Matt Groening and David X. Cohen, executive producers of the animated Futurama, spend a lot of time thinking about how technology will be used in the distant future.
The pair, who met when working together in the 1990s at Groening's The Simpsons, recently began hosting the Futurama video podcast, which runs on iTunes and the Comedy Central website. They appear on the show with their (illustrated) frozen heads in a jar — a nod to a joke on Futurama about how some of us will stay alive in later years.
The full-bodied pair recently sat for an interview at Futurama's offices on the 20th Century Fox lot in Los Angeles.
Futuristic 'Futurama' imaging device
The Eye-Phone — not the iPhone — is a product of the future, seen on the show. Cohen: "It's a tiny camera implanted in your eyeball and projects a hologram in front of you." That's where society is headed, he adds. "Cameras could be built into our contacts, or eyeballs themselves."
Seeing the future
Groening: "The scary thing about the future … there will be tiny cameras everywhere, and they'll be flying around like mosquitoes and drones. That will be bad. Drones are scary. You can't reason with a drone."
Tech of 'Futurama' office
The writers amuse themselves with a $1,700 MakerBot 3-D printer, which makes plastic objects such as whistles and toys. Cohen: "It runs all day making crazy noises and filling the air with plastic fumes."
Tech for exec producers
Groening wishes DVDs weren't marked for extinction. "I'm disappointed the Apple MacBook Air doesn't have a DVD drive. I'm still using DVDs. I love the fact there are amazing movies and TV shows from all over the world that aren't available here, and I buy them legally." He buys DVDs from such places as India and Denmark via Amazon U.K. "When DVDs finally disappear, I'm going to be sad. I'll miss the commentaries ."
Riding the Google Car
Groening won a raffle at a recent TED conference to ride in Google's showpiece — a demo futuristic car that drives itself. He's not a fan. "No matter how much you slam your foot on the non-existent brake … if you're in the back seat, it won't do any good. It's scary." He's eager to try Google's other prototype — glasses with Net access. "Sure. You've got to embrace the future. You can whine about it, but you've got to embrace it."
Fans know everything
Cohen: "A major use of the Internet here at Futurama, which I wouldn't have seen when we started … we go to fan-run sites to see what we did on old episodes. (The show launched in 1999.) We don't have our own resources and don't need them. The fans have taken over them, and we go there every day."
Online comments are another story
Groening: "The quality of comments in general on websites is pretty low. When you read an article you really like, and you … look at the comments, about five comments in, somebody hijacks it, and you want to kill yourself, so yeah, I try to avoid that.
"If I have one technology tip of the day, it's this: No matter how good the video on YouTube is, don't read the comments, just don't, because it will make you hate all humans."