ORIGINAL

Dance, dance evolution

4 minutes

A small antelope horn

2 minutes

EXCLUSIVE

Conor and Kobe

6 minutes

How Big Tech betrayed us

4 minutes

What Gordon Parks saw

7 minutes

Dance seems to be the ultimate frivolity. How did it become a human necessity?

Every culture dances. Moving our bodies to music is ubiquitous throughout human history and across the globe. So why is this ostensibly frivolous act so fundamental to being human? The answer, it seems, is in our need for social cohesion – that vital glue that keeps societies from breaking apart despite interpersonal differences. The French sociologist Émile Durkheim (1858-1917) theorised that ‘collective effervescence’ – moments in which people come together in some form of unifying, excitement-inducing activity – is at the root of what holds groups together. More recently, Bronwyn Tarr, an evolutionary biologist and psychologist at the University of Oxford who is also a dancer, has researched the evolutionary and neurological underpinnings of our innate tendency to bust a move. Drawing on the work of both Durkheim and Tarr, this Aeon Original video explores that unifying feeling of group ‘electricity’ that lifts us up when we’re enthralled by our favourite sports teams, participating in religious rituals, entranced by music – and, yes, dancing the night away.

Directors and Animators: Rosanna Wan, Andrew Khosravani

Producer: Kellen Quinn

Writer: Sam Dresser

Associate producer: Adam D’Arpino

Sound designers: Eli Cohn, Ben Chesneau, Maya Peart

Narrator: Simon Mattacks

Sitting by the fire with a nomadic tribe, a physicist ponders the many shapes of wisdom

The Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli is a pioneer in the field of quantum gravity, and often thought of as one of the world’s foremost scientific thinkers. In this brief animation by James Siewert, which features narration from the Swazi-English actor Richard E Grant, Rovelli recalls communing with members of the Hadza tribe of northern Tanzania – one of the last hunter-gatherer societies on Earth. Sitting by the fire, thoughts of the peculiar trajectory of Homo sapiens and the many shapes of human wisdom flicker in his head, as he ponders the gaps, large and small, between his world and theirs.

Video by rubberband.

Animator: James Siewert

Website: Alexander

Grieving Kobe Bryant, Conor wonders: why do untimely celebrity deaths hit so hard?

‘It’s weird, like – I’m tearing up for someone I didn’t even know…’

Kobe Bryant’s death on 26 January 2020 in a helicopter crash, alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others, was met with public displays of mourning in the hours, weeks and months that followed. One of the most beloved basketball stars from a league with a global fanbase, the tragedy prompted innumerable tributes to the NBA legend, scrawled everywhere from the sidewalks of Los Angeles to the Chinese social media platform Weibo – alongside plenty of discussions and think-pieces about his complicated legacy, on and off the court.

This short documentary from the US filmmaker Derek Knowles is constructed from phone conversations between Knowles, his brother Conor and the siblings’ parents in the wake of Bryant’s death. Conor, the family’s biggest Bryant fan, meets the news with a distinct combination of shock, sadness and confusion over how the death of someone he never truly knew could affect him so powerfully. The result is a poignant and intricate reflection on celebrity, mourning and death, crafted from just a few intimate words between family members.

Director: Derek Knowles

Tech companies shroud their algorithms in secrecy. It’s time to pry open the black box

The so-called father of capitalism, Adam Smith, would frown upon the ‘free markets’ of the 21st century, argues the US economics writer Rana Foroohar. For Smith, a functioning market required transparency, a mutual understanding of exchanges and a shared moral framework. And, as Foroohar puts it in this brief animation for the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), surveillance capitalism – pioneered by Google, and now, to varying degrees, ubiquitous worldwide – comes up short on all three fronts. Featuring excerpts from a presentation given by Foroohar at the RSA House in London in 2019, this brief animation lays out the many ways in which surveillance capitalism continues to encroach unchecked, and one potential plan for course correction.

Video by the RSA

Director and Animator: Thomas Kilburn

Producer: Phoebe Williams

Gordon Parks found a ‘weapon’ against poverty and racism in a secondhand camera

‘I saw that the camera could be a weapon against poverty, against racism, against all sorts of social wrongs. I knew at that point I had to have a camera.’
– Gordon Parks (1912-2006)

Born into poverty and segregation in Fort Scott, Kansas, Gordon Parks was 25 when he arrived in Seattle, Washington with only a few dollars in his pocket. There, drawn to photography’s power to expose inequality and injustice, he headed to a pawn shop and bought a secondhand camera and some rolls of film. In the years that followed, he would receive countless honours for his work documenting American life – in addition to a multitude of pioneering accomplishments in writing, publishing, painting, composing and film directing.

This video from Evan Puschak (also known as the Nerdwriter) focuses on a 1948 photoessay by Parks published in Life magazine that captured the life of a young, Black gang leader in Harlem. Showcasing and contextualising the images, Puschak explores how Parks’s intimate and confronting style forces many Americans to acknowledge the struggle, poverty and dignity that, for the powerful, often existed out of sight and out of mind.

Video by The Nerdwriter

Dance seems to be the ultimate frivolity. How did it become a human necessity?

Every culture dances. Moving our bodies to music is ubiquitous throughout human history and across the globe. So why is this ostensibly frivolous act so fundamental to being human? The answer, it seems, is in our need for social cohesion – that vital glue that keeps societies from breaking apart despite interpersonal differences. The French sociologist Émile Durkheim (1858-1917) theorised that ‘collective effervescence’ – moments in which people come together in some form of unifying, excitement-inducing activity – is at the root of what holds groups together. More recently, Bronwyn Tarr, an evolutionary biologist and psychologist at the University of Oxford who is also a dancer, has researched the evolutionary and neurological underpinnings of our innate tendency to bust a move. Drawing on the work of both Durkheim and Tarr, this Aeon Original video explores that unifying feeling of group ‘electricity’ that lifts us up when we’re enthralled by our favourite sports teams, participating in religious rituals, entranced by music – and, yes, dancing the night away.

Directors and Animators: Rosanna Wan, Andrew Khosravani

Producer: Kellen Quinn

Writer: Sam Dresser

Associate producer: Adam D’Arpino

Sound designers: Eli Cohn, Ben Chesneau, Maya Peart

Narrator: Simon Mattacks

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A monument to the glories of Soviet-era military aviation. Tiraspol, Transdniester, 2004. Photo by Jonas Bendikson/Magnum

Essay/
Future of technology
How vulnerable is the world?

Sooner or later a technology capable of wiping out human civilisation might be invented. How far would we go to stop it?

Nick Bostrom & Matthew van der Merwe