Future Impossible, A Video Series
This collection of short films highlights the brilliant minds who created the invisible nervous system of our society, a fantastic intelligent network of wires and cables undergirding and infiltrating every aspect of modern life. The most stunning technological achievement of our time is the network — the incredibly sophisticated boxes and the endless miles of cable and wire that connect them, and the millions of radios that wirelessly animate our digital lives. In this series, we meet the Nobel Laureates, inventors and geeks at the legendary Bell Labs that look at the limitations of known physics and think, “We can do better.”
The Shannon Limit
Meet the Einstein of the digital information age and today’s researchers inspired by his genius.
In 1948, Claude Shannon discovered that all communication channels have a fundamental limit in the capacity they can transmit. This law – later known as the Shannon Limit – radically changed the trajectory of communication theory. Researchers have spent decades trying to achieve, then go beyond, this limit.
This is the story of a eureka moment. The best minds from different fields coming together to test the limits of Shannon’s theory for optical transmission, and in so doing, bringing this visionary into the present to define the future again.
The Many Lives of Copper
In the rush to find the next generation of optical communications, we moved away from that old standby, copper cabling. But we already have miles and miles of the stuff under our feet and over our heads. What if instead of laying down new optical fiber cable everywhere, we could figure out a way to breathe new life into copper?
This is the puzzle that Bell Labs’ engineers solve in this short film. A team of researchers save copper from the scrapheap using a machine called H.O.P.E. and improve data speeds by a million-fold since the first dial-up modem, effectively turning copper into communications gold.
The Story of Light
Alexander Graham Bell harnesses the power of a “sunbeam,” and his descendants follow in his footsteps.
When Bell discovered that sound could be carried by light, he never could have imagined the millions of written text and audio and video communications that would one day be transmitted around the world every second on a single strand of fiber with the dimensions of a human hair.
We follow the journey of a single text message zipping around the globe at the speed of light, then meet the researchers that have taken up Bell’s charge. These innovators dare to uncover new ways to move light around the world with ever increasing sophistication and speed across a massive network of optic cables.
The Network of You
Soon every human will be connected to every other human on the planet by a wireless network. We’ve become nodes in the global communications network. But what happens when we connect everything, from driverless cars to smart homes, to the wireless network?
Soon the stuff of modern life will all be part of the network, and it will unlock infinite opportunities for new ways of talking, making and being. The network will be our sixth sense, connecting us to our digital lives. In this film, we ponder that existence and how it is enabled by inventions and technologies developed over the past 30 years, and the innovations that still lie ahead of us.