From November 13-14 Facing History and the Institute for the Future launched Face the Future, an online game for social change. For 30 hours, students, teachers, and community members from around the world gathered virtually to imagine the future of empathy. Daniel Braunfeld, Senior Program Associate for Special Projects, shares his experience playing the game, which is set in the year 2026—and how it is changing the way he lives in 2016.
I spent the day in 2026 (that's right, 10 years into the future) with over 8,000 friends—students, teachers, and neighbors. We all walked around connected via the FeelThat network—a new technology that allowed us to experience each other’s feelings. Some people were comfortable with this new power and others were hesitant, even scared; some people were unsure of how to proceed.
Sometimes, the experience of feeling someone’s emotions was too much to handle—it was depressing to feel such pain and it was better to turn it off.
Sometimes, the experience raised questions—is someone spying on us? Will the government treat us differently? Can we prevent war? How are we creating a more just society?
And sometimes, the future was exciting as we challenged stereotypes, broke down barriers, truly listened, exercised our emotional strength and built bridges.
But my favorite part of my time in 2026 was the impact it had when I returned to 2016. I was motivated to make different choices. I put down my computer to introduce myself to strangers. I asked them questions and listened to their stories, rather than focusing on what I wanted to say. I called my family, who is currently far away, just so I could see their faces. I walked the street looking up, rather than staring down at a screen, because people’s emotions are on their face, in their eyes, and on their tongues — but never on the ground.
For 30 hours I asked myself, “What action could I take today to help make this future more likely?” I was reminded that the choices I make can make a difference.
So I have set my empathy to public. I might shut it off, at times, when I need to turn my attention inward. I might seek your partnership when I have experiences that I will best process with a community. And I am committed to receiving your experiences in a way that makes you feel heard, feel supported, and feel whole. The future of empathy begins today.
Watch the Face the Future video about the FeelThat network. Can't access YouTube? Follow this link to watch!
This post originally appeared on the Face the Future blog on November 15.