What’s it like to be a “mindful cyborg”?
It’s not necessarily the question an average person might ask over typical homosapien-style conversation. However, as humanity and technology increasingly intersect in more invasive ways—with computers in our ears and microchips in our eyes—it’s worth asking ourselves: what does innovation mean for all of us?
Next week, Microsoft and Gimlet Media will launch a branded podcast that will ask that very question and others as they explore the more personal part of innovation. The series will feature people like Chris Dancy (the “world’s most connected man”), who collects massive amounts of data about his body, to better understand how technology can help us preserve and protect our own health. It’ll also explore how digital experts around the world are creating a global community to protect digital privacy in the era of the cloud.
The series, “.future,” premieres on Wednesday and will be hosted by science and technology reporter Cristina Quinn. The collaboration with Microsoft Story Labs is the latest in a string of branded series created by Gimlet Creative, a division of Gimlet Media focused on branded content. Dot Future follows other branded podcasts from companies like Tinder (a series about online dating) and Spotify (which sponsored a series about the hip-hop record producer Chris Lighty).
According to Gimlet co-founder and president Matt Lieber, the episodes are about how people struggle with trying to harness technology that already exists while also simultaneously working to shape the future. He said Microsoft has been increasingly interested in exploring the storytelling side of technology.
“When you summarize the show, it actually sounds incredibly banal, which is like ‘technology is shaping our future more than anything else,’ Lieber said. “And yet, once you get underneath the stories of people who are grappling with that, it’s actually super interesting. That’s kind of the idea: the future fills us with opportunity, but also fear.”
One episode features Victoria Bennett, a poet who used the Microsoft-made video game Minecraft to deal with the illness and death of her mother by recreating her house in a pixelated memorial. In the game, she both expressed grief, but also preserved her mother’s house, digital brick by digital brick.
“In my mother’s house are many rooms,” Bennett narrates over a video of the game. “Each one to be closed at the end of the life. Hideaway, hideaway, shut out from sight, close up the curtains, cover the light. This is her leaving, her dreaming goodnight.”
While this is the first tech-focused podcast, it’s not the first time Gimlet has created ads for tech companies. In addition to Microsoft, the podcast startup has created branded audio ads for major tech companies like Apple, eBay and General Electric.
Like other branded podcasts, the episodes at times feature products. However, Lieber said the series is by no means meant to be an ad for Microsoft. And while Microsoft was involved with pitching story ideas, he said Gimlet maintains control of the storytelling.
“Again and again, it’s about compelling characters at the center of them,” he said.