I’m not going to try to write a review of “Transcendent Man”, since I myself am in the movie, albeit just for 4 or 5 minutes. But nevertheless I’d like to encourage you to watch it – not because of the chance to see my smiling face, but because in my opinion it’s a rather well-made film … and both instrumental in, and symbolic of, the mainstreaming of transhumanist ideas, which is happening full force these last couple years.
Treating the life and ideas of Ray Kurzweil, Barry Ptolemy’s “Transcendent Man” was released on the interwebs earlier this year to considerable acclaim. Following Ray’s career from the early days and presenting the core ideas from his book “The Singularity is Near”, the film also features a host of interviews with futurist thinkers such as Colin Powell; H+ folks Hugo deGaris and me; technologists Peter Diamandis, Kevin Warwick, and Dean Kamen; journalist Kevin Kelly; actor William Shatner; and musician Stevie Wonder.
If you’re a regular H+ reader, you’re probably already familiar with many of the ideas presented in the movie. However, you may well still find some interest to the film even in this case, as it does give a sense of the human dimension of Kurzweil and some of the other personalities helping to shape the potential coming Singularity. Rather than drilling extremely deep into technical ideas, the film dwells a while on Ray’s (touching and very understandable) desire to resurrect his father using advanced technology; and then shows very clearly how Ray’s perspective interacts with those who disagree in various ways, such as Kevin Kelly who thinks Ray’s Singularity vision is too optimistic, and Hugo De Garis who thinks Ray is too peaceful and foresees the Singularity as likely involving a massive world war and ultimately an extinction of humanity. My own brief bit in the film consists largely of me expressing a lot of uncertainty regarding the precise nature of what’s going to happen once advanced AGI – created by my own OpenCog team or some other – becomes really successful and influential. I hope it’s going to be great, and unlike Hugo I think this is fairly likely, but I can’t get myself to be quite as forcefully optimistic as Ray. The film does give some feeling of the psychological roots of Ray’s passion and his optimism.
Augmenting its availability via the Web, iTunes and pay-per-view, Transcendent Man has also been featured in a limited number of theatrical showings in the old-fashioned physical world; and the final showing of the initial run will be on Thursday, April 14 in San Francisco at the Palace of Fine Arts (with a special presentation by Ray and Q&A hosted by Peter Diamandis w/Ray and Barry to follow). Tickets are available at www.transcendentman.com or via Ticketmaster. If you can’t make it to San Francisco, you can download the movie from the same site.