Tiffany Shlain, filmmaker and Internet pioneer, premiered her new short film and TED book, Brain Power: From Neurons to Networks, last night at NightLife at the Academy in San Francisco.
The book is available here, and the film is available to view below.
The film explores the parallels between the development of a child’s brain and the development of the global brain of the Internet, exploring questions such as: What can new research about how to best nurture children’s brains teach us about how to best develop the global brain of the Internet? Can the lessons learned in observing the former, affect how we nurture the growth of the latter? And what can we do, every day, to strengthen both? Created through a new global participatory filmmaking process that Shlain and her team at The Moxie Institute call Cloud Filmmaking, Brain Power explores connections: between neurons, networks, and people around the world.
The accompanying TED Book (part of a new eBook series published by TED Books) expands on the ideas in the film by following the lines of the script and sharing deeper research, videos, graphics, and links. The TED Book will is available through the TED Books app, on the Kindle, Nook and iPad. This release marks the first time a film and TED Book are released together.
“We’re very excited to share insights on how to best nurture children’s brains and the global brain of the Internet, in both the film and then in more depth in the TED Book,” said Director and Webby Awards Founder Tiffany Shlain. “The TED Book truly feels like the future of books — putting the film into context with research links and video embedded into the manuscript. We love that The California Academy of Science is hosting this launch. A perfect setting for the mash-up of art and science.”
“The idea for Brain Power arose while I traveled to screen my feature documentary Connected,” continued Shlain. “I kept being asked the same question – What is all this technology doing to our brains? Around the same time, a mentor began to share research on child brain development with me. I quickly discovered that language neuroscientists used (connections, links, overstimulation) and the strategies early childhood development specialists used to describe brain development in the early years of life are similar to the way we should be talking about the growth of the Internet, and the mindful use of technology.”
“We’ve known for a long time that interactions during the first five years of life are critical to brain development, but a new machine at the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning and Brain Science (I-LABS), called MEG (a powerful brain imaging machine retrofitted specially for infants), now gives us the ability to see in real-time how connections are triggered and grow through every interaction a young child has,” said Sawyer Steele, Brain Power film producer and co-writer. “This new technology shows us so clearly how important a child’s environment and interactions are during these early years when the brain is most malleable.”
“The same can be said about the growth of the Internet,” said Shlain. “Compared with the human life cycle, the Internet is also in its metaphoric first five years when it is most malleable. Just like every interaction creates new connections in a child’s brain, every email, tweet, search, or post is creating and strengthening connections in our global brain, literally changing the shape of the Internet that we, as billions of people all over the world, are developing together. And just as it’s key for all the different parts of a child’s brain to be connected to set the stage for the most insightful and creative thoughts, it’s key that all the different parts of the world are connected — to lay the foundation for worldwide empathy, innovation and human expression. The film and the book really explore these parallels, and offer insights into how we can best shape both.”
The advisory council for this project included Internet co-founder Vint Cerf, and best-selling book authors who write about the potential of the web, Howard Rheingold and Steven Berlin Johnson. The writing team – Tiffany Shlain, Moxie Institute Writer/Producer Sawyer Steele, and UC Berkeley Robotics Professor Ken Goldberg – based their research on early childhood brain development on the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University and The Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences (I-LABS) at the University of Washington.
“This TED book is really is a tour de force!” said Neuroscientist, Dr. Patricia Kuhl, co-director, University of Washington Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences. “It is simply terrific, as thought-provoking as anything I’ve read. The child’s mind and the Internet as connectomes that we help to grow is very seductive. It’s fantastic, and fun to read.”
More information on Shlain’s Let it Ripple project can be found here.
Honored by Newsweek as one of the “Women Shaping the 21st Century,” Tiffany Shlain is a filmmaker, artist, director of the Moxie Institute, founder of The Webby Awards, co-founder of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences and creator of the Let it Ripple: Mobile Films for Global Change short film series. Her films and work have received over 50 awards including a Disruptive Innovation Award from the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. Her last four films premiered at Sundance including her feature documentary and Paste favorite Connected: An Autoblogography about Love, Death & Technology, which The New York Times described as “examining everything from the Big Bang to twitter.” Connected had a theatrical release last fall and The US State Department recently selected it as one of the films to represent America in the 2012 American Film Showcase.