Funding Canceled Funding for this project was canceled by the project creator on May 27, 2012.
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A collaborative conversation about the future between some of America's greatest thinkers and you.

What do Pythagoras, Thomas Jefferson, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton have in common?  The Conversation.

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At countless historical moments, powerful minds have come together to fundamentally rethink their worlds.  Confronting the problems of their eras, they have torn apart inherited ideas of morality, science, government, and nature.  They have dethroned truths, combined old thoughts, and created new ideas that become the truths of subsequent generations.  People having conversations ask: “how do we get there?”  People having The Conversation ask: “where are we going and why?”

There is no historical precedent for many of the issues we face today.  Scientific advancement has opened up a multitude of new ethical questions, from the genetic modification of food to the use of robots in war.  Details of our lives are being aggregated and sorted, forcing new questions about privacy and civil liberties.  The world’s population is supported by a frail infrastructure that could buckle under the strain of an economic crisis, widespread social unrest, or environmental changes.

The scale and pace of change can feel overwhelming and uncontrolled.  In America, a sense of disquiet may be the only common denominator in a sharply divided populace.  This alarm is well founded—we can sense that our greatest threats come from within, yet we fight bitterly over details of the status quo rather than asking hard questions about the logic that brought us here.  We need to look beyond the present and ask what kind of future we want.  We need The Conversation.

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The Conversation will be a new type of media project.  It's not journalism, documentary, or oral history.  Instead, it is an asynchronous conversation about the future between a cross-section of American thinkers and you, our participants on the web.  Aengus is going to be traveling America from May to October, posting two audio interviews a week and carrying ideas from one interviewee to the next.  As Aengus travels, you will be able to join the conversation online, commenting on specific interviews and suggesting themes and questions for Aengus to pursue in upcoming interviews.  Want to hear more about community?  Media?  The ethical assumptions of different interviewees?  Micah will be helming the website and you can let him know.  You can also suggest potential interviewees and, if they are available and Aengus has time, we will try to bring their voices into the project.  We want The Conversation be an inclusive, living project--nobody has a monopoly on dreaming about the future.

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Who we are:

Aengus Anderson is a radio producer with seven years of experience in both public and commercial radio.  His independent work has appeared on NPR, numerous public radio stations, High Country News, and has been featured by the Third Coast International Audio Festival and written about in The New York Times.  He has motorcycled around North America twice, interviewing over four hundred Americans, Canadians, and Mexicans for long-format radio series that loosely explore ideas of how people think about the present and the past. He is a sub-par motorcycle mechanic.

Micah Saul is an Ontologist at Google, which means he spends a lot of time thinking about how to define categories and structure massive quantities of data.  He has worked in the tech industry for over ten years for companies like Metaweb and Electronic Arts. When Micah isn't squandering his free time on The Conversation, you can find him playing music with The Sad Bastard Book Club. As far as Aengus can tell, Micah has read most books.

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    CONTRIBUTOR You're awesome! Now, it's time to get to work. The Conversation can't work without your help, so consider this your invite to join in at the website.

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    ENTRY LEVEL SCHWAG Show off your support of conversation and The Conversation with a fancy sticker to put on your laptop or car or motorcycle or segway or forehead. There might be some other digital surprises as well. Now get to the website and start talking.

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    INTERIOR DECORATOR One of the end results of this project is going to be a really cool map of the thinkers and doers we're interviewing and how they relate to each other, their ideas, works, etc. At this tier, you'll get a poster of this map to put up where you see fit + the ENTRY LEVEL SCHWAG rewards.

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    PERSONAL CORRESPONDENCE You know what's awesome? Postcards. Why don't people send postcards anymore? Well, at this reward level, Aengus will send you a personalized postcard from somewhere along the road. Who knows, maybe one of our interviewees will write something, too. Plus, you get the ENTRY LEVEL SCHWAG rewards.

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    NO FUTURE WITHOUT THE PAST This isn't the first time Aengus has done something like this. In 2010, he traveled the country asking ordinary people about their hardest decisions. In the belief that any talk of the future is inherently linked to the present and the past, we're offering a hard copy version of the results of that project to you here. Plus, you get the ENTRY LEVEL SCHWAG rewards.

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    INTERIOR DECORATOR, PART 2 Aengus is also quite the photographer. At this level, we'll send you a framed, archival-quality print of one of his best pictures from this trip. Plus, you get the ENTRY LEVEL SCHWAG rewards.

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    THE READER As we've been doing research on this project, we've been doing a LOT of reading. Many of our interviewees are prolific authors and we're developing quite a pile of their books. We'd love to share the wealth, so to speak, and pass some of these books on to you. Sometime after the project finishes up, we'll box up a book or two and send them off to you to read and maybe pass on when you're done. Plus, you get the ENTRY LEVEL SCHWAG rewards.

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    WEAR YOUR SUPPORT AND PARTY I like T-Shirts. Who doesn't like T-Shirts? At this level, we'll send you a T-Shirt for the 2012 US Tour of The Conversation. And you know the best time to wear T-Shirts? At parties. If you happen to be in the SF Bay Area, Tucson, or NYC towards the end of this year, we'll send you an invite to one of three wrap parties for the project where we'll hang out, have a couple drinks, and chat about what an awesome time this whole thing has been. Plus, you get the ENTRY LEVEL SCHWAG rewards.

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    LISTEN TO ME In addition to our main interviewees, Aengus will also be doing man on the street style interviews involving the general public's visions of the future. Do you have something incredibly important to say? Perfect, because at this level, if you are on his route, Aengus will stop and interview YOU. Plus, you get the ENTRY LEVEL SCHWAG rewards.

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    THE iREWARD During The Decisions Project, Aengus performed an experiment. Could he get by with just an iPad as his sole computing device. Turns out, he could. But with this project, he realized he'd need something a bit more substantial to do audio editing on. And so, the poor first gen iPad is sitting around unused. Help save it by donating at this level and we'll send you the actual iPad used while making the Decisions Project. Fancy, right? Plus, you get the ENTRY LEVEL SCHWAG rewards.

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    LISTEN TO HIM So, we know we're going to miss people. We know that we somehow forgot the one person that you think it's absolutely imperative that we talk to. We accept that, because this is in many ways a project in curation. But, if there's someone that you think we are just blindingly idiotic for missing, here's your chance to fix it. Tell us who we need to talk to and we'll add them to the list. Plus, you get the ENTRY LEVEL SCHWAG rewards.

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    ONE OF EACH PLEASE So, you love the idea that much, huh? That's awesome. Please accept everything from LISTEN TO ME and below. In total: Get interviewed in one of the man on the street segments; a T-Shirt; an invite to the wrap parties; one or two of our books; a framed photo; a physical copy of The Decisions Project; a postcard from the road; an awesome poster; a sticker; other digital surprises as we come up with them; and, as with all rewards, the request that you come to the website and take part in The Conversation.

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Funding period

- (30 days)