Being a long-time Johnny Depp fan I decided to go see the new film Transcendence. The concept of the plot also really intrigued me. The film is about the clash between scientists and anti-technology groups. During an attack on the AI labs, Johnny Depp’s character (Dr. Will Caster) is left mortally wounded. Distraught by his oncoming death Will’s partner Evelyn decides to upload his mind into the computer in an effort to preserve him; as you can expect, this later leads to catastrophic consequences.
I found the idea slightly chilling as it got me thinking about what makes us who we really are. I’ve always believed that who we are (our soul so to speak) resides within the brain, but there must be more to it. The film wasn’t really clear as to whether or not the uploaded mind was the original or simply a copy. I imagine that the latter was true as I sensed that the uploaded version while appearing very human was mostly being driven by pure logic. The fact that machines tend to lack emotions to guide them is probably the aspect that troubles us the most; to a machine it can seem logical to sacrifice people for the greater good.
The film didn’t seem to know what message it wanted to portray; whether it was in support of the anti-technology groups or the scientists. I’m not even sure if it was the intention for the film to pick a side, although it did make a nice change for a story about machines to not be completely dark and one-sided. One particular piece of dialogue I liked when referring to the anti-technology groups went along the lines of, ‘they consider technological progress to be ethically wrong and yet they have no trouble in killing a person.‘ I am of the personal opinion that progress is not a bad thing to be feared, but neither should we run forward without stopping to think about the implications. I do not think the right way to halt progress is to cause mayhem but to instead discuss, debate and perform research. What is morally right or wrong is actually a very grey area that is different for every person; I don’t think any one group has the right to decide what direction we get to take. There were moments in the film where I felt like some of the characters weren’t actually in opposition to what was happening and not all of the advancements were bad either.
I think that the story could have been slightly clearer and better structured but overall I really enjoyed Transcendence because it made me think. I like films that get me to question things or have some level of depth to the plot line; such films tend to result in my partner and I having really heavy discussions after leaving the cinema. 😛
I found an interesting article (http://motherboard.vice.com/read/super-intelligent-ai-could-wipe-out-humanity-if-were-not-ready-for-it) that offers some insights into how AI could potentially affect humanity.