October 6, 2012

Crowdsourcing the Meaning of Life. ~ Marc Erlbaum


Humanity has been searching for the meaning of life from the beginning of time.

It could be argued that today, with global terrorism, ecological disasters, civil unrest and economic meltdowns life is more perplexing than ever before.

If we don’t find answers to the big questions now, there may soon be no life left to interpret.

Simultaneously, life today offers far more opportunity than at any point in history. Our current ability to communicate, collaborate and innovate is unprecedented. Revolutionary technological discoveries are leading to ever more frequent breakthroughs in medicine, agriculture and telecommunications.

Viral videos show deaf people hearing for the first time, children in remote African villages turning on their first electric light and tribesmen in the Amazon speaking on their smart phones.

On the brink of the abyss, we are poised to resolve the conundrums that have perennially perplexed us.

It is only through collaboration that we will be able to do so. The intricate interconnectedness of the global web we have spun provides us the mechanism for this type of cooperation across any and all borders.

With these exciting new tools at our disposal, the question is only whether we have the will to use them for the sake of the common good. The recent discovery of the god particle provides an encouraging nod to the affirmative. Over 1,000 scientists from around the world worked together to achieve this groundbreaking discovery at CERN in Switzerland.

On a less institutional level, there are countless examples of individuals around the world coming together online to join in a common purpose. One of the most iconic of these is composer Eric Whitacre’s virtual choir in which he invited singers from a dozen countries to submit video of themselves singing one of his compositions.

He then edited over 200 of the submissions to create a breathtaking global piece of art. More recently, a crowdfunding campaign on the site Indiegogo has raised a remarkable $700,000 for a woman who was verbally abused by the school kids that she monitored on the bus.
Crowdfunding is a remarkable development in what is being touted as the new gift economy. People are contributing to creative and/or cause based campaigns for no financial gain, but simply because they are moved to help and they are anxious to participate in a shared experience.

As a filmmaker, it is fascinating and thrilling to watch this new model emerge. Having produced several traditionally funded feature films, I recently teamed up with a group of content creators to test the new waters of global collaboration.

We launched a “Meaning of Life” crowdfunding campaign in which we set out to raise the funds to crowdsource life’s biggest question through an ongoing collection of short films that deal with the themes of meaning and purpose from a diverse array of perspectives.

With the help of hundreds of participants our campaign was a great success. We raised $150,000, the largest fixed funding campaign to date on Indiegogo and we are truly inspired by the generosity of strangers who have joined with us in a spirit of communal purpose and optimism.

Now, with part of the proceeds, we are hitting the road to film, and in the crowd sourcing spirit, we are inviting the audience to tell us where to set our GPS and point our cameras. We’re using social media and traditional press outlets to invite the public to submit ideas of people, places, organizations, and events throughout the U.S. and Canada that contribute to the mosaic we are creating of meaning and purpose in life.

We’ll pick 10 stories and set out around the continent to shoot them in November.

With the help of the crowd we believe we will create something truly profound, and we want to know where you think we should go to find the meaning of life.

Do you know someone who is doing something incredibly inspiring?

Is there a place you have been which is profoundly meaningful?

An organization whose work is changing lives?

Send us your ideas, and if selected, we’ll invite you to help coordinate and credit you as an Associate Producer.

It is our firm belief that humanity is on the verge of uncovering answers that have eluded us for millenia.

The global chorus of voices will create a sound of unprecedented beauty and profundity, and the pleasure of common experience will engender further desire for collaboration.

As media creators and seekers, we are encouraged by the current trends and thrilled to be living and working at this exciting time. “Crowdsourcing the Meaning of Life” enables us to take advantage of the best that the modern age has to offer in order to explore that which is universal and essential.


Marc Erlbaum is a writer, director, and producer based in Philadelphia. His films include “Everything Must Go” starring Will Ferrell and “Café” starring Jennifer Love Hewitt. Story ideas can be emailed or posted. Samples of the videos the Life Means What team have created can be viewed at www.lifemeanswhat.com.



Editor: Olga Feingold


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