I thought it might be useful and entertaining to compile a list of documentaries that deal with posthumanism/transhumanism. Being absurdly busy with finishing up the PhD and gearing up for the Edinburgh Festival I haven’t bothered with any commentary on them but hopefully its useful to have them all gathered in one place. Suffice it to say that naturally they vary in detail and focus but never the less anyone wishing to know more about the subject might want to start with these. Especially if you are too lazy to read a book. Most of them are available online so links are included.
The Age of Transitions (2008)
From the film’s website where the whole film is available on the here:
A quick list of topics that The Age of Transitions covers:
- Millennial expectations
- Nano, Bio, Info, and Cognitive techologies, or “NBIC” read the report from the NSF/DOC meeting.
- Technological Singularity
- Social control through knowledge of social science
- UK MOD Strat Trends report
- Mind control
Beyond Human: The Cyborg Revolution (2001)
Synopsis from imdb:
Beyond Human is a PBS documentary from 2001 (shot a couple of years after Robots Rising) that explores ideas of transhumanism and how technology may impact society in the future. Originally divided into two parts, robots take something of a backseat in this one, as it begins with a look at retinal implants, nanotechnology, and wearable computers. Notable figures like Bill Joy (Sun Microsystems) and David Brin (scientist and author) provide color commentary. In the second part we get to the robots, and are treated to some black-and-white clips from the ’40s and ’50s depicting what life will be like with them. Embodied intelligence and machine learning are key topics, with appearances by Takeo Kanade (developer of the direct-drive robot arm at Carnegie Mellon) and Hiroaki Kitano (one of the founders of RoboCup who, along with Tatsuya Matsui, created the robots SIG and PINO). There’s some cute computer animations of SIG walking among us, had its body been completed (it never got past the head and shoulders phase).
The whole thing is available to watch (albeit in sperate parts) here at singularitysymposium.com.
From the description on DocumentaryHeaven (where you can also watch the film):
Beginning in 2002, American filmmaker Ken Gumbs began traveling the globe interviewing some of the world’s leading technological, religious and philosophical theorists. He went out in the hopes of discovering how our quickly evolving technology may someday challenge who we are and what our world will become. Robots. Cyborgs. God. Souls. Immortality. Building Gods investigates the world of technology to reveal some of humanity’s biggest questions. What is life? Where do we come from? Where is humanity heading? What are souls? For the first time anywhere, some of the world’s leading theorists are allowed to openly debate the technological future of the human race: a future that may involve paradise or war, immortality or extinction. Building Gods stands as a testament for future generations to understand what the world’s greatest thinkers believed at the beginning of this new century. Their worst fears and greatest hopes may soon become a reality.
Do You Want to Live Forever? (2007)
This channel 4 documentary is available to watch on YouTube here. From the synopsis:
“Do You Want To Live Forever?” is a Channel 4 Documentary following the revolutionary life-extension and immortality ideas of this somewhat eccentric scientist, Dr. Aubrey de Grey. This show is all about the radical ideas of a Cambridge biomedical gerontologist called Aubrey de Grey who believes that, within the next 20-30 years, we could extend life indefinitely by addressing seven major factors in the aging process. He describes his work as Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS).
Human v2.0 (2006)
This is an episode of the BBC’s science documentary series Horizon. Here’s the official synopsis from the BBC:
Meet the scientific prophets who claim we are on the verge of creating a new type of human – a human v2.0. It’s predicted that by 2029 computer intelligence will equal the power of the human brain. Some believe this will revolutionise humanity – we will be able to download our minds to computers extending our lives indefinitely. Others fear this will lead to oblivion by giving rise to destructive ultra intelligent machines. One thing they all agree on is that the coming of this moment – and whatever it brings – is inevitable.
Human v2.0 is available to watch on YouTube.
Another BBC Horizon documentary, this one focusing on nanotechnology. You can watch the whole thing here where they describe it like this:
This is an aged nanotechnology themed BBC documentary dating from 1995. Although it is pretty old, especially when dealing in such advanced and experimental technology, it still offers great insights into the core principles of nano-tech. It’s very technically detailed, describing exactly how is atomic manipulation possible, how can we detect individual atoms, and how nano devices are built from the ground up.
Plug and Pray (2010)
From the Wikipedia entry:
Computer experts around the world strive towards the development of intelligent robots. Pioneers like Raymond Kurzweil and Hiroshi Ishiguro dream of fashioning intelligent machines that will equal their human creators. In this potential reality, man and machine merge as a single unity. Rejecting evolution’s biological shackles tantalisingly dangles the promise of eternal life for those bold enough to seize it. But others, like Joseph Weizenbaum, counter attack against society’s limitless faith in the redemptive powers of technology. Eloquent and tactful, he questions the prevailing discourses on new technologies, and their ethical relationships to human life. The film delves into a world where computer technology, robotics, biology, neuroscience, and developmental psychology merge and features the world’s leading roboticists in their laboratories in Japan, the USA, Italy and Germany.
DVDs can be purchased through the film’s website.
From the film’s website:
Technocalyps is a three-part documentary series on the notion of transhumanism by Belgian visual artist and filmmaker Frank Theys. The accelerating advances in genetics, brain research, artificial intelligence, bionics and nanotechnology seem to converge to one goal: to overcome human limits and create higher forms of intelligent life and to create transhuman life. Frank Theys conducts his enquiry into the scientific, ethical and metaphysical dimensions of these technological developments. The film includes interviews by top scientists and thinkers on the subject worldwide, including Marvin Minsky, Ray Kurzweil, Hans Moravec, Terence McKenna, Bruce Sterling, Robert Anton Wilson, Margaret Wertheim, Rael, the Dalai Lama and many more.
Transcendent Man (2009)
From the website synopsis:
The compelling feature-length documentary film, by director Barry Ptolemy, chronicles the life and controversial ideas of luminary Ray Kurzweil. For more than three decades, inventor, futures, and New York Times best-selling author Ray Kurzweil has been one of the most respected and provocative advocates of the role of technology in our future.In Transcendent Man, Ptolemy follows Kurzweil around the globe as he presents the daring arguments from his best-selling book, The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. Kurzweil predicts that with the ever-accelerating rate of technological change, humanity is fast approaching an era in which our intelligence will become increasingly non-biological and millions of times more powerful. This will be the dawning of a new civilization enabling us to transcend our biological limitations. In Kurzweil’s post-biological world, boundaries blur between human and machine, real and virtual. Human aging and illness are reversed, world hunger and poverty are solved, and we cure death.Ptolemy explores the social and philosophical implications of these changes and the potential threats they pose to human civilization in dialogues with world leader Colin Powell; technologists Hugo deGaris, Peter Diamandis, Kevin Warwick, and Dean Kamen; journalist Kevin Kelly; actor William Shatner; and musician Stevie Wonder. Kurzweil maintains a radically optimistic view of the future, while acknowledging new dangers. Award-winning American composer Philip Glass contributes original theme music that mirrors the depth and intensity of the film.
Transcendent Man is easily found online by googling for it, but not, alas, hosted by any sites so reputable I would like to provide links. But it’s there. Ditto for the similarly Kurzweill-led The Singularity is Near (see below).
The Singularity is Near: A true Story About the Future (2010)
From the film’s website:
The onset of the 21st Century will be an era in which the very nature of what it means to be human will be both enriched and challenged as our species breaks the shackles of its genetic legacy and achieves inconceivable heights of intelligence, material progress, and longevity. While the social and philosophical ramifications of these changes will be profound, and the threats they pose considerable, celebrated futurist Ray Kurzweil presents a view of the coming age that is both a dramatic culmination of centuries of technological ingenuity and a genuinely inspiring vision of our ultimate destiny. The Singularity is Near, A True Story about the Future, based on Ray Kurzweil’s New York Times bestseller, intertwines a fast-paced A-line documentary with a B-line narrative story. The A-line documentary features Ray Kurzweil interacting with a panoply of thinkers on the impact of exponentially expanding technologies on the nature of human life in the next half century. These ideas are illustrated with cutting-edge graphics and special effects. The intertwined B-line is a Pinocchio story of Ramona (played by Pauley Perrette), a superhero avatar created by Ray. As the adventure unfolds, Ramona becomes more and more independent, hires Alan Dershowitz (who plays himself) to press for her legal rights, and is coached by Tony Robbins (who also plays himself) to discover the true meaning of what it means to be human.
Visions of the Future (2007)
The Intelligence Revolution: Dr Kaku explains how he believes artificial intelligence will revolutionize the world. Also, Kaku investigates virtual reality technology and its potential. Controversially, Kaku documents the work of scientists using a combination of artificial intelligence and neuroscience technology transform a person suffering from major depressive disorder into one who is happy and content by the push of a button
The Biotech Revolution – This episode focuses mainly on recent advances in genetics and biotechnology. Amongst other things Kaku documents advances in DNA screening, gene therapy and lab-grown organ transplants.
The Quantum Revolution – Dr Kaku investigates the advances of quantum physics and the effects it could have on the average human life. Kaku looks at the work of science fiction writers and the way that many concepts conceived for entertainment could in fact become reality. Kaku also speculates about the effects that such technology may have on the future of the human race.