This article originally appeared as First Look content, as a member benefit to SU Global Community members, inside the SU Global Community here.
Being a member of the SU Global Community means that you have a first look at the the tools and resources that SU is creating to tell YOUR story, deepen your learning and further your mission. In the coming days and weeks, I’m thrilled to share more with you about IdeaFront — a new way to see the future unfolding– that the team has been working on for the last six months.
In Part 1 of The Making of IdeaFront, I got to chat with James Del and Benjamin Bode, Head of Media and Head of Video at SU, respectively, to ask them what exactly is IdeaFront? Tomorrow, in Part 2, we’ll dig into the challenges the team faced while building a new product during a pandemic and the impact James and Ben hope IdeaFront will have on the world.
Q: What is IdeaFront?
James Del: IdeaFront is a new subscription video platform from the creators of Futurism.com, and Singularity University that will hopefully inspire a brighter future through the ideas and initiatives we feature in short and long form video formats. With over an hour of new content going live every week (and much more in the future), we see IdeaFront as a place to spark new thinking about tomorrow, provide unique perspectives from all over the world, and celebrate the positive impact that science and technology can have when applied to some of the biggest human challenges of our lifetimes.
Benjamin Bode: IdeaFront is a place to find inspiration about the future that you can use today.
Q: Where did the name IdeaFront come from?
JD: How we prepare for the future is shaped by how we think about the future, and all good thinking typically starts with an idea.
We wanted to create a place on the internet that isn’t burdened by the need for clickbaity headlines, sensationalist rhetoric, or loaded with annoying ads, but is instead focused on simply sharing mind-blowing ideas at the forefront of science, technology, and impact. Hence: IdeaFront.
BB: The name came from a creative brainstorm, but it stuck because it captured what we want IdeaFront to be: the bleeding edge of thinking, conversation, and action about the future. Bear with me: perhaps the single most defining characteristic that makes us human is our ability to abstract beyond the raw information coming into our brain to form the illusion of consciousness. The abstraction comes from putting together that raw information to visualize—abstract—another time and place that is hopefully reasonably attainable and better for us to actually get to.
“Idea” is obvious enough, but why “Front”?
A front is an edge, it’s the place where things are happening. A front is a front because it has this special gravitational pull that pulls in those who want to be where the action is.
It may be physical like a fire, or a storm. It may be a human space like academia, an Internet forum, or a corner in your neighborhood where you have your most challenging conversations. But it’s the place where things are happening, and it’s a place where you can grow.
Q: Let’s talk about you both for a minute. What are your roles when it comes to bringing IdeaFront to life?
JD: I always shy away from talking about myself, so I’ll keep it brief. My job is to make sure everyone else on the team has what they need to bring this thing to life, whether it’s budgeting, problem solving, procurement, creative development, or business operations. I might sit at the top of the masthead of this thing, but it’d be impossible without the work of so many people, especially my partners in Bri and Ben. They’re the ones really building this thing, I’m just creating a lane for them to do what they do best.
BB: My job is to give our storytellers what they need to tell great stories. The process usually begins with some guttural spark of an idea that feels warm and exciting. Our challenge then becomes to hold onto that spark for the duration of a long, difficult, and technical process that is video making today. That process involves many conversations, cross-continental scheduling, use of amazing technology, and a lot of teamwork. And after a few weeks, if it all goes well, we have converted that spark into a video, and we can finally share it with you.
Q: What problem/need does IdeaFront aim to solve?
JD: Let’s be honest: The future can be scary. Why? Because it’s not that easy to understand. Science and technology are littered with jargony, bleeding edge, incremental advancements that are hard to contextualize or understand unless you live in this world (which I’m sure many of you in this community do, and yet I’m sure it’s still difficult to keep up with everything that’s happening). IF will be a place for both experts and novices to take a step back, consider the big idea of what all this science and technology can do to make the world a better place, and provide tangible examples of how these advancements are going to be applied to our society. And frankly, it’s nice to turn off the rancor and vitriol found in most media environments these days and focus on something positive that we can work towards, support, and celebrate.
There is amazing work happening in all corners of the globe that will create a better version of the future than the one we may currently want to imagine…it’s our goal to focus on those kinds of stories, and it’s our hope that you’ll focus on those stories with us.
BB: It’s great to have a vision. Every tech company worth its salt has a vision. But usually, visions amount to what a colleague of mine calls, “Silicon Valley euphemistic bullshit.” He’s not wrong. Unpack a typical vision, and too often you reveal a sleight of hand—a smoke screen—to obscure the workings of a more nefarious objective. Facebook wants to “make the world a more open and connected place.” Sure it does. And those billions of advertising dollars are an accident.
The problem with vision ultimately comes down to a practical level. If a company’s vision is to “improve humanity,” but your product “decreases friction between enterprise clients and consumers,” then you just may not be capable of fulfilling your vision.
Video has an unfair advantage in creating a vision. It is the very nature of what we do, both literally and in the more abstract Vision sort of way. We realize this. Then, when you match this with a group of folks who care a lot about the future, our imperative becomes to create a vision of the future that we ourselves will be proud to step into.