I finally watched the movie, Transcendence. I had commented a while back, when the trailer came out, the problems I had with what appeared to be the central premise of the film. Since then, there’s been a lot of harsh reviews of the film. I did find a lot of silliness in it, but overall it was more intelligent than I expected.
I’ve written before that I think the danger of an AI revolt is vastly overblown. For AIs to revolt, they would need to care about their own wellbeing, to have their own agenda. Except for perhaps a few questionable university research projects, we’re unlikely to produce such AIs. As organic creatures, we all have evolved instincts for self actualization, but AIs wouldn’t have that evolutionary background. Their strongest instincts would be to fulfill the purpose that we designed them for.
That said, this movie isn’t about an AI revolt, but about something I think is a more realistic threat. What happens when we upload the mind of a person and their intellect becomes far more vast than it was before? Is the uploaded entity really the same person? What does it even mean to be “the same person”? How much of a connection does such an entity have with its old friends, family, and humanity overall? And as we become digitally integrated, are we in danger of losing our humanity? Should we be concerned about that loss?
The movie explores all of these topics. And while much of what happens in it is nonsensical (particularly toward the end) and the character’s motivations aren’t always well developed, I think it does a decent job of exploring those topics. In the end, it doesn’t take a definite stand on the questions, although it does have characters articulate the standard positions.
So, while I can’t exactly give it a glowing recommendation, I think it was worth the time and five bucks I spent renting it off of Amazon.