Transcendent Man (2009)

Transcendent Man (2009) — As a film, Transcendent Man has the production values of maybe an episode of NOVA or something you would see on the Science Channel. The ideas dealt with in the movie are mind-blowing. Inventor ad futurist Ray Kurzweil has accurately predicted things like the rise of the internet and the exact year a computer would be able to beat a world champion at chess (damn you Kasparov, you’ve doomed us all!). His current predictions revolve mostly around what he calls the Singularity, the time when man and machine have in essence become one. The basis for the majority of his predictions, both those that have come true and those that have yet to come true, is the exponential growth in the areas of science and technology. For example a smart phone is millions of times cheaper, millions of times faster, and thousands of times smaller than the most advanced computers of the 1960s. If you carry that trend then we should have nano-computers the size of a blood cell within 20 years, according to Kurzweil. The implications of this line of thought are staggering. The film has more of an emotional narrative to it as well. Kurzweil still doesn’t seem to be over the death of his father in the early 1970s and is mostly looking forward to a time when immortality can essentially be achieved through advanced in bionic technology, nanotechnology, medical science, and the ability to back up your brain onto a computer (2040 is his estimated date for all this). Like a good documentary, Transcendent Man also talks about the other side of this. There is argument from scientists who do not think his predictions hold any merit. There is talk from people who think he’s right about WHAT but his TIMELINE is far too soon. There are people who talk about how what he’s predicting would be a dystopian nightmare, as opposed to the wonderful next step of evolution as Kurzweil suggests. Then there are is talk from moralists who think that even if we COULD, we definitely SHOULDN’T do these things to our species and our consciousness. Finally, there’s the people who believe the creation of artificial intelligence (a staple of Kurzweil’s predictions) would result in what is oh-so-awesomely described as “the Terminator scenario” and the extermination of mankind by our new mechanical overlords. Kurzweil is a 63-year-old diabetic with a congenital heart defect so despite his optimism, the truth is even if he’s exactly right about the timeline he will probably not live until 2040. He asserts that mankind’s acceptance of death is unnecessary but while he seems to be in denial it’s almost certainly going to come for him. That’s kind of the tragedy of this movie. Anyway Transcendent Man is full of big ideas that are worth exploring.

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