ARCHIVES 1997-2007  --- ARCHIVES 2007 +
APRIL 2014

This post is about the film "Transcendence"
with John Depp.  "Transcendence" is the film's name for what is otherwise termed "The Singularity".

I have been reading science fiction for many decades.  Man's knowledge and application of the laws of nature expands geometrically.  Some authors have speculated that at some point in the future this expansion reaches a point at which the rate of discovery expands hyperbolically due to the development of artificial intelligence.

That point in time is given the name "The Singularity" or "Transcendence".

John Depp and his wife are scientists.  John is murdered, and his mind is reincarnated in a computer.  Very shortly thereafter, he moves his mind onto the www.  Having all that processing power at his fingertips (figuratively speaking) he embarks on a green/health knowledge revolution.  He develops energy technologies that are pollution free, and finds ways to (and) stops fatally injured people from dying.  At the same time he enhances their physical strength and connects them directly to the www.  Like being mentally online.

Enter the well meaning Luddites.  These are headed by a former research scientist who became horrified at the idea that a computer should be intelligent and was paranoid about the possibility that this would mean the "end of mankind's culture as we know it."  (As an irrelevant aside, I wonder whether similar Luddite reactionaries existed when man moved from Hunter-Gatherer to an Agrarian culture?)

The people whose lives Depp had saved are now connected to the www can directly.  They know of and understand the green and health benefits of Depp's work, and so (as would be expected of any sane human) align with and support his actions.  This provokes the Luddites to engage in a killing spree, which Depp and those he saved resist in a totally nonviolent fashion.  At one point, one of the Luddites remarks "They have not killed anyone".

The film ends with the Luddites apparently triumphant, as a reincarnated Depp absorbs a virus that kills him when the lead Luddite threatens to kill his friend unless he does so.  That also results in the death of his wife who had earlier been deliberately shot by the Luddites.  The film ends with the lights of civilisation closing down, city block by city block.

Or do the Luddites triumph?  There are hints that Depp possibly lives on.  Perhaps in a remote and isolated computer.  And perhaps he had obtained sufficient data to reincarnate his wife.

I would look forward to a sequel.  Unfortunately I am not confident that the lesson of the film will be clear.  The Luddites in our culture appear to be in a majority.  I regret that the world appears to be on the brink of a new dark age.  During that time, the 19th and 20th centuries may well look like "civilisation lost" as Caesar's Roman Empire must have appeared during the dark ages.