Small World

Small World is Osomocene's second video. It's a 10 minute short film produced for the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED). It shows two friends, Carlos and Dirk, discussing their own lives and life in the universe. Choice quote: "I want Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow's children to rock out too". The video is available on Vimeo and YouTube. Here it is:

Research Themes In The Video

Several research themes are found in Small World. The biggest is the concept of space-time discounting. Discounting essentially means valuing something differently that exists at a different point in space and/or time. We discount many things for many reasons. For example, we might say that a dollar is worth more today than in the future, because future people will be wealthier and won't need the dollar as much. Similarly, a dollar might be worth more in a poor country than in a rich country. Small World shows a different reason for discounting: how much we care about each other. Carlos says we should care about everyone, everywhere, even including aliens. Dirk disagrees, saying he only cares about himself and the people near him. How will this conflict be resolved? Watch the video to find out!

Another theme in Small World is astrobiology, which is the study of life in the unvierse. In Small World, Carlos and Dirk ponder life in the universe. They wonder if there is any life beyond Earth, and what any aliens might be like. Astrobiologists have been looking for alien life for decades, but so far they haven't found any. Even if we never find aliens, the search for them is still valuable for humanity. A big reason is that studying life in outer space puts us in better touch with "inner space": our own lives here on Earth. In other words, by imagining life elsewhere in the universe, we get a better appreciation for our own lives right here. And you don't have to be a professional astrobiologist to do this! Just ask yourself, what do you think aliens would be like?

A final theme in Small World is global catastrophic risk, which is the risk of catastrophes that could destroy human civilization. In Small World, Carlos is worried that a global catastrophe could occur and destroy everyone, everywhere, forever. He mentions nuclear war, pandemics, and climate change as possible global catastrophes. But Dirk discounts everyone else's lives, so he doesn't care about global catastrophic risk. Researchers have shown that if humanity can avoid global catastrophe, then we may be able to do big, awesome things not just on Earth, but across the universe. That's really important!

Want to learn more? Here are some further readings. The space-time discounting research comes from Seth Baum's PhD dissertation. For more on astrobiology, check out the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science. The question of how much we should care about the aliens is explored in the paper Universalist ethics in extraterrestrial encounter. For more on global catastrophic risk, check out the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute. Discounting, astrobiology, and global catastrophic risk are all explored together in the paper Is humanity doomed? Insights from astrobiology.

About The Video

Small World was produced as an outreach video for Penn State and Columbia Universities' research under the CRED grant, National Science Foundation grant SES-0951516. Small World explores a new outreach video format featuring fictional narrative. Professional actors carry out a story in which the research ideas emerge indirectly. This is an alternative to the usual outreach video showing researchers talking to the camera about their research. We believe fictional narrative has greater potential for popular appeal and resonance.

Cast & Crew

Nick Smerkanich played the role of Dirk. Nick is a writer and actor, and a company member of the Theater Reconstruction Ensemble in New York. He is a graduate of the Experimental Theatre Wing, NYU BFA.

Daniel Ojeda played the role of Carlos. Daniel is an actor from Asuncion, Paraguay. He studied theater at the Raul Julia Training Unit and performs classic Spanish plays at Repertorio Espanol.

Ines Garcia co-wrote Small World and directed the video. Ines is Co-Founder of Osomocene Productions. Her full bio is available here.

Casey Killoran served as the Director of Photography. She is a current student at the NYU Tisch Grad Acting Program.

Joe Pfeil served as the Production Sound Mixer. Joe Pfeil is an audio engineer for film, TV and video games. He received an associates degree in Recording Arts and a bachelors degree in Entertainment Business from Full Sail University.

Gabriel Lawrence served as the Lead Editor. Gabriel is the production coordinator for Spire Films, a Brooklyn production company specializing in movie trailers and documentaries. He is a recent graduate of the UC San Diego MFA acting program.

Zach Martens served as the Assistant Editor.

Seth Baum co-wrote Small World and served as the peon errand boy during filming. Seth is Co-Founder of Osomocene Productions. His full bio is available here.


Small World
October 2013 Our second video, Small World, is now online. Its world premier was at the Columbia University Center for Research on Environmental Decisions.
Blog Post
April 2013 We published a guest post about Osomocene Productions on the Artists And Climate Change blog.
Panel Discussion
March 2013 We joined an art-science panel discussion at the NYU NoPassport theater conference with our friends at Positive Feedback. Video archive (skip to 4:40).