Support Aeon

‘I support Aeon because I support the spreading of wisdom.’

Tanner F, USA, Friend of Aeon

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview.
But we can’t do it without you.

Make a donation

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview. Our mission is to create a sanctuary online for serious thinking.

No ads, no paywall, no clickbait – just thought-provoking ideas from the world’s leading thinkers, free to all. But we can’t do it without you.

Make a donation

Conectifai

11 minutes

Earthrise

30 minutes

The power of expectations

3 minutes

Primitive technology: round hut

11 minutes

Baby brother

14 minutes

Frustrations, flirtations and family reunions – the first days of public wifi in Cuba

In 2016, many Cubans were able to access the internet for the first time when ETECSA, Cuba’s sole telecommunications provider, installed wifi routers in 18 public parks across the country. In Conectifai, the Cuban director Zoe Garcia captures the action at one such public hotspot in Havana, where people learn how to use the technology, struggle to secure bandwidth, and then connect to loved ones around the world. Using interviews, observational footage and the screens of various smartphones, Garcia absorbs us in intimate conversations between old friends and family – and in some cases new love interests. As the park expands from a place for local recreation into a venue for international, if virtual, meet-ups and reunions, other changes emerge – chairs are set up in places with a better signal, electric cords are stretched across pathways, and ‘pork cracklings with wifi’ become available. Developed through a partnership between the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program, the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema and Cuba’s International School of Film and Television (EICTV), Conectifai offers a very particular angle on Cuba’s rapidly changing culture and economy, a major shift that’s marked by the novelty of an act that is now quotidian for an ever-growing number of people around the world.

Director: Zoe Garcia

Producer: Sheyla Pool

Website: The Guardian

How an unplanned picture from Apollo 8 altered humanity’s perspective of Earth

‘What they should have sent was poets…’

Launched in December 1968, Apollo 8 was the first manned flight to reach the Moon, orbit it and return to Earth. The primary goal of the mission was to prepare for an eventual lunar landing, however, the flight is now best remembered for the unparalleled glimpses of Earth it provided and, in particular, the iconic photograph taken from lunar orbit that became known as ‘Earthrise’. Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Apollo 8, this documentary from the US director Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee features interviews with the crew members Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders, who took the famed picture. While reflecting on the life-changing experience of being the first people to view the Earth from outside of its orbit in the ‘inky black void’ of space, they detail how the unplanned photograph became their mission’s most lasting legacy, and gave them a newfound appreciation of their home planet.

Director: Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee

Producer: Adam Loften

Websites: Earthrise, Go Project Films

Want to make a lab rat smarter? Treat it like a smarter lab rat

It’s perhaps not startling to learn that the expectations of others have a significant impact on us. Over the past century, however, scientists have been surprised to observe just how forcefully expectations can nudge the abilities of people – and rats – in one direction or another. Featuring audio excerpts from NPR’s Invisibilia podcast, this animation draws on the work of the US psychologists Robert Rosenthal and Carol Dweck to briefly delve into how expectations can raise or lower student performance, speed up or slow down soldiers, and make maze-solving lab rats smarter or dumber.

Director and Animator: Francesca Cattaneo

Website: Invisibilia

Learn to build your own rainproof hut – or, at least, marvel at the man who knows how

The popular Primitive Technology YouTube channel features an anonymous man in Far North Queensland in Australia fashioning tools and structures using only naturally occurring, found materials. In this installment, following the deterioration of his A-frame hut, he builds what he hopes will be a more durable round hut from the ground up. Starting with wood posts tied together with cane, the man makes the structure water-resistant by adding a palm roof, a drainage trench, and walls built from a combination of mud and cane. In the process, he also almost manages to make his remarkable ingenuity look easy. To learn more about the step-by-step process while watching, turn on closed captions in the video player. 

‘I thought I was gonna be a teenager forever’: moving back in with the parents at 23

In his short documentary Baby Brother, the US filmmaker Kamau Bilal offers a bit of vérité filmmaking at its most refreshing, transforming the mundanity of his younger brother’s return to their parents’ Missouri home into a funny and poignant exploration of the weirdness of young adulthood. Ismaeel is 23 and affable, if somewhat hapless, but the intimacy of his brother’s filmmaking – and presumably his affection for Ismaeel – makes the treatment of the young man’s charms, flaws and idiosyncrasies gently revelatory. His stifled ambitions and uneasiness about the trappings and responsibilities of adulthood echo a distinctly millennial malaise, at the same time as being deeply rooted in his personal experience. This heartfelt and charming short was a favourite on the 2018 film festival circuit, screening at the Sundance Film Festival, True/False and Sheffield Doc/Fest, among many others. 

Director: Kamau Bilal

Frustrations, flirtations and family reunions – the first days of public wifi in Cuba

In 2016, many Cubans were able to access the internet for the first time when ETECSA, Cuba’s sole telecommunications provider, installed wifi routers in 18 public parks across the country. In Conectifai, the Cuban director Zoe Garcia captures the action at one such public hotspot in Havana, where people learn how to use the technology, struggle to secure bandwidth, and then connect to loved ones around the world. Using interviews, observational footage and the screens of various smartphones, Garcia absorbs us in intimate conversations between old friends and family – and in some cases new love interests. As the park expands from a place for local recreation into a venue for international, if virtual, meet-ups and reunions, other changes emerge – chairs are set up in places with a better signal, electric cords are stretched across pathways, and ‘pork cracklings with wifi’ become available. Developed through a partnership between the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program, the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema and Cuba’s International School of Film and Television (EICTV), Conectifai offers a very particular angle on Cuba’s rapidly changing culture and economy, a major shift that’s marked by the novelty of an act that is now quotidian for an ever-growing number of people around the world.

Director: Zoe Garcia

Producer: Sheyla Pool

Website: The Guardian

Get Aeon straight
to your inbox
Join our newsletter
Aeon is not-for-profit
and free for everyone
Make a donation
Essay/
Technology & the Self
Who pushes the button?

From elevators to iPhones, the rise of pushbuttons has provoked a century of worries about losing the human touch

Rachel Plotnick

Essay/
Making
Material intelligence

The chasm between producers and consumers leaves many of us estranged from beauty and a vital part of an ethical life

Glenn Adamson