Technology and the human nature

"The game of death". Produced and written by Christophe Nick
Directed by Thomas Bornot, Gilles Amado, Alain-Michel Blanc

"The Singularity is near". Director: Anthony Waller
Interviews Directed by Toshi Hoo
Co-Directed and written by Ray Kurzweil

Watching movies back to back sometimes sharpens their otherwise single perception. Such was a case when after a shocking “The Game of Death” I saw “The Singularity is near”.

“The Game of Death” repeats a famed Stanley Milgram’s 1961 experiment. Milgram found out that 62% of his participants, mindlessly and heartlessly obeying authority, were inflicting cruelty to other humans. 60 years later, in a TV reality show medium, the percentage of the willing executioners rose to 81%. Watching this documentary made me sick in my stomach. It did not happen however because, as
a The Huffington Post reviewer claimed, the doc was a gratuitous exploitation of the worst in television while pretending to critque it. It was not. Rather it was nauseating because it honestly, brutally and skillfully revealed a sad truth of our nature.

Locating itself on the other end of the spectrum, “The Singularityaddresses wonders of the upcoming merger of high-tech with human biology and the universe. In a few decades nanorobots will clean up our bodies and allow our minds to retain wast encyclopedic knowledge. Rocks and matter will turn into computing fields for more tech power. Wonderful. The only question is: will it make us better as human beings? Raymond Kurzweil, at least in his film, seems to be little concerned with the fact that we are failing as species, creating oceans of moral and social catastrophes and are completely unprepared for gifts that the splendid technological and biological revolution offers.

I have reservations not only with philosophical and sociological shortcomings of the way the future opportunities are presented in the film, but also with the crafting of the message. The narration is high on technological vision, which while clearly monumental, important and stimulating, is nevertheless presented in a too fast, too shallow and strangely outdated fashion. Granted, the heralded upcoming glory of nanotechnology, exponential technological growth and AI explosion is truly fantastic. Yet the film shows it in a cartoonish way, racing and obsessing over technological wonders with little or no concern with their humanistic implications or lack of them.

Red light goes up when front credits state that that Raymond "Ray" Kurzweil is a “co-director”. In addition one learns that the interviews were directed by a yet another person. Unfortunately what follows does not dispel concerns. The exchanges between Kurzweil and the experts look like created in the editing room with both interlocutors shot in different time and space. The film feels like a giant ego trip and a promotional vehicle for the otherwise brilliant and extremely accomplished guy. Overdoing his mundanely shot close ups and the abundance of the “me” factor don’t help the elegance and the impact of the message.

Somebody could say that it’s not fair to compare the conformists and cowards portrayed in “The Game of death” with some evolved individuals, including Mr. Kurzweil, who are trailblazing the glorious future for our planet. Yet until we learn compassion and cooperation the upcoming wonders of technology will only make most of us miserable.

“The Singularity” has narrative fun (pedestrian as far as the latest animation goes) following the case of a sexy AI female Ramona who, a few dozen years into the future, court battles for the recognition of her individual rights as a being equal to humans. (Allan Dershowitz makes a wonderful allay in her quest). It’s all fine and dandy. But how about setting the clock back to 2010 and trying to get 1/3 of humans deprived of proper education, food and shelter to become possessors of full human rights as well.

In a footnote: as a huge fan of Tony Robbins I protest against flat and borderline ridiculous use of his persona in this film.

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