Transcendence movie review

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Transcendence is excellent composition and an important an important film for humanity to discuss both the next age of civilization and what is humanity. Compositionally, every opening scene details and symbols get tied to something in the later in the story, so every string is tied off and the whole thing is rather balanced. Transcendence is probably the first commercial film that drives its story atop of a relatively accurate prediction of the capabilities of super powerful artificial general intelligence (AGI) and the promises and proverbial magic of nanotechnology. The actors’ performances were excellent, and Johnny Depp delivered quite believably on point, going from human to death to resurrection in a machine and beyond—certainly a long character arch.

As with many great films and in line with recent story telling styles, the antagonists are relatable, and one of which, Max, a colleague of the protagonists, changes sides, so one finds oneself halfway through the movie before deciding whether to like or hate Max.

I always love the theme of a machine becoming more human, and this film explored this overarching theme from the angle of making a human become a machine. I am not a true philosopher, and although this film restated at least twice the impossible test of what it means to be conscious, another, while more subliminal, question was an undertone of whether a machine can love. A human can quite easily love a machine, but how true a machine’s reciprocation of such love is beyond imagination perhaps unless it is personally experienced. Perhaps as Ray Kurzweil states it, and I’m paraphrasing, “It’s so compelling that it doesn’t matter if it’s real.” One stance of that debate within the film was that love along with other emotions could be so illogical that only a human can handle the internal dissonance while a machine will never reconcile that because it is merely a simulation, and therefore any notion of love would fall apart within a machine. But frankly, how is that so different from the human experience because after all, once there is too much dissonance, it too can fall apart?

Finally, the significance of the closing scene, in the protagonists’, Casters, sanctuary garden, leaves much to wonder what is happening inside the puddle of water that is riddled with nanotechnology. My take on it is that puddle now contains a consciousness—or two. This film shows technology on the horizon of humanity, a horizon that is also the end of humanity, as we know it. The only controllable change is redefining humanity. Everyone should see this film and then decide on which side of technology to take a position. At least this way, everyone will be better prepared for both change and the dialog.

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