0 In a nutshell

0.1 Short description

“Pro-fetal-choice” is a thought experiment set in year 2090 where fetuses are granted the right to decide whether they would be born or not in the 24th week after their fertilizations. Preliminarily, the project consists of 3 videos: (1) virtual livestream of the Pro-fetal-choice ceremony, (2) an explainer video about the fetal-choice, and (3) a virtual student debate on it. These videos are to be made as separate clips with no correlation in terms of production, although they consistently reflect on the same theme.

Visually and technically, clip (1) and (3) will be created with 3D motion capture technique primarily.  Clip (2) will also be multi-media - a mixture of 2D and 3D animation, and live action footage.

0.2 Genre classification and target group

The main genre is sci-fi black comedy. The presentation method and platform is still in consideration, having to take the conception and the execution into account. I imagine it would likely be presented in the internet or as a multi-screen installation. Target audience is all inclusive, especially for people who are interested in contemporary art.

0.3 Progress as at 20220710

To this day, a rough visualization and narrative flow of the 3 videos are outlined. A simple version of the characters, props and the ceremony’s stage were modelled, ready to be tested for motion capture, and used as placeholders for creating moodboards and storyboards. In the next stage, I would like to carry out the above tasks, create sketches for other potential scenes in the first and third episodes, as well as work out dialogue scripts for a few scenes in the first episode. 

Key questions to think about:

- Where to show, how to ensure visibility? Create and show as an art or a film project? How do I include the presentation and screening platform as a part of the narrative?

- Should the videos be produced one by one or simultaneously? Perhaps the videos can be kept simple, and more random videos about strange future policies/social phenomenon can be made subsequently

- I would like to research on many things surrounding the topic but does the delivery of the project has to be mono-thematic?

- Find fun ways to play with the balance among scripting, improvisation, and the chance factor

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1 Introduction

1.1 What is Pro-fetal-choice?

2090, metaverse where all important things happen. People upload their consciousness to participate in public events represented by their avatars, including the “Fetal-Choice Ceremony”.

Under waves of “post-antinatalism”, the meta-government answers to calls for more rights for fetuses concerning their own nativity. The newly enacted law is backed up by the mandatory “Fetal-Choice Ceremony”, in which potential parents are required to go on stage to present their 24-week-old fetuses in test tubes whose nervous systems have been somewhat developed, and cognitions have emerged by that age. There, a fetus perceives an information pack about the current world and his parents, transferred into his consciousness. Subsequently, the fetus is inquired by the host of the ceremony with two questions (some might not need the second one).

The first question is, “perceiving the information pack, do you feel pleasure or pain?” The system translates the question into cognitive signals to be perceived by the fetus who responds also cognitively. If he answers  “pleasure”, then congratulations! The fetus will likely enjoy this world as a human being, and his parents are eligible for parturition of this young individual. Confetti will sprinkle down and he will graphically enter a womb of some sorts.

However, if the fetus answers “pain”, then the host will proceed to the second question, the last hope for the potential parents, “with this ‘pain’ you precedingly felt, did it trigger a secondary level of ‘pain’, or did you feel ‘pleasure’ from the ‘pain’?”

Now if the fetus answers “pleasure”, he still gets to live but if the answer is “pain”, then sorry…There is no point for this fetus to suffer in a life that he does not appreciate from the beginning. The fetus will graphically shatter into sparkling stars, implying his annihilation in real-life. Potential parents take turns to go on stage and carry out this sacred ritual.

The policy faces plenty of moral and scientific criticisms in society. Critics are primarily concerned with the question of whether fetuses innately have an understanding of life and have what it takes to make decisions about their lives. They believe that granting premature individuals the right to self-determination means taking away their future rights to make better choices for themselves when they finally become mature and educated enough to make rational decisions. Some also question if it is ethical to shift responsibility for self-determination to fetuses. This leads to a re-evaluation of the role of parents as caregiver and educator. Whether society is mentally and infrastructurally prepared to respond to this transition is a mystery.

1.2 Statement

Information ~ Disillusionment ~ Choice

Living in the 21st century, why do we consider information too much? What kind of pressure propels us to think that way? How does it make decision-making hard? During the covid time, China strengthened her perpetuated firewall for censorship, arguing that her people are not ready for processing  disinformation from the outside world, and fearing that they will be misled by enemies to make wrong judgements. Many societies in the world are still in the fight for their late-coming democracies because  authorities claim that people are not ready to vote rationally. What does “being ready” for self-determination entail? What role does this Alephs of information play in it, following its digital outburst?

The presentation of democracy today gives an illusory sensation that we have liberal rights for making personal choices between pro-A and pro-B, left and right, red and blue (sometimes additionally green). The complication of global affairs is acknowledged but at the same time reduced to diluted, simplified ideas which seemingly give inclusive access to the general public. Ironic is that, this shallow inclusiveness creates illusions, making people irrelevant, and hence excluding them from truly participating in democratic developments. The general public is for most times not given the right pieces of information, needless to say the complete information, to help them practice their civic functionality. When human resources are already heavily commodified today, the only way out for “unready” citizens is to be in line with decisions that serve the narrative of a collectivism.

The making decisions on a personal or a national level without “being ready” enough is what I refer to as premature self-determination. My project, “Pro-fetal Choice” sets the arena for the struggle between readiness and decision making, questioning if there will ever be a point when one is mature enough to make personal decisions, and whether a person is innately entitled for it, even without going through training, education and institutionalization. In the “Fetal-choice ceremony”, the fetus is rid of disillusionment before he is born. Like giving birth in the 2020s, being born in the 2090s also becomes a personal choice, despite potential sufferings initially cognized by the fetus. Swamped with ridicules of the remote future, “fetal-choice” stimulates rethinking of information, the fear of being under- and over-informed, and the (in)validity of premature self-determination.

1.3 Research

1.31 What I’ve been looking into so far (Evernote)
1.32 Visual research (Pinterest)

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2 World of 2090

The following physical setups, which mean to provide background information to anchor and assist scripting, are subject to modifications. World 2090 is not meant to be dystopian like many other sci-fi productions because pro-fetal’s characters perform an exaggeration of  normalization.

2.1 Nationality and territory

There are 247 states in total worldwide. Many pre-existing nations had been divided into more than 2 states due to political dissidences, although many states have free borders. Some countries were gone missing because of the risen sea level. People’s digital citizenships are free from physical constraints and both share equal importance. Physical governments operate their states on a physical level and are most significant as provider of housing services and management. Digital governments rule social and economic activities. Due to geographical mobility, digital citizenships determine taxation.

2.2 Ideology and morals

In many societies, each person customizes his combination of ideologies, believes and values with the help of algorithm. Since there are too much information and too many perspectives, and information technology is researched faster than natural science, information and education is customized for each person, with which the welfare and interest of the individual is supposed to be maximized. Because diverse customized backgrounds create very different internal universes for each, there is a consensus that each person’s perspective is to be on the one hand respected, and on the other hand not taken seriously. 

In families, judgement neutrality is usually practiced, that is, parents should not impose their personal inclination regarding gender, education, interest, politics and religion to their children, which they believe would maximize children’s freedom and options in their adulthoods.

2.3 Environmental situation

Climate had been severely changed around 2030-2060s, which resulted to loss of biodiversity, ecosystems and coastal land. Climate had then been regulated afterwards and has now become stabilized, although terrestrial plant and animal species were all domesticized in manually repaired ecosystems that are now under close monitoring. The marine ecosystems are unable to repair but signs of evolution are frequently observed. Historical nuclear leakages have severely damaged water, marine lives, and soil, but there is still no option to remove them permanently. Humans and domesticated animals are required to take anti-cancer pills with other supplements. Supplements are essential because it is difficult to absorb enough nutrients from food that are grown with chemically compiled soil. Supplements also compensate people’s lack of outdoor activities.

2.4 Demographics

The population of physical humans in 2090 is 7 billion. On the one hand, life expectancy is lengthened to 110-year-old, and on the other, euthanasia is not uncommon which slightly neutralize natural growth. Total fertility rate is 0.9 per person. It is obvious that an aging trend in the demographics continues to steepen. There are only two class divisions in terms of wealth distribution. They are people who own the machines that are the best at learning and writing algorithms, and everyone else who is trapped in his small apartment and spiritually condensed into the metaverse which offers the major sense of existence and entertainment to these people.

2.5 Human activities – survival or entertainment?

The question on survival lies on the mental and psychological level rather than biological and physical. In highly developed countries, most of the work are taken up by AI machines. Universal basic income is practiced although money-making opportunities still exist, especially in the metaverse. Medical technology has enhanced life expectancy by far despite environmental conditions. The concept of discriminative use of life-saving treatments and careful planning for health maintenance were introduced half-decade ago when certain people complained about long lives with compromised living standards and health conditions.

Overall, it is a common struggle to find meaning of life, big enough to neutralize the boredom and mental suffering of an individual. Online socialization and digital consumer items are designed to stimulate sensations and keep people mentally active, as if the major principle of life is to keep each other entertained. Celebrities broadcast their lives 24/7 make a handsome amount of money when they dare to risk their lives and experience the outside world on the audience’s behalf. The audience spends a great deal of energy to consume celebrities who are their emotional anchor.

To maintain people’s anticipation in life, authorities issue lotteries that offer space tours, day trips to recovered natural reserves, hologram assistants, robot servants, powerful 3d printers for utensils and furnitures, exclusive secret metaverse experience, and luxury apartments to people. Another option other than entertainment is life-long education in virtual schools which offer a wide variety of knowledge, life skills and recreational skills.

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3 Project structure

    Title (AT)
Fictional commissioner

“I Know Best!”
15+’ Metaverse livestream with elements of variety & reality show
3D animation, motion capture
“All You Need to Know about Fetal-choice”
crash course
Explainer/ promotional video
Non-government organization
2D & 3D animation, live action, archive footage
“Hope:  Student Forum 2090”
Student debate
Metaverse livestream
Non-government education channel
3D animation, motion capture
Each video follows its own linear narrative without main characters. The three episodes provide complementary information and perspectives about fetal-choice and the world of 2090, in such a way, each video leaves questions to be answered by the other clips. For each episode, the imaginary audience is the metizens in 2090, but after viewing all the 3 episodes, audience in 2020s can get a gist of the issue. I plan that this is a project which audience could watch multiple times and capture new information or insights as they repeat watching. 

The presentation of the “triology”, which is still in consideration, should also be a part of the narrative. I am in favour of internet as a viewing platform because of the personalized and intimate experience that it offers. People are free to pick the clip they would like to watch, rewatch, scroll through the timeline, or use it as a provision of constant background noise/visuals when one multi-tasks.

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4 Video 1 - “I Know Best!”

4.1 Inspirations

4.2 Characters

M.C. ZÉr√!xX (45-55??), biological male transited to female then back to male, host of “Fetal-choice Ceremony”. Signified as a master of black comedy and natural psychologist, he fearlessly and spicily shifts taboos into actions. He works as a professional internet host mainly for public broadcasts in the metaverse but he also curates music-related productions. In private sectors, he is playful with his avatar skins and appropriately weighed sarcasm but he maintains a rather professional image in public appearance.

A.I. Kleenex (b. 2089), assistant host of “Fetal-choice Ceremony” and entertainment bot specialized in cute-acting, and light-healing. Ze also supports the precise counseling function. This particular version is customized especially for the “Fetal-Choice Ceremony”, although earlier versions of zir program were incorporated in older shows. Ze is responsible for giving out sensible reactions to potential parents who present their fetuses at the ceremony without compromising the entertainment effect. 

Potential Parents (18- ∞ ), at least 6 pairs or groups of parents will be presented in each episode of “Pro-fetal Ceremony”. Familial structure varies,  surrogate mothers and donors of sperms and eggs may be involved. Familial composition and attributes are determined by lucky draw.

4.21 Lucky draw options for parents’ attributes

Number of parents
Cismale, cisfemale, agender, gender-expansive, non-binary, transgender male, transgender female
Heterosexual, homosexual, pansexual, asexual, bisexual
Physical built
Tall, short, medium

Skinny, slender, medium, chubby, fat, obese

Long hair, short hair, medium hair

Black hair, blond hair, brunette, colourful
Friendly, grumpy, kind, rude, cheerful, nasty, happy-go-lucky, childlike, manipulative, confused, resourceful
Asian, White, Black, Mixed, Arab
High school or below, Diploma, Undergraduate, Graduate, Postgraduate
Arts and entertainment, business administration, industrial and manufacturing, law enforcement and armed forces, science and technology, service
Low, middle, high
Collection, record, spotting, clothing, cooking, garden, model, utility, animal, outdoor, travel, fitness, games, sports, dance, music, theatre, visual, literary
Living conditions
Good, average, poor
Political take
Liberal, conservative, neutral, indifferent, complicated, extreme-left, extreme-right, far-left, far-right, centre, centre-left, centre-right
Mother of the egg
First possible mother, second possible mother, donor
Father of the sperm
First possible father, second possible father, donor
Mother’s womb, surrogate mother’s womb, father’s external womb, test tube, others

4.3 Flow of the ceremony

Live stream begins with an empty stage. The audience waits for the ceremony to commence. About 20 seconds later, lights go up, theme song plays, and the hosts enter. M.C. ZÉr√!xX greets the audience, and briefly introduces the show and the rules.

He then welcomes the first group of parents who enters onto the stage through the door under the screen. They have a festive entrance, as if they are striving down a carnival.

Next, M.C. ZÉr√!xX calls out the first fetus onto the stage’s screen. The first round begins by sharing the information pack to the fetus. The process is visually represented by images flashing on the stage’s screen. (Only an impression instead of details of the world will be shown to us. Such details will be introduced more in the second and the third video) While the images are flashing and the fetus is perceiving the information, M.C. ZÉr√!xX reads out some background information about the family. He also holds a small interview with the parents, asking about their feelings, and personal information which arouses the audience’s interests and emotional attachment for the family.

After the fetus finishes reading the information, the screen shows an animation with the fetus in deep thoughts. M.C. ZÉr√!xX asks the fetus two questions, one by one. Now the audience enjoys their moment of suspense. The chart below describes the consequence of different combinations of answers:

Fetuses’ answers are also randomly determined by lucky draw. Potential parents take turn to present their fetus. 

During the live event, audience hops in whenever they want. Apart from that, there are time slots for advertisement, and updates/warnings about disasters, most probably internet disasters (e.g. consciousness hackers).

Towards the end of the evening, M.C. ZÉr√!xX concludes today’s result and makes an encouraging closing speech. Credits show up, while M.C. ZÉr√!xX reads out a list of sponsors (i.e., government, Kleenex, external womb supplier, algorithm generator, etc.).
4.4 Design

4.41 Design reference

4.42 Additional notes

4.421 Music and sound
I imagine them to be a bit out of the world to reflect new technologies and interpretation of applied audio in the future. They will be overall playful, light-hearted, electronic, and with game music quality. They should be memorable and effective in creating linkages with the recurring story beats. The theme song suggests a mixture of holiness, sacredness, and liveliness. Voice acting should be humourous and dramatic. Accents can vary.

4.422 Animation techniques
To contrast with the 3D environment, content on the venue’s screen will be animated with 2D animation. Other contents, such as advertisement, intro, or information cards will be executed with a mixture of 2D and 3D animation. The images from the information packs will be represented with 2D drawings.

4.423 Camera
Expensive usage of camera angles and movements will be used for the livestream. I imagine that apart from the main stage, there can be a number of additional spaces, e.g. magical tunnel from which the parents enter onto the stage, waiting room of the fetus, and interview room.

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