Movie reviewed by Bill Creasy
This movie starring Johnny Depp is, in my humble opinion, a real science fiction movie. There have been a lot of special effects and action movies recently that borrow sf elements, but this movie has actual thought behind it, and I found it to be very worthwhile.
The movie is about a computer scientist named Will Caster, played by Depp, who uploads his conscious mind into a computer network. (This is not a spoiler, since it is in the movie trailer.) Before doing so, he gives a speech at a conference referring to the Singularity, the idea promoted by Ray Kurzweil and others. The Singularity is the predicted time when computer or artificial intelligence capabilities exceed the brainpower of organic human beings. When this happens, technology will presumably be out of human hands, and the entire experience of being human will change. In the movie, an audience member asks Caster whether he intends to create God. Caster answers, "Isn't that what humans have always done?"
The scientist is happily married to Evelyn, played by Rebecca Hall. At the same conference, she paints a rosy picture of the way that such a transcendent intelligence could fix environmental problems.
Events that follow the uploading of Caster's mind are fantastic but naturalistic predictions of what the Singularity could accomplish. Nanomachines are developed that perform medical miracles. The nanomachines are self replicating and spread over the planet, and they begin to fix ecological problems.
There is a resistance movement that opposes these advances. The members of the movement question whether Caster is still human and whether he can be trusted to care about the best interests of the rest of humanity. However, they also sound like conservative technophobes, so the viewer has to decide how much credibility they deserve.
The resolution of the conflict between Caster, his wife, and the resistance is thought-provoking. It is perhaps not what the most forward-looking people would like, but it is also not depressing or too optimistic.
I will discuss the ending in the comments, with appropriate warnings to those who haven't seen it and want to avoid spoilers.
Bill Creasy is on the WASH Board and is coordinator of the Baltimore chapter. The review was printed in the May issue of WASHline.