SXSW 2022 was all types of greatness. The entirety of the festival was focused on the future. While many panels and installations chose to speak about driving the near-future in ways that align with heart-centered outlooks, there were plenty of post-apocalyptic discussions and even more about technology and digital progression in the more distant future.

One of the first panels we enjoyed was “Welcome to Your Digital Afterlife: Upload Creator Greg Daniels in conversation with Amy Webb.” This panel took place on opening day, Friday, March 11th. If you are not familiar with Greg Daniels and his incredible career track, here’s a quick rundown. Greg is a screenwriter, television producer, and director. A big portion of his work centers on creating storylines for episodes about the future. His writing credits include The Simpsons, Saturday Night Live, The Office, Parks & Recreation, King of the Hill, and more. (But did we need more? His credits are insane!) He is the genius responsible for the flash-forward episodes in many of your favorite television shows and sitcoms. (Think: “Lisa’s Wedding” and the finale of Parks & Rec. ) He co-created Space Force with Steve Carell, which almost entirely focuses on the future of space tech and travel.

Daniels has always employed a reporter’s eye when creating his storylines and characters. This is a trait he has passed down to other writers on his projects and proteges over the years. Learning about the past to correctly identify the future. Allowing himself to observe people in their natural habitats – Texas, when researching King of the Hill, for example – has given him space to breathe authenticity into his characters and storylines. Perhaps this is why so many of his episodes ended up predicting the future when looking back years later.

When asked about what inspires his work, Daniels initially pointed out The Mary Tyler Moore Show. He expanded by explaining: “I also worked with Jim Brooks [one of the Mary Tyler Moore Show creators] on the Simpsons. So to me, he is a great icon on a very humanistic way to get characters where you don’t look down on them or treat them poorly. I like that style and that’s the style I write in.”

future panel

The focus of this panel was on Greg Daniels’ creation of the science fiction comedy series Upload. The premise doesn’t stray far from concepts discussed in many of his previous television works, and many other futuristic ideas pop culture has explored over the last few decades. In 2033 – the not-so-distant future – humans have the capability of uploading their consciousness into an afterlife of their choosing. The series 2 premiere was released on March 11th, the day of the panel, so focusing on it was a given.

As to Daniels’ idea of what the future may actually hold? His take is that, regardless of how it all unfolds, he sees pseudonymity in it. (He also admitted to having just learned the term during a panel the morning of March 11th. What a win!) “Your avatar develops a reputation that you have to live with.”

Amy admitted, quite quickly, that she is terrified by this idea. “My unit of measure is going to be quantified by some type of algorithmic scoring system,” she responded, trailing off a bit. When considering it as a reality as opposed to a train of thought induced by what we believe the future should be, it really is quite alarming. However, addressing our fears of the future can actually also prepare us to plan for what we WANT our future to look like, instead of what we think it will ultimately be (if science has its way).

Check out more of our SXSW 2022 coverage here. (We will be rolling out coverage for weeks to come!)

Meredith Schneider