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The Future of Storytelling


Charlie Melcher

This week on The Futurists our hosts interview Charlie Melcher, the founder of The Future of Storytelling.  Charlie recounts the many ways that the ancient practice of storytelling is evolving in an era of immersive and interactive media. He is also a book publisher who uses innovations in printing technology to reinvent the 5000-year-old medium for contemporary audiences and he speculates about the future evolution of the craft of meaning-making.  Web site: Www.thefutureofstorytelling.Org

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this week on the futurists Charlie Melcher
the transition that we're living through right now is one from two-dimensional to three-dimensional it's one from
unidirectional and passive consumed stories to one that is two-way and
participatory and embodied that to me is the fundamental shift of Storytelling in the 21st century
welcome back to the futurists I'm Rob turcik your co-host Brett King is on the road but he's going
to try to join the show as well that'll be fun to have him he's traveling constantly looking for more futurists to
interview for the show this week we're going to talk to someone that I'm very fond of one of my favorite people from
2022 that I met last year in the post-pandemic era where we're all out there making new connections I was
introduced to a fellow named Charles Melcher Charlie Melcher welcome to the show thank you Rob so nice to be here I'm
really happy to have you here I've enjoyed our conversation so much we met at that cool event in Santa Fe creative
experience which for me was the first real like in-person event that we got to go to after the pandemic and um I met so
many cool people there uh tell me a little bit about your memory of that show in Santa Fe well you were the
Highlight frankly oh come on no no it's true you gave that keynote and I thought
wow this is really going to be a great event uh it frankly was a little bit downhill after that but but it was fun
it was flattery we'll get you everywhere on this show you know um the show was actually quite interesting to me because
that's the only experienced yeah it was right at the intersection oh Brett's joined us hi Brett great that you could
join us uh happy to have you back on the show with us um that show was cool because it was focused at the intersection of the real
world in the virtual world right so it was called creative experience I guess for want of a better term uh the idea is
that you know there there's all sorts of new technology that can enhance real world experiences and that could be
anything from you know retail shopping experience to an arcade or even something as crazy and fun as meow wolf
which was definitely a highlight of that show for me yeah um but meeting you was one of the high points there and then of
course we got together again when you were on your way to Burning Man or coming back from burning man in Los Angeles and then we saw each other in
New York where I visited your place for the folks who are listening by way of introduction uh Charlie does two things
and they're both really relevant to what we're doing here at the futurist show he's the founder of a company called
Melcher media and they produce really what I believe are the most interesting books in the world and it's hard to
imagine um talking about books on a show about the future but in a moment we'll get into that we'll talk a little bit about
how Charlie is pushing the boundaries of expression the capability of what you can't actually do with a physical
tangible book uh that's one thing he does with Melcher media and the other reason he's on the show is that he's the
host of a podcast called the future of Storytelling which is squarely in our wheelhouse and along with that there's
the futurists Explorer club and why don't you tell us a little bit about the Explorer Club because this was the last
thing we were talking about I was super interested in it this idea of it's it's not like Dora the Explorer
it's our form well so just to give you a little background I started the future of Storytelling originally as a one-day
Summit yeah and it was a buy invitation event we invited 300 people and it grew
year over year till the point where we were doing this uh event for a full week
of programming for almost 6 000 people between the summit and this public festival and all of that was going just
amazingly well uh with a concept of sort of a big tent of Storytelling we use that term very broadly it it was truly a
multi-disciplinary gathering but it all had to stop cold when the pandemic came uh because no one was was traveling and
so the future of Storytelling Explorers Club became our or pandemic pivot if you
will to being able to create a year-round membership club where the the best people the the most interesting
people in our community would come with us on a monthly trip to visit one of the
world's great storytellers a master Storyteller and get a live tour of their
creation so we would really get to meet the same kind of people that might have come to the summit but now we got to go
to their place and see what they were working on their Studio their their exhibit their Museum
um so for example we went to see Team lab in Tokyo um and takachi gave us a real-time tour
of what is actually now the most popular single largest museum in the world oh
cool it's incredible place it's an interactive digital Museum where all of the art is projected on the walls and as
you move through it responds to you being there and other people being there we went to see what a workshop and
Richard Taylor gave us a tour of his extraordinary uh shop in in New Zealand
New Zealand oh wow yeah great uh we went to uh see uh meow Wolf the pre-opening
tour of their Omega Mart in Las Vegas tell people what a meow wolf is just for those who aren't
familiar with meow wolf oh I love meow wolf um meow wolf was is a collective of
artists who got together other originally in Santa Fe George R.R Martin actually bought them a
bowling alley and an abandoned bowling alley and they built inside of it a story world and when you walk in it
looks like a old picket fence house and you and as you enter the house there's no one in there but there's Clues and
papers and photos and you're sort of piecing together a story and you can open any drawer and walk anywhere and
then you're in the kitchen you open the refrigerator and it's a white light and a portal and you can step through the
refrigerator into this extraordinary creative world that honestly it's
something between like a acid trip and and uh some just like artists you know
creative explosion and um and then you can wander multi-floors and and have these this adventure and there's a story
you can piece together anyway it became such a popular destination that it was not only the the most popular tourist
attraction in Santa Fe but in all of Mexico and so now they're in Vegas as you
mentioned and they're also opening up in Denver and I think they're opening now another location in in Texas and these
are all uh entertainment deprived places it's not like Los Angeles where you know we've got we're a wash and entertainment
um there are people visiting those towns that want something to do one thing I'm noticing as you talk about the Explorers Club is that this is all experiential uh
so when you define storytelling uh you're not necessarily talking about someone telling you a great yarn
you're talking about someone giving you a great time like giving you a great experience tell me a little bit about them yeah so after 10 years of curating
the future of Storytelling my my insight and and frankly it comes from an
experience I had at a at a Punch-Drunk theatrical um do you know pun strong the immersive
Theater Company um they did that famous piece called sleep no more uh it's it's just a very
um experiential theater right it's non-linear you get to wander through build a building every room is an
intricate set and the actors run and play through and the and the Only Rule is that you a guest have to wear a mask
and you're not allowed to speak so you're kind of like a ghost wandering through this space trying to piece
together the story um so I went to see one of these experiences in London it was called the
drowned man and the conceit was a 1950s kind of Hollywood studio and they were
making a movie um and so after a couple of hours of wandering around and having this this amazing experience I was getting tired
jet lag and it's gonna call it a night and just then the this young actress walks into the room that I'm in and
she's wearing this tight leopard skin dress and she's got these high heels and ruby red lipstick and I think okay I'll
stay a little longer and so I I follow her as she's playing through different rooms and different scenes and and then
she ducks behind this door all of a sudden and on a whim I decide to follow her and I enter this door and she's
waiting for me on the other side and she locks it she shuts it and bolts it locked and I'm like oh my what now and
she brings me down this little Carter and we step into this little room and she then reaches up and she takes off my
mask and so my cloak of invisibility has been removed I feel kind of naked exposed you
know just the two of us in this room and and then she reaches up and she takes this trench coat one of those 50s kind
of Bogart numbers and she puts it on me ties the sash adjusts the collar up just
so and then she takes me down this other little Carter into a room that gets progressively dark and then I'm just in
Pitch Black and she lets go and now I'm just alone in the dark and all my senses
go on high alert I'm like what's gonna happen I'm listening and hearing and smelling and and then I hear the sound
action over a loudspeaker and there's a flash of light and then another flash of
light and my eyes adjust and I realize I'm surrounded by 30 40 of these silver umbrellas the kinds that photographers
use to diffuse the strobes and my eyes adjust and I see the actress and she's
across the room and she's coming towards me slowly but she looks completely different she's got this intensity in
her eyes I think maybe she's insane and then she's coming closer I think I might
need to be prepared to physically defend myself against this crazy woman and but I can't move I'm frozen in place and she
gets close in her hands coming right towards my neck and then it lands gently on my cheek
and she takes another step forward and now I feel the warmth of her up against my body I can smell the sweetness of her
perfume my arms uh instinctively go around her waist
and then I'm there alone with this young woman in my arms and I realize I'm no
longer afraid of do we have to like is this now getting it rated or something
no no sorry but it Dawns on me that I'm no longer afraid of her I'm afraid of me
like what role am I willing to play this beautiful starlets in my arms I'm alone in the room but I'm a happily married
man am I going to as she leans up to give me a kiss all of a sudden I hear
cut and she has stepped away and it's pitch black again and I'm like shaking every
part of me is activated I'm like what's just happened and then I feel her hand on my arm and she leads me out
back into this little room and she takes off the coat and hangs on the hook and she takes the mask and she puts it back
on me and she's about to see me unceremoniously out the door when she stops and she Whispers in my ear
I think you'd be great for the part
and then I'm afloat with all those other ghosts in that building wandering around I mean I had gone in there as a voyeur
and then I left in the role of like the leading man and then it's on to me I was auditioning for the role of the leading
man in that movie that was supposedly being produced in that show I had just had a a production put on for a play for
one and I was the leading man and I didn't even know it and you know what I walked around London
the rest of that weekend with a spring in my step and like Adventure waiting for me around every corner I mean
literally London was now a set and I looked at the city differently because I realized that I could be the hero in any
Adventure and so for me that's the kind of stories that I um I'm hungry for it's a story
that was immersive participatory multi-sensorial
um personalized and yet social and all of those things come together to make it
truly Unforgettable like I lived that story Charles at the same time I you know I'd
like to um delve you know we we've just seen um Avatar the where water across the two
billion in box office takings it's now one of the 10th highest grossing films
um of all time and of course this is a very unique way of Storytelling because of the way
um James Cameron filmed it and produced it and so forth but we also have the metaverse and these other Technologies
coming along and it's getting harder for traditional Hollywood to Green Light movies because
the costs of doing these Productions are becoming so much greater and the return
is not there so you know how do you think the that art of uh storytelling in
in those mediums in in the the digital medium so I I completely
um agree with you that it's getting harder and harder for Hollywood and I think that the difference the the
transition that we're living through right now is one from two-dimensional to three-dimensional it's one from
unidirectional and passive consumed stories to one that is um two-way and participatory and
embodied that to me is the fundamental shift of Storytelling in the 21st century and we don't have any old
vernacular for that second half what we're shifting to we're kind of it's like the DW Griffith moment it's figured
out the vernacular for film 100 years ago we haven't quite figured out the vernacular for interactive storytelling
we're moving to the feelies now yeah uh right we're we're going into the fields
I like that well that I'm stealing that from uh Brave New World We Are
um we're moving into an era where our stories are going to be things that we have
um agency in that we are able to co-create that we're able to
um experience in a more full-bodied way I mean it's insane that that almost all of our stories that we experience as
kids growing up were through our eyes and our ears that that was almost it
right you would sit passively in front of a television in front of a movie screen or in front of a radio or a
record player or and and just like Let It wash over you but now we're in the third generation of game video game
players right so for 50 years people have been playing video games they keep getting better and better and more and more immersive and now I'd argue they're
cinematic you know the latest generation of Xbox and Playstation is really quite superb and quality uh do you think
that's closer to the kind of immersive storytelling that you're talking about because it is participatory it's first person you're the protagonist you make
the decisions you have agency these games make more money than Hollywood Blockbusters too yeah that's right so so
games are the major influence into this next generation of Storytelling no question because they did allow
um several things they allowed real agency they allow a social component right that's a big part of a lot of the
success of some of these massive games um and they allow your incredible imaginations right like World building
in in an extreme way what sometimes they're missing or are still struggling
with is how to incorporate you know plot and narrative and and character development like some of the the things
that we love from novels um and other forms of traditional storytelling need
to come together to merge with the world of gaming and and so yes I think it's a
major influence I think that's what that's what people are counting on with the uh excitement around the metaverse
is looking at how many hours people spend playing games and that Comfort level and uh can we you know but
personally I think the thing that's missing in the metaverse is is story right it's it's story plot and character
and all of those purpose yeah yeah yeah it's true I mean it's sort of like it's
a great world but there's nothing to do there it's like an empty theme park I think you're right about that um now
okay let me let me break it down like this because here's how I understand this as you know I've done video games for many years I've also been involved
in filmed entertainment and television linear storytelling if you will in video and um
the way I think about it is that there's a sort of Primal Instinct uh towards experience right and and um you know the
the the I guess the the kind of proverbial narrative is uh there's a bunch of guys
sitting around a fire and they go out with Spears to kill the you know to kill the dangerous beast and that's an
adventure some people get hurt um but some people come back Victorious and they've killed the Beast and then
they sit around the fire that night and then the person with the Gift of Gab recounts The Narrative and talks about
the heroism and the trials and tribulations and so forth and so you have experience and you have story
and um this the process of telling us stories where we take the random events the
unpredictable events that come in a random sequence and then we kind of recapitulate those and structure meaning
into them by putting them into a linear sequence and now suddenly it makes sense so you need both you need experience and
you need story but to my mind they're two different impulses right when you're doing experience you're not really thinking about linear story when you're
doing a story what you really want is a great narrator like James Cameron who's got the Gift of Gab who can really
enchant you and put you into a trance what's your take on that do you think that split is changing are these two
things merging what's your view I I do think that they're merging uh I do think that story at its core is the
way that we understand the world it's the way that we understand other people create empathy and it's the way that we
understand ourselves come to understand ourselves and and all of that as a response to living in a dangerous and
chaotic Universe right like we're so at the heart storytelling is about learning
and survival like those are the things that that I that's why we are story
animals right we we evolved to be able to tell stories so that you would avoid that cave with the Tiger in it and live
to pass on your genes um and and I like to think in a way that stories are like the programming
language of the human species it's it's literally how we come to know
how to operate in the world and um I would say too that that uh we are
we are also you know Pat pattern recognition machines like we our brains are set up to try to make sense of that
random data and and stories are one of the ways that we do that um or the way that we ex the make sense
and explain it to somebody else and explain it to ourselves by the way I I love this um term that a friend of mine
taught me called throthing uh it was a group of people who would go do live action role-playing games and they'd
spend a weekend playing games and then uh Sunday night they'd meet in the pub and they would over over a frothy beer
they would each tell the story of their own experience and it was in the telling as you said that it became real that
they made sense of it and that's how they also would remember it moving forward yeah that's right so I gotta
find meaning into it and then the narrative is like an efficient way to transmit the learning from that experience that's one thing I you want
to say though when when you describe the sitting around the campfire you know our ancestors after the hunt
um one difference is that it was not one person who got up and told the story of the day's hunt
um we had a cultural Anthropologist Dr Mike Welsh who came to fost and he spent a lot of time with pre-literate tribes
in Papua New Guinea and when he would sit at in the evening to hear the story yes somebody would start to tell the
story of the day's hunt somebody else would wrestle for control of the narrative a third person would Heckle he
would describe it as a living breathing collaborative story right it was our our
perception of somebody standing on a Podium and reading the story or delivering the story that developed with
the invention of you know or alphabet and the idea of a linear story and and
that everything was sort of created by one person and then presented um but in his take original storytelling
from or from a tradition of morality was a collaborative art and it was like a living breathing thing about
participatory it's not linear it's not one way okay and I think that's going to be true now too like we're moving away
from this idea of the single law tour to the collective and and stories will be
co-created and uh and and lived I mean I the the term I like to use is living
stories wow cool okay well let's hang on to this for a little while we're gonna go to a break in a moment but before we
do we do this thing with our guests um which is surprising and fun it's we're going to ask you about some of the
things that inspired you so Brett's going to ask you a series of quick questions just give us a quick answer and then we'll take a little break we'll
come right back with Charles melter from melter media and the future storytelling hey Brett go for it this this is the
quick fire round all right Mr Melcher what was the first
science fiction you remember being exposed to on TV or a book or movies
I don't know about first but Star Wars just really changed my world forever so
that that movie was uh uh seminal in my life
1977 it's the first movie I ever saw with my dad incidentally really wow yeah
so that's why I remember it what what technology has most changed Humanity do you think
um the alphabet okay that's cool written word
um name a futurist or a Storyteller or entrepreneur that has influenced you
personally and why God I feel so um unoriginal with this answer but uh
Steve Jobs fair enough well he you know he's going
to be remembered for a long time um do you think there's a notable prediction that a futurist entrepreneur
or sci-fi prediction practitioners made that has stuck in your memory
um I guess I would have to say Hal from 2001 Space Odyssey very cool and the
last one is what sort of story we talked about this before the show dystopian versus
utopian Futures but what sort of Science Fiction future is most representative of
the future you hope for um yes we were just sort of talking
about how almost all science fiction is dystopian and that is I'm an optimist so I'm I'm very hopeful that uh things are
going to work out well um I tend to look more to artists uh who
are you know creating visions of the world that are positive and uh where
where the story works out okay for the human species um yeah so uh I'm not sure I have a
single science fiction yeah but you're you're a techno Optimist I guess or a future Optimist right I am I am an
optimist and I I am still a believer that uh net net all of the new
technologies are are a positive thing for the world and will lead to a better
future great all right so you're listening to the futurists this is Brett King that was that quick fire round we're going to
take a quick break and we'll be back with Charles Melcher after these words from our sponsors
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welcome back to the futurists I am your host Brett King with my co-host Rob
tersek and before we jump back into our our continuing discussion with Charles
Melcher let's hear some news from the future [Music]
great uh hi Brett this week I've got a deep dive for us for our listeners uh
this this time the Deep dive is going to be on social media I thought it'd be relevant to the topic about storytelling
to get into social media which is really like the most emotional technology storytelling platform we've ever had
and this week the focus is on The Usual Suspects meta and Tick Tock we've talked
about them before but this is a story that just keeps on giving and so here we are back with more information about
meta and and Tick Tock uh as everybody knows who's been listening to our show Tick Tock has been putting tremendous
pressure on Facebook uh it's cutting into Facebook Revenue it's growing really fast uh Tick Tock has been
doubling and doubling and doubling um and to and Facebook has been going through some really serious challenges
uh not the least of which is Congressional scrutiny uh you'll recall that just a few years ago Facebook was
in trouble because of Cambridge analytica using uh using data from users in ways that really weren't authorized
and without permission targeting people and manipulating people's perceptions of the news and information uh and then
just over a year ago Francis Haugen a former Facebook executive was testifying
before Congress about Facebook's knowledge that some of its products including Instagram were highly
addictive to young people and Facebook was in a world of hurt at that point
um and so they did what a lot of people do if you've ever had somebody in your life who've done who's done something
egregious and you're trying to hold them accountable you might have encountered this where they say hang on a second what about this other guy who's doing
this other thing over here and they try to change the subject and divert away well Mark Zuckerberg brilliantly did
this Mark Zuckerberg the CEO of meta and the founder of Facebook went to Congress and testified not about Facebook but
about tick tock uh where he pointed out that Tick Tock was actually the people who were doing uh all the really bad
stuff and um and was trying to divert attention away from scrutiny on Facebook and have more scrutiny applied to tick
tock and um and it worked amazingly it's it was actually quite successful uh so
uh Facebook was able to direct attention and scrutiny towards uh towards Tick
Tock in a way that has been really penalizing Tick Tock in some respects um
it's probably the smartest move that Zuckerberg has made in the last couple of years uh so under President Trump
there was talk about banning Tick Tock there was great pressure to get Tick-Tock under um some sort of
regulatory control the US doesn't really have any regulation over social media uh Trump was attempting to force Tick Tock
to divest the U.S operation and sell it to his friend and fundraiser uh Larry
Ellison of Oracle well now there's an update so um since
that time Tick Tock has been under investigation and there's been this sort of uh negotiation languishing in the
Council on Foreign investment about whether Tick Tock should divest or what measures it can do to continue to
operate in the United States uh what levels of transparency and the management of tick tock has been doing
handstands to try to placate the US government and allow them to allow the company to continue to operate here
their great fear is that they'll be banned and of course that would probably be followed by bands in other countries already Tick Tock has been banned in
India and a couple of other countries so there's great concern about that and they've gone to Great Lengths they've
offered the US government to have oversight over how they use user data Tick Tock has agreed to host the service
in Texas on servers that are owned by Oracle so they kind of halfway conceded to that idea that Larry Ellison can
exert some control they've created transparency centers that allow people to understand how Tick
Tock uses data they've sworn up and down that they don't share data back with their parent company in China uh bite
dance and they've even offered to create an independent proxy board uh led by a former FBI agent to supervise how they
use data and they got very close to a deal in August but now it's all gone off
the rails in the last month Tick Tock has been banned by six by 19 different
state governments in the United States so no employee of state of 19 different state governments can use tick tock they
can restricted access to that app it's also been banned in the U.S Senate and the U.S House of Representatives and now
the White House has also chimed in with a bin now realistically I'm not sure how many of our Congressional representatives are actually using Tick
Tock although I do think maybe AOC or Kamala Harris have had actually some
success on Tic Tac as social but it's not going to make a huge dent in the company's business
but it's a little bit more an embarrassment for tick tock and a setback and now amazingly there was a
revelation that Tick Tock actually was doing all the bad things with data that they were accused of so this just broke
in the last week or two uh Forbes was doing an investigation the business publication Forbes and it turns out that
a number of Forbes journalists were being tracked by Tick Tock they were monitoring their Communications the
folks at Tick Tock were trying to find out who inside the company was leaking information to these journalists and so
it's all been exposed now it turns out that Tick Tock has actually been doing the the exact bad things that it was accused of so in a weird sort of
paradoxical way it looks like Facebook's diversion where you know Zuckerberg was like don't blame Facebook look at Tick
Tock instead they're really the villain here looks like it's Justified but Facebook's not out of the woods as
it turns out this week um the regulatory bodies in the European
Union have cracked down quite hard on Facebook for some lingering violations that go all the way back to 2018. uh if
you've been studying the space you'll know that there is a regulatory act called the general data protection regulation act gdpr if you work in the
Internet it's a big pain in the neck because you have to comply with this European Union law uh the European Union
law gives people the right to opt out of any kind of tracking whatsoever Facebook has been sued uh for um has been in
trouble for violating this gdpr regulation and this week on Wednesday
Facebook was struck meta was struck with a 14 million sorry 400 million dollar
fine for violations of that gdpr but that's not all doesn't end there one of the
outcomes here could be that Facebook will be will be banned from doing any
kind of tracking uh where it have to be opt out tracking and there's a real precedent for this and it's a really
negative one for meta and for Facebook and Instagram which is that last year Apple did something similar they allowed
Apple iPhone users to opt out of tracking and as a result uh meta loss
billions of dollars an advertising Revenue because they were unable to do that ad targeting ad tracking so the big
story here is that we have examples now of bad behavior by all the major social networks uh there's tremendous disarray
in this space and it turns out that the United States seems to have like outsourced its regulatory authority to
the European Union and we're allowing them to do the real enforcement of Regulation where the United States it's much more about posture gesture and
ironically grandstanding in a way they'll get you some coverage on social media and build some build some power
among those base anyway I thought that was an interesting narrative but Rob you know that that that regulatory posture
is not unusual for the US the US doesn't like to impose standards and regulations on U.S corporations they let U.S
corporations write the laws that define define the regulations around their Industries
um whereas you know the EU does Define these standards why why do you think it
is that um the U.S was the last country in the world to accept chip and pin
um you know credit cards and debit cards North Korea had chip and pinned before the United States did you know and part
of that is the reluctance to impose standards on others so you know this really is when we start looking at
things like AI regulation and as you said privacy identity we can't expect
the US to lead on this front anymore which has pretty big commercial implications but I do think we are
seeing the end of the era of the social media experiment in some ways if you look what's happening at Twitter with
Facebook and Tick Tock um you know even the the content management at YouTube
um it is going to be a very different world from the uh you know the end of the naughties when the social media
platforms really blew up it's uh it is changing for sure yeah and when you
start thinking about you know metaverse implications of that too right well that that'd be great though you know actually
there's room for Innovation right so if these two if the giant companies aren't able to dominate the future the way
they've dominated the past that opens up space for new companies to enter and one data point that's interesting that also
from this week uh is that for the first time um meta and Google will have less than
50 of the advertising Market um in in digital media that's a really big milestone because previously those
two companies together had about 75 percent share they're down a lot right now part of that is because of the Apple
changes that I talked about on the iPhone is do not track uh ability on the iPhone and part of that is actually
because of companies like Tick Tock that are growing so fast they're stealing ad revenue and that's affecting YouTube's
you YouTube as well as Facebook and Instagram Revenue across the board yeah so it's an interesting space listen I
love competition I love Innovation and frankly in social media in the United States we've been frozen for years here
because Facebook's been so dominant and they've bought all the contenders could possibly threaten their business so the
fact that it gets shaken up a little bit I'm not concerned about that and candidly I don't take these uh fireworks around tick tock terribly seriously like
it really doesn't seem to matter if they're if the Chinese government gets access to what 16 year old kids in the
United States are watching to sort of bring us back to Charles I think you know one of the things that's
interesting is we we had a bit of a leak on the Apple reality glasses you know I
don't know if they get that's what they're going to be called this week um but around the fact that um 3D video
conferencing will be a major feature of the augmented reality glasses so if you
think of the role at video conferencing has played during the pandemic and you sort of start to think about that in a
in a perspective of networking and social media and bringing people together it could be quite interesting
but um you know Charles um you know let's get a bit more futuristic
um uh think thinking about um sort of bringing communities together
to build stories sort of interactively do um you know particularly with the way
we've seen the AI generative Technologies and so forth emerging over the last couple of years you know how do
you see that opportunity storytelling in the technology on the
technology platform side well to be honest I think that there's a lot of growth in the in real life side
uh I just want to point that out I came back from a few weeks ago from uh trying
the Star Wars Galactic star Cruiser experience that Disney built and I went with 12 future of Storytelling Explorers
Club members and we dressed in in costume and we lived for two days on a
galactic star Cruiser in the Star Wars world and I got to do I mentioned the
impact that film had on me from my my childhood I got to wield a lightsaber
and learn how to do defensive lightsabers fencing we just had an
amazing time and everything was perfect in world you know from the drinks to the
uh servers to to living in the in the on the ship in the cabin so uh I just want
to say there's a there's a tremendous growth in the in real life forms of
collaborative play and storytelling from from that which is basically the
beginning of story vacationing to the explosion of growth in LARPing
live action role-playing to uh Escape rooms in China or bigger business than
movie theaters already and they're evolving so that you're going in dressed in Cosplay you're going with friends
you're it's not just trying to unlock um Clues it's also interacting with actors
and there's a narrative uh so there's like they're new forms being invented every day driven by people's desire to
have some time away from their screens right some some human need to be reconnected to our bodies and and each
other um and and of course immersive theater and immersive art like Meowth how do you
think the pandemic affected that the pandemic accelerate that intensified or did it slow things down
I definitely well in the short term it slowed things down because no one was going to a lot of events so
um but it created a uh it will create a backlash where where people are just
hungry for experience and hungry to go do things with other people so um I think we're I'm already seeing a
ton of things that are exploding out there and people more and more that will be coming now you have to remember after
the the Spanish Flu of the teens uh it was the explosion of theme parks was it
was a direct outgrowth from that so uh I do think it's going to actually I mean we're too early to be sure of this but
it's going to accelerate that Trend um and two things so we yearn for a real personal connection like real world
personal connection and not just virtual connection and and I just want to emphasize that I think also the
technology is moving towards things that are going to give us a more human
um natural user interface like we're we're going to like I'm not a big believer in VR headset that's because
they're just so uncomfortable and no one wants to spend eight hours a day in there even if you can do three 3D video
conferencing but uh voice gesture uh you
know there are so many things that are coming now that are going and and and frankly I think we're going to be
heading to a place where our built environments you know our our smart rooms and and vehicles are going to be
entertainment spaces and we won't have to be wearing the headset we'll be we can be in any virtual world uh so one of
the trends that I'm very excited about is just that we're going to see technology continue and of course
rob you you speak about this in vaporize like we're going to continue to see that technology sort of disappear like it's
going to become more and more but um invisible I think there's another element to this
too Charles is if we think about highly automated societies and you know I'm talking over you know 20 30 years away
now not talking about in the next decade necessarily but um we can start to see the elements of
this now is when when people are on universal basic income and we have a you know a lot more Automation in society
um you know the the argument from the the you know the harsh capitalists has
been you know people are just going to sit on the couch and be a couch potato and sit in VR but but what you're saying
is that there is a very strong argument for the fact that if people had more
free time on their hands they would look for more experiential things they would look to be more involved in elements of
of those forms of entertainment rather than the opposite you know which is like just sitting there being passive
yeah no I think the the uh clay Shirkey talks about this in his book cognitive Surplus that uh the fact that we spend
so many years as couch potatoes watching television or listening to the radio was
not because that's our Natural State it's because technology hadn't evolved to be two-way mass media right and now
that we do have to a mass media it was the internet arrived and we that's just the beginning
um that trend is going to accelerate and people want to have that role to play they they're not by Nature couch
potatoes I I think that's the the thing that I'm most excited about is that I think that these the Technologies are
going to um start to enable us to do things that are more organically human to us as a
species you know this where you're using your thumbs over a little screen is not the natural way that we evolved over
Millennia to communicate right gesture dance voice facial expressions touch I
mean this is one of the things I'm most excited about we've just begun to unlock our full senses you know we've we've
been in sensory deprivation um through our media for a very long time and
um there's this wonderful book the extended Mind by Annie Murphy Paul where she talks about this whole she shares
all the current science on embodied cognition and uh she didn't write it for storytellers I mean she was writing it
for for business people but but I think of that book as um the primer if you will for the next
generation of storytellers where all of a sudden we're going to realize that we have a much richer palette of sensorial
colors that we can play with to create stronger emotional experiences for the
people formerly known as the audience you're doing that in a way with melter media we haven't really talked about
your book publishing business um but what struck me with your book publishing business is is that you're
finding a way to make that a multi-sensory experience and here's something that you know book printing has been around for 500 years it doesn't
seem like a very futuristic business any way you look at it but yet you found ways to engage people on a personal
level and drive them to find connections around the books and I'm talking specifically about this collaboration
with JJ Abrams right here the ship the the ship of Theseus um but tell us a little bit about what
you did in this book in similar books uh with Melcher media well that's an effort to try to create a role for the reader
where the story is told through a primary text that's written on the page
but then there's handwriting the margins that have two characters that are having a conversation about what they're
reading on the page and then posted notes and there's stuff stuck inside and there might be like some ephemera like a
ticket or something inside of the book exactly then they leave things inside the pages for each other and for you the
reader and so there's a mystery that unfolds around the author of the original novel and you get to help
Discover it for yourself as you move through with napkins and postcards and
um letters and and uh an old newspaper clipping Etc so um what I love about that in fact one of
the nicest compliments we received on that book was from Felix Barrett the founder of punch drunk the immersive
Theater Company I was talking about before where he said Charlie you're doing imprint what we do in theater and
by that he meant you're creating an immersive world that someone can enter into and have a tactile
multi-sensorial experience where they have an active role they're part of solving the mystery so I do think that
that um even even traditional forms of media and then I think the books may be the oldest of the mass media can be
reinvented for today's audience and the kind of expectation that they have for
engagement and and participation we should have a follow-up conversation about how we might integrate nfts
non-fungible tokens into that experience because they're a great way to form a community of fans who feel like they
have an investment in the community uh so there's a real commitment level there but before I go into that or even that
might be simply take up offline here uh to wrap up Brett's offered a couple questions that I really want to make sure we cover
um first he wants to understand what you think storytelling will look like in the next 30 to 50 years like really project
further out into the future if you will yeah so I'd be afraid to get sci-fi okay
so I think that we're going to um no question we're going to have uh virtual
characters right we're gonna have uh virtual humans that have Rich Ai and
natural language processing and we are going to be able to uh have real
interactions with these characters and and they will be responsive to us in fact they will most likely be wearing
something whether it's a story suit or simply the Apple watch we have on our wrist that's going to be feeding
real-time data to this AI so that they understand things about our response to
this story that they're creating for us before we do like they'll have better understanding and insight into what's
really creating immersion and an emotional response then maybe we even have ourselves
um in that moment so that's one like this Rich world of characters that are alive you know seemingly alive that we
get to interact with and have a continued relationship with right another thing I really believe very
strongly is that education which you know that used to be oh kids have to go
to school and it's hard work will become the play the story word would be the places where we are learning and engage
and we'll be reliving moments in history we'll be having conversations with you know virtual versions of famous people
or doing experiments in ways that give us an embodied learning of that
experience I'm a big fan of that old saying from Confucius you know tell me
and I'll forget show me and I remember involve me and I'll understand
um and so I I'm I really believe that you know the the theater will become the
classroom of the future and and kids will engage in their stories in a way
that is best learning you know humanly possible um another thing that I'm I'm a fan of
if I go far out is that uh the kinds of superpowers that
we currently think of as being able to be picked up by our avatars or our uh in
in gameplay um we'll be able to have those in real life we'll be able to have that feeling
of like oh my goodness I've just put on x-ray vision glasses or I now have you
know Echo uh echolocation you know like I can hear like a bat or I can jump like
a like you'll be able to physically experience what it's like to be a
superhero uh vogelman's yeah augmentation in in various ways whether
it's I mean we had we had something in the future storytelling called birdly which was a simple not so simple but
it's it's a device you lay in you put on a VR headset and has a fan in the front right control These Wings and I swear
you felt like you're flying I mean I could spend hours in there I because I had dreamed of flying
um and so we will we will have those kind kinds of experience they'll probably be they'll probably be
sponsored experiences so you'll have like five minutes of flying or five minutes of x-ray vision brought to you
by a chocolate sponsor or some breakfast or something I I literally do dream of
flying actually but you know then I'm a pilot but I dream of flying without an aircraft but uh um Charles just in the
interest of time we gotta wrap this up but I want to just ask you one final question you said you're an optimistic about the
future so looking out 30 to 50 years um you know what are you most optimistic
about I'm optimistic about the fact that um one that storytelling will ultimately
help us create more empathy that it's going to enable us to understand
other people's human experiences and with greater empathy and connection I
believe we will have a more harmonious uh and safer and and happier world so I
think that that's one big positive that's coming I also think again that
stories as I said in the beginning are the way that we've learned about the world we get to safely try on you know
different Lifestyles or different different roles and uh that's going to just accelerate in a crazy way you know
we'll all be able to have a thousand lives we'll be able to play a different a different type of hero or or villain
over and over again and I'm hopeful that that's going to you know again lead to a kind of richer
understanding than um what we have now which I think is very driven by fear we live in a world
that's driven by sort of anxiety and fear and I think that we can get to through these type of Technologies and
enhance these kinds of stories that allow for a more diversity and plurality of stories and Global stories I mean we
also grew up in an age where all the stories we had were basically American you know it was like cultural
imperialism like crazy or a thousandth degree and and I'm just starting to see
the signs that we're getting stories from elsewhere in the world guess what other countries tell stories and they're amazing you know other other people from
different parts of the world have have experiences that are really interesting and valuable to us as Americans duh uh
so like that's starting now to happen I think that might again help avoid us wanting to kill each other so so these
are some of the reasons why I feel there's some cause for um for Hope
though I'm between you guys know better than I do progress is never a straight line and and every every storytelling
tool is just a tool that ultimately can be used for good or for evil and
um and that's why we preach a future storytelling the the importance of using a moral compass we we employ the most
powerful tools in the world really as storytellers and uh and so we need to do
that with a sense of of purpose and contribution that's an optimistic note to wrap up the show Charlie Melcher
thank you so much for joining us this week on the futurist it's been a pleasure to have you here tell us where
we can find out more the people are listening where can they find you on the web thank you yes so um they certainly
can go to our website which is just fost.org um and they're they're and they can also
find our uh podcast wherever you get your podcasts and again it's it's future of Storytelling or fost
um and uh at our website you can find more information about the false Explorers Club and we hope people come
join us and become members so thank you gentlemen this has been such fun I really appreciate being here we've
enjoyed it as well thank you Charlie for joining us this week on the futurists and a big thanks to Kevin Hershman our
engineer and producer Elizabeth severins who's our other producer the team at provoke media my co-host Brett King who
always diligently dials in no matter where he's traveling in the world he's always out there finding more futurists for us to interview thank you Brett for
joining us uh long distance from Koh Samui this week and um we will be back
every week with another episode of the futurist to interview another great thinker someone who's got some vision
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