Experience Spotlight: Dr. James Canton & Time Travelers

Having had the great pleasure of knowing Dr. James Canton and discussing the future with him, we began to think of a greater way the platform of Second Life could be utilized for the kind of futuristic view he has been a part of for years. He has generously agreed to give his thoughts and feedback on what the series he is executive producing and writing, Time Travelers, means in the context of virtual world television.

Please introduce yourself, including how long you have been executive producing the series, Time Travelers.

I am Chief Futurist and CEO Institute for Global Futures. I run a leading think tank that forecasts future trends, and I write books about the future. I have been an executive producer and screenwriter on the Time Traveler series from the beginning. This was my concept that I developed seven years ago with Pooky Amsterdam.

What is Time Travelers about? How is it relevant for today?

In my last book The Extreme Future, I started thinking about how fast innovations in science and technology were changing society in fundamental ways. I was looking for a media production using the public forum, the creative commons of the Web, to explore the arc of this narrative in a way that would reach young people, with the goal of sparking curiosity and exploration of new tech. I developed a traveling show on the future for high schools called Future Lab through which we originally previewed the Time Travelers series to learn what kids thought about it. They were mesmerized and we delighted in their appreciation.

How does the outworld audience react to the series?

What I get is the immense satisfaction that we are exploring a new medium and working with our creative team and Russell Boyd our director. Our lead sponsor SLFC also gets the satisfaction of supporting this show.

What are any interesting experiences you have had executive producing the series?

I think the scriptwriting where I struggle with the producer and director to drive the story that will be both actionable, worthy of an audience’s surprise and at the same time share the disruptive science that is transforming our world that most folks don’t realize. Quantum physics, nanotech, robots, time travel — these are all the themes we explore, wrapped around a story based on three kids attempting to save the future. We have created a new narrative that looks far into the future.


What insights on producing television in a virtual world can you share?

Producing media in a virtual world, especially animation, is very challenging as we are both limited and enabled by the very nature of digital worlds. This is an evolving art form for telling stories, though the speed, agility and human emotion is difficult to convey given the state of the art animation we are using.

What made you want to produce Time Travelers to begin with?

This was a experiment in my ideas about the extreme future of science and our creative production team on the use of animation to tell a compelling story. As a futurist I am committed to getting people to think about the future, the future they will inhabit. Too few realize the awesome role that they have in understanding, even shaping the future, especially when it comes to artificial intelligence, the rise of intelligent machines and even the emergence of quantum weird phenomena that we use in the series, such as baby universes. We are breaking new ground in media by attempting to do so much in an action-adventure genre that relies on how future science will shape the future over the next 20-100 years.

What about the production in a virtual world makes Time Travelers remarkable?

We have been unafraid of using concepts that science is just trying to understand about time travel and the nature of our universe. This is remarkable because our characters are not commercial or in synch with modern science, we are looking into the future of science which gives us freedom to explore without limits. That is remarkable.

We use the Second Life platform that enables us to do CGI-like animation that looks quite incredible. Our producer, Pooky, and our team really make that magic work and attempt to deliver on the script. We spend a lot of time working on images, concepts, art, and everything a mainstream, animated production demands.

Any other thoughts on using virtual worlds for entertainment and television series?

I think that virtual environments must get smarter, faster and cheaper to provide to media makers new tools to tell stories. We need to move into artificial smart worlds where avatars can enable productions to get made faster and more cost-effectively so that more productions get made that don’t rely on high-end effects and expensive equipment. Virtual environments are the future of media making. But we need to see faster innovation, so 4K virtual worlds that require a Mac and a cloud computing platform would produce more innovation.


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