Tag Archive for 'technological singularity'

Transcendence movie review

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.

A Conversation about the Future with Ray Kurzweil

Last night I attended a live event at my local movie theater, Transcendent Man a Conversation about the Future, which I saw telecasted from New York to about 500 theaters nationwide. Overall, I was very happy to attend and thought it was a great two hour show. It was an in depth discussion with Ray Kurzweil and many of his contemporaries: founder of the Chopra Foundation Deepak Chopra, Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Wozniak, theoretical physicist Dr. Michio Kaku, Transcendent Man director Barry Ptolemy, and renowned inventor Dean Kamen. Also there were special clips for this presentation by Bill Maher, Quincy Jones, and Suzanne Somers.

The show started with Ray presenting his point for about 5 minutes on exponential growth in information technology. Each time I see him do it, his presentation gets more concise and easier for people to understand. His slides were amazing too, especially for anyone who ever wanted to make an impressive slide show.

Actually, the show began with technical difficulties, which appeared to be due to problems on our side in the theater, but who really knows. There were significant bloopers that made me question the technical expertise of the production studio putting on the entire show. For example, a female panelist had a nice necklace on, and her lapel microphone was attached to the middle of her shirt between the necklace segments. So every time she moved to talk, one could hear the necklace hitting the microphone and making horrible noise. Micing strategies could have been better. One huge blunder was that, somehow, the voice of someone from the production’s crew intercom microphone system fed into the live mix, and we could hear someone on the crew say, “Hey, I need to ask you a question.” A final complaint was that the names of each panelist weren’t shown, so I didn’t really know who these people were.

Because I’ve studied these topics quite deeply for many years now, nothing really blew my hair back, but there were a few snippets that made me grow. First of all, although I’ve seen images of Deepak Chopra, I’ve never known what he was about and how interesting he is. He knows much about eastern philosophies and open-mindedly merges them with social issues of future technologies. Also, I’ve seen a few times Dr. Michio Kaku, and I’ve become a bigger fan of his too after this. I’ve never really seen Steve Wozniak speak, and I was quite surprised how animated he is. He seems like a very creative person. I may have once seen an image of inventor Dean Kamen, and hats off to him for inventing the clean-energy and clean-water boxes that can turn anything or any water into electricity or clean water, respectively.

One statement that was really profound was by Deepak Chopra who basically said that although our technologies have growing smarter, humans are not grower wiser as quickly. Humans still have a tribal brain and have a tribal mentality (basically referring to nationalism) when we should be thinking globally as one humankind. The Internet has finally created one meeting room for all the villages to talk amongst each other. Another profound realization was that no two democracies have ever warred with one another at any point in history. Only dictators have warred. Technology is democratizing, so this is optimistic.

Being that Steve Wozniak is so rich, whatever he has to say about the economy perks my interest, and he said that any business that can do things easier wins. I take it that it means either or both, the company that can easily make and sell something wins against the slower company, or the manufactured good that makes us feel happier, feel we have more free time, etc. wins. He stated that we all are ultimately working towards a day to when we don’t have to work anymore because we worked to create machines to do the work for us. The idea of society on and after that day was discussed several times and is usually the most interesting to me because the question is what will artificial intelligence behave like once it is smarter than humans. We shouldn’t call it “artificial intelligence” because it is real intelligence created by humans, so it’s “intelligence.”

Dr. Michio Kaku explained that in Japan, robots are becoming part of Japan’s culture. Robots are built to be around humans and play with and assist humans, while in the U.S. the word “robots” conjures up mental images of the Terminator. While the DOD makes robots that kill people, Japan makes robots to live with people. The Shinto religion believes that inanimate objects have a soul, so that makes perfect sense that Japanese people, especially children, embrace robots.

The concept of religion was a main topic for the last third of the show describing as we approach immortality and beyond—mythology with timeless and perfect bodies, genesis by imagination—we are becoming god-like, and that will bring us to a closer understanding of god. In the meantime, we have to take care of our bodies and try to live as healthy as possible. The take away of the film was that these topics must become mainstream so that we all can talk about them.

Transcendent Man movie reivew

When I first heard that Transcendent Man will be released, I was very excited. I had its release dates marked in my calendar for months ahead of time. This movie was the only one of two things that I ever pre-ordered in my life, the other being the JoMoX MBase 11.

The film impressed me by illustrating so well in the video medium all of the things that I’ve read about Ray Kurzweil’s predictions. The film covered equally between who Ray Kurzweil is, his technological prediction about the technological singularity, and his longevity efforts. This is certainly a good film for anyone who is new to Ray Kurzweil’s concepts, but the film may fall short for anyone well acquainted with Kurzwiel’s writings and is trying to learn something new and deep.

The most interesting parts of the film for me were about the history of Ray Kurzweil’s life and how he lives today. I thought that it was very interesting how Kurzweil allowed his opponents state their opinions while Kurzweil provided virtually no direct rebuttal.

Be prepared to hear the word “exponential” and “exponentially” more times than you have ever heard in a 83 minutes.

If you’re interested in learning more about Ray Kurzweil’s ideas, begin in this order:

  1. Watch Kurzweil’s talk at TED from 2005.
  2. Read the The Ray Kurzweil Reader, a collection of essays published from 2001 to 2003 on virtual reality, artificial intelligence, radical life extension, conscious machines, the promise and peril of technology, and other aspects of our future world.
  3. Check out website Kurzweil Accelerating Intelligence and subscribe to the newsletter.
  4. Then read one of his books, most notably The Age of Spiritual Machines1 and The Singularity Is Near.

1available as a free e-book, but I read it by checking out a free copy from my local library.