live within one of the planned blue zone communities — perhaps like the concept of Google Dome as pictured above.

In fact, while it isn’t revealed to the public as a blue zone, those familiar with the project have confessed to me that Google Dome is an early concept of a blue zone, similar to Peter Thiel’s proposed Sea Steading colony. Many tech companies know that history will repeat itself — when they say “let them eat cake,” people will be ready with pitchforks to storm the Bastille!

Only this isn’t a castle prison in 18th Century France, it is far more secure than that. These mini-Elysiums will have all the technology, resources and clean energy residents could possibly need. The dome would be entirely self sufficient. Most importantly it would be impervious to attack by the commoners.

Silicon Valley has given us a lot of great things — but what stuck out to me during the conversation with my Technorati friend was that in his industry, all know eventually many will suffer. A lot of folks in the tech community have grown almost aloof to this fact. They see it merely as a necessary moment in history for human evolution. They have developed almost a callousness to it. Eventually the course will correct itself, but not at their expense — but at the expense of the masses — so who gives a fuck?

It is time to take the threat of automation very seriously. Amazon just launched Amazon Go, a grocery store with no human employees. It won’t stop at retail, it will eventually bleed into technical and white collar jobs like law, finance and accounting too! It’s time to get government and labor unions involved. It is time to take the threat of mass unemployment seriously. Universal Basic Income isn’t the answer, because whatever money you get the Techonorati will have much, much more. The answer is fighting this before it is too late. Otherwise, it will be up to whether you can save enough to get into a blue zone. Most of us won’t get there, we’ll be stuck in the desert with no water like Mad Max.

What is Next for Gareth Edwards?

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Why has nobody been asking Gareth Edwards about his ‘Robot Star Wars’ original Sci-Fi film?

From recent Rogue One press conferences to a Twitter Q&A, the “what’s next for Gareth Edwards” is a question that hasn’t gotten much if any play in the press.

Gareth Edwards rose to prominence with his original science fiction thriller, Monsters in 2010. It was widely reported at the time to carry a $500,000 budget, and Edwards, a former VFX artist, was reported to have done all the special effects on his laptop.

That effort got the attention of Wanted producing-team Timur Bekmambetov and Jim Lemley. In 2010, it was revealed during the promotion of the producing team’s film 9 that they would be producing Edward’s next directorial/writing effort then titled Forever.

The film was described as “a robot Star Wars,” a galactic adventure in which a young human child sought the origins of humanity in a world devoid of it. Producer Timur Bekmembetov in a recent interview this year described the project as “a warm story” and expressed his desire to still make it. At the time, Gareth was still attached to direct the sequel to Godzilla 2.

In May 2016, Gareth dropped out of Godzilla 2, citing his desire to take a break from Blockbuster cinema and focus on smaller projects. Many journalists at the time speculated he might return to Forever, which is reported to carry a budget in the $35 million range. It was also alleged that Venom scribe Dante Harper had written a draft with Edwards and that the two also shot test footage for the film.

Since then, there has been almost no word on the project. The title is only available on IMDbPro, the paid subscription version of IMDb and is not visible on the free site. A quick glance at the page reveals the project was again updated to script status on October 17, 2016. Of course the site is notorious for misinformation and it is unknown without verification from the filmmakers if that is even the case.

What is clear is that despite it being the only other project in development on Edward’s page, nobody has seemed to ask him during the Rogue One promo “what’s next?” It is a question I and many others would like to see answered.

 

 

 

 

 

Bekmambetov and Lemley are represented by Mike Simpson (WME)
Edwards is represented by the Curtis Brown Agency (London)

Contact the author: mkleibman@gmail.com

I Don’t Care

I don’t care. Repeat after me, I promise it will feel good. I don’t care. Now breath.

This past week I took a brief break from Twitter and social media to clear my head. Even in a short 24-30 hour period the impact was clear: I no longer cared about all the negative things I cannot control. I no longer sought answers to questions that don’t have a clear answer.

Not everything is in black and white. There are a lot of negative things we cannot control.

This is not to suggest that you don’t care as in a profession of ignorance. No, just that you don’t care — you shrug it off so it doesn’t weigh on you. Don’t let negative thoughts consume you to the point of leading you to despair.

So I don’t care that my former mentor and his intentions are hard to read. I don’t care that he may not ever hire me in any role. I don’t care that Donald Trump is our president. I don’t care that I have a non-industry day job right now. I don’t care that I had to move back to Long Island (suburbs). I don’t care that my sports teams loose.

What do I care about? His intentions are irrelevant to my career. If he doesn’t hire me, when I move to LA given my experience and tenacity, someone else will. I will earn a great mentor, even if it’s not him. I care about the 2018 elections and the 2020 beyond that, and specifically what I can do to help turn out the vote against Republicans. I care that this day job is what will finally get me to LA because I am saving a lot of money. In fact so much so that I’m producing my first feature film with a portion of what I’ve raised and saved. I don’t care that I live in the suburbs because in less than a year I will be in LA with an appropriate amount of savings and great work experience. Sports? It’s just a game.

So I don’t care about negative things. I care about what I have control over. If you’re like me and catch yourself wandering back into those negative thoughts shout I DON’T CARE. Don’t care about it, move on. I know it sounds really simple but I don’t care, or I don’t give a fuck is such a helpful mindset when applied to things we cannot control that make us upset. Fuck it. Who cares! Try it and pass it along.

Be well and have a great weekend. If you don’t get that deal you wanted on Black Friday just remember  – I DONT CARE🙂

Turn Off Autopilot

Our cultures intellectual laziness is just as responsible for the top-40, remake, rip off culture as is the election of Donald Trump.

People don’t care that you voted for Trump as an anti-establishment message. Nor does the Republican Party. You still voted for a racist in spite of that. Hollywood doesn’t care that you just wanted to check their crappy superhero films like SUICIDE SQUAD out. You still voted with your dollars for them to continue to put in little effort for maximum reward.

We can no longer just expect to find good candidates, films or music simply by what the big corporate political and cultural entities push. We must now resort to doing our homework. It’s true that we must be the change we want to see. We must build a progressive movement locally from the ground up to get a seat at the DC table. We must financially support & promote independent films and films of cultural and aesthetic import (especially films by underrepresented creators). We must support local music and buy their products.

CNN, Warner Brothers and their various record labels aren’t going to do their part unless you do yours. Nor are their rivals. Even then the corporate 1% will continue with the status quo. Why? Because the model of late stage capitalism punishes risk. It rewards consolidation, vertical integration and monopoly. It rewards laziness and cookie cutter formulas. It is not interested in saying anything other than “buy our product in every category and then buy more.”

If you don’t like this then it is up to you to stop financially supporting it. It is up to you to research the products you buy. It is up to you to recognize native advertisements that aren’t actually sincere recommendations. It is up to you to rebuke corporate takeovers and mergers by calling your congressperson. It is up to you to be informed as a consumer but also in life.

Our institutions are crumbling to greed and late stage capitalist urges. I have no hope for them, but I do have hope that we can build anew from the ground up but only if we first exercise good judgment and sound thinking. It’s time to turn off autopilot.

For Profit ‘Facts’

Former president Jimmy Carter once said “the government is only as good as its people.” A government can also be as bad as its people — or only as dumb as the idiots who elect it to power.

Regardless of your opinion on Donald Trump, one thing is clear: independent fact checkers noted that what he said on record is either a flat out lie or half truth 71% of the time. Politifact also noted in its analysis that almost 50% of what he says are considered to be outright lies. On top of that, there are numerous instances of Trump denying having said something in spite of video evidence to the contrary. The man bold-face lies so often and so frequently that holding him accountable has proven impossible; to his supporters even irrelevant.

The problem with America is that in an endless pursuit of profit, we have outsourced facts to those who sought to make them subjective. Instead of hiring and patronizing experts to inform us on various matters, we have flocked to echo chambers and fake news purveyors who have a vested interest in lying to achieve a certain outcome.

Facebook played a huge role in misinformation this past election cycle. As it sought to get into the news business, it never employed a filter to root out fake stories or misleading information. A site like The Converative Tribune held just as much weight as The New York Times. Whereas the Timea employs vigorous standards in terms of its story research and editing practices, politically biased sites like the Tribune and its numerous Leftist equivalents do not. Everything is editorialized on those sites in order to achieve virality. Even the facts come second to virality in order to maximize profit in ad revenue. The more outrageous and ridiculous the more likely the story would trend; and also more likely that it would be false.

Just this past week on his show, John Oliver noted this trend of misinformation on Facebook and found that 38% of stories on conservative leaning Facebook pages are outright false, along with 19% of stories on left-leaning pages. Just today the BBC interviewed an editor at a fake news site that used Facebook to make its stories go viral. He told the BBC “people read a headline and then don’t even bother to check the content before they share it.” That’s alarming when studies also suggest that just under half of all Americans get their news from Facebook!

While Facebook and Google now tell the mainstream press they plan to crack down on biased and fake news sites that don’t employ good practices, it’s too late. We already elected a man who lies 71% of the time. Your conservative aunt and uncles, like mine, have already been radicalized by lies on Facebook. The sites may shut down, but they already made their millions in ad revenue.

What’s worse is that legitimate news sites have tried to compete with them using similar headline tactics, like entertainment trade Variety with the headline “John Oliver Encourages Violence Against Trump.” It doesn’t matter that it simply isn’t true, and is a very unethical play on words, millions reading it who are partial to Trump will believe he did because as the fake-news editor above noted “people read a headline and don’t even bother to check the content…” The Hill today employed a similar tactic, suggesting that “Half of Trump Protestors in Oregon Didn’t Vote.” Despite the low sample size and poor research methodology, millions will read this as truth. The source shows that less than 25% of a 112-person sample size actually didn’t vote. People don’t check the source! The Hill got its clicks and Trump supporters to share – job done, facts be damned!

America has become a fact-free society. It’s perfectly fine for us to disagree on what direction to take our country in, but we still need to accept the facts. How do you begin to discuss solutions to climate change when 50% of our population refuses to even believe climate change is real? How do you debunk fake stories and inaccurate Facebook memes when conservative relatives and friends say “Snopes, ProPublica & Politifact have a liberal bias”?

Basically anything which contradicts their worldview is a liberal bias. They would rather hold conservative pundits like the abhorrent White Nationalist from Breitbart, Steven Bannon (now a White House advisor), in higher regard than 99% of climate scientists and trained journalists. It’s time to support good journalism, subscribe to the NY Times or Washington Post. Donate to Pro Publica (a non-profit fact checker of the press). Report bad news pages on Facebook and don’t interact with garbage posts on the site. Their algorithm mainly pushes things interacted with — don’t help trash to trend.

We may be a fact-free society right now, but it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s up to us to make sure our government, our press and our entertainment is as good as its people. Right now, the people are failing in their responsibility.

Hollywood & Unrequited Love

Unrequited love is cruel for if we could choose who we fall for, we’d never pick someone we know doesn’t love or could never love us back. Yet we fall for the ones we can’t have all the time.

Movies popularize the tale of unrequited love, albeit with a twist. There’s the main hero and their love interest. The problem? The love interest either doesn’t notice the hero or doesn’t share a romantic intention. Over the course of the story our hero will demonstrate their worth before this love interest and despite their problem of unrequited love, the love interest will wind up loving the hero back. Happy endings for all.

Unrequited love doesn’t work this way. You can’t make or force someone to love you. It’s either the case that you share that passion or you don’t. Unrequited implies the passion is not shared. Sure maybe down the road things may change but that rarely happens. Yet movies and novels make it seem like unrequited love is a solvable problem. Solving the problem is a staple in the romantic comedy and romance genres; probably coming in second only to the problem of forbidden love.

The reason unrequited love is so common as a story is because it is popular fantasy. What if an average guy like Adam Sandler’s characters could get all those beautiful successful women? The nerd in The Sandlot actually married Wendy Peppercorn. The down on her luck woman in countless romance novels and movies like Pretty Woman meets the guy of her dreams. They all get the one they can’t have.

Not only does the hero win, they often do so in ways which would be considered inappropriate in real life. The hero often gets the guy or gal through creepy behavior like stalking or socially  inappropriate gestures which would never be accepted outside a fictional universe. Yet people try and do these same things in everyday life and wonder why it didn’t work for them.

Popular fantasy rarely translates to reality. Sometimes your wildest dreams do come true, but for the lot of us it won’t. Even if there were some way to get someone to share our level of enthusiasm, there is so much complexity that could prevent a viable romantic union; a current marriage, age difference, location, status. All these things still come before.

Yet we like to imagine a popular fantasy where we can get the guy or girl. We don’t choose who we fall for, love is like gravity, once we fall we cannot stop. Instead of acknowledging the painful reality of unrequited or forbidden love, it’s easier to live vicariously through someone who got what we can’t have. It is more enjoyable to imagine a fantasy where your dreams come true.

The more we spend time fretting over what we can’t have we loose sight of what we can. That is the danger in this popular fantasy. Sometimes it’s ok to not get the guy or the girl. Not winning all the time only serves to make us stronger. Love will come again.

We’re Not Listening. LaLaLaLaLa!

As the debate around writing better diverse characters continues, one group is taking things to heart and refusing to make an effort: white male creators.

Yes, hashtag not all white male creators. Certainly of those refusing to write better diverse characters, they make up the lions share of examples.

Some notable examples include the Game of Thrones writers refusal to accept criticism of the way they wrote the arcs of female characters in S5; notably the gratuitous use of rape from a male character perspective for shock value and an utter lack of examining the female experience apart from… You guessed it: shock value. Some notable critics refused to continue reviewing the show after this.

More recently, Rob Liefeld, Marvel comics artist and creator took to Twitter after NYCC to defend the casting of a white male as Iron Fist because “the character is historically White.” Never mind the numerous fans both White and Non-White saying not making him Asian was a missed opportunity for diversifying the current MCU, Liefeld was adamant in his defense of historical accuracy. His exchanges with fans on Twitter are both smug and extremely blind to his own white privilege. While I think it is a stretch to argue his views are racist, his inability to accept criticism is certainly ignorant. Iron Fist can be whatever race and it’d have no impact on his character! Comics have changed the races and even genders of characters numerous times to positive effect.

While not as controversial, HBO’s new show Westworld also includes gratuitous rape and damsel in distress tropes to fuel its plot. This in spite of being co-written by a woman, Lisa Joy. The show is run and created by her husband, Jonathan Nolan. Variety noted in its review of the show “drama writers continually resort to rape, assault and murder of women to provide inciting incidents, or to make a show seem ‘edgy’ or to ‘raise the stakes'”

That writers continually rely on these tired tropes are precisely why many are so resistant to change. Why change something which works in their mind? Is it lazily employed, sure. But that’s neither here nor there so long as people are consuming your product by watching as viewers. The problem is it is already starting to get tired and thus uninteresting. And as people begin to criticize this style of writing as not only sexist but as lazy that is when writers ought to especially take notice.

Whether a criticism is about the poor portrayal of women or stereotypical portrayal of non-white characters, the reason many may not want to listen is because their job is hard enough. These writers may very well care about diversity, but in practice they don’t make the effort to address criticisms and in fact double down on the use of harmful tropes and stereotypical portrayals because it is what they’ve long gotten away with and made money from. They react defensively because they are merely trying to defend their work against any criticism. If they acknowledge the criticism, they will be expected to make changes and when you’re on deadline and up against a whole host of other more pressing story issues, diversity concerns will always take a back seat.

Is this fair? No. Of course not. It’s not a valid excuse so much as it is the likely one given — at least on a subconscious or internal basis. Writers, producers, creative executives who are largely white and male are probably not going to take the extra step toward assuring that their product is diverse or presents women in a better light. They just want to turn around their projects and sometimes that means hacking the storylines and arcs of its women and POC.

In 2016 this attitude toward defending hack jobs is unacceptable. Writers should always be striving to improve, to accept criticism and grow from it. Those who do not have clearly lost a big part of what it means to be an artist or writer.

Finally, we need to make moves to hire more women and non-white writers to writers rooms. Currently you’ll get one or two diversity slots and many times creators and White male EPs treat their input in a hostile manner — again not wanting to address their concerns. This was recently the case when an Adult Swim executive in charge of hiring writers noted in an interview that he won’t hire women because “they’re prone to conflict.” Good! Writers rooms shouldn’t be an echo chamber. In spite of addressing the criticism toward his sexist views, he doubled down on his remarks in an AMA on Reddit.

The entire industry needs to diversify to where no single person is strung out for daring people to be better. We need diversity initiatives across the board, from above and bellow the line, to the agencies, to the executive suites– we need more diverse perspectives! The face of America is changing, as is the world around it. You can either listen to their criticisms, or continue to ignore and condemn it. The choice is indeed yours, it’s your future. Try to be on the right side of it by being a better writer and creative tomorrow than you were today.

Are You Scared Of Outerspace?

You are small and cosmically insignificant. I am too. When compared to millennia of space, our short lives remind us of our own mortality.

As a species we have evolved from microorganisms to multicellular beings with highly advanced cognitive function. But you are weak. I am weak. We are vulnerable. An effortless kill.

Space is infinite. The world is small. Our world is smaller. Our worldview is microscopic. There is not enough time to understand. You’re running out of time. I am running out of time to learn more.

The tides they ebb and flow. The moon above dictates their schedule and that too provides the false construct of time we live by. Months turns to years and years turn to ages. You will live maybe another 30, 40, 50? Less than 100 for sure.

But space? Space lives on for millennia. When our sun burns out and takes our planet with it, other universes will still go on. When we look at the stars, it took them millions of light years to shine down upon us but only seconds to glance at.

Everything around us is old. Everything above us is ancient. We are young, fragile creatures who have every right to feel insignificant before the concept of our greater universe.

It should scare you to be sucked into a blackhole. That nothingness which comes to define our comprehension of what lies beyond. We don’t know.

There is not enough time to know. We know almost nothing. We are primitive. We are weak.

Mentorship Is The Key To Diversifying Hollywood

Today I tweeted about mentorship being one of the greatest barriers to entry for young women in the business. So I wanted to expand on these thoughts a bit.

Whereas men hire men that remind them of themselves, women are rarely in the position to offer them the same level of mentorship. Frankly, it needn’t be the case that women exclusively mentor women. The prevailing power structure in Hollywood, white men, need to do more to mentor women.

I briefly had a white male mentor. He was and still is a producer. I’ve no explanation for why he no longer speaks to me. I can’t think of anything I did. He hasn’t worked in a few years, perhaps it is that. All that aside, I know how much it meant to have his advice and feedback. I very much wish I still had it.

Unfortunately, White men still get most of the opportunities in this business. This is a statistical fact supported by numerous studies. Regardless of talent, the pattern of white men hiring other white men and mentoring other white men leads to an industry full of white men.

Before it seems like I am blaming my former mentor for contributing to these numbers, I am not. A Google search will reveal past assistants of his that were female, including a woman of color who now owns her own indie production company. Sadly few of his peers have a similar track record in hiring diversely.

One thing is clear, when women are given mentorship opportunities, they do better than those without the same opportunities. All of his former female assistants are still in the business in varying capacities.

If we want to assure that more women are given chances as writers, actors, development execs, directors or producers — white men need to hire them and groom them the same way they would with men. If women cannot even stick a foot in the door without such mentorship then all the money thrown at diversity will fail to change the makeup of the industry because women are not given the help they need at the outset of their careers. Currently the same women are hired over and over again. What needs to happen is the industry must do more to recruit, mentor and hire young women.

Diversity needs to be more than a buzzword. If Hollywood studios and production companies truly want to “read more women” or see more films directed and staring women, they need to turn their focus to the outset of the process. The PAs, the young woman with internships and experience looking to take the next step, the female writer who placed in a contest or shows ability young. You know, the young men with the same abilities and experience that get pulled up the ladder first. If you’re a white man it stands to reason that promoting the next female talent could also be a very lucrative effort if you take the studios at their word — that they want to hire diverse talent.

While I think it’s important to continue to gear diversity efforts towards women with experience, such as those already qualified to direct and write features, too much is already geared toward such efforts. The next step in the diversity conversation must be about mentorship and recruiting young talent. Nobody in this business has made it alone. Somewhere along the line they had a mentor, a friend, an ally in the business that gave them a chance. Without that initial chance women’s numbers will not increase. If that is a key part of the diversity initiative, we must acknowledge what must come first not just what comes ten steps down the line.

LOUD Twitter

Loud. It’s the way Twitter can feel some times when a particular topic or issue blows up to the point where it feels like everyone is shouting over one another.

Loud Twitter is a large, diverse and ever growing group of people who get all up in arms over every little thing. They take an issue and blow it so out of proportion that they become impossible to reason with. Today Loud Twitter gathered in the film Twitter sphere. The topic was whether it is good or bad for showrunners to live-tweet shows. While most debated whether they found the practice enriching or distracting, a vocal chorus of people made a strawman argument implying that anybody against the practice would be left behind the times. That’s because Loud Twitter interpreted it to be out of touch White male showrunners v. the many diverse showrunners who have adopted the practice of live-tweeting

I don’t see how they got that from THR’s interview with the showrunners or industry people’s opinions  on Twitter but somehow that’s where we’re at.

If you’ve read my blog or Twitter at all you’d know I am a staunch proponent of diversifying the industry and I have been consistently intersectional in my support of that goal. But when we argue over stuff as petty as livetweeting, it turns the whole diversity conversation into a caricature of itself. You tune people out, because not every issue requires being that loud and frankly in this case obnoxious.

Nobody wants to hire someone who is so loud and upset at every little thing. Many will avoid having to step on eggshells around someone like that. It is toxic to live in a constant state of negativity. So go hard at the issues which require it but be mindful that not every issue does. Be loud but remember sometimes there is no need to be. Being loud doesn’t make you right, it mostly makes you obnoxious. It’s something that I’ve learned as I’ve matured, and it’s something I have remained mindful of since cleaning my Twitter.

So go ahead and get mad that I wrote this. Or accept personal responsibility and understand that outside your echo chamber you may actively be avoided for the way you come across.

PS livetweeting sucks.