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TRANSCENDENT MAN chronicles the life and ideas of Ray Kurzweil, the inventor and futurist known for his bold vision of the Singularity, a point in the near future when technology will be changing so rapidly, that we will have to enhance ourselves with artificial intelligence to keep up. Ray predicts this will be the dawning of a new civilization in which we will no longer be dependent on our physical bodies, we will be billions of times more intelligent and there will be no clear distinction between human and machine, real reality and virtual reality. Human aging and illness will be reversed; world hunger and poverty will be solved and we will ultimately cure death. Critics accuse Ray of being too optimistic and argue that the dangers of the Singularity far outweigh the benefits, pointing out the apocalyptic implications that once machines achieve consciousness, we may not be able to control them. Whether Ray's controversial ideas incite excitement or fear, dogma or disbelief this ambitious documentary will forever change the way you look at life, death, and your own future.
Sad but interesting story of one of the greatest minds of our times
The real story here isn't about the Singularity, it's about the fact that Ray Kurzweil, as brilliant as he is, is simply looking for a technological solution to a existential problem: death and it's meaning. Kurzweil is a gift to humanity, and his inventions and life's work have helped humanity in so many measurable and immeasurable ways, so it's perfectly predictable that he would turn those same thought processes on his own inner turmoils. But what this documentary suggests is that in his drive to create immortality, or even to resurrect his dead father, he has put blinders on himself to the myriad future disaster scenarios created or fostered by technological progress that have just as much likelihood to happen as his own utopian view. Kurzweil seems to have placed faith in future AI-gods to save us from our bodies, but what he has neglected to account for is how they will save us from ourselves, and from the very psychological weaknesses that he himself cannot avoid displaying.
It's worth watching, but in the end I'm not sure it was the ad piece for the Singularity that he may have hoped. Instead it was a much deeper, poignant look at the man who has those hopes, and more than anyone else, the means to make them happen if they can at all.
Incredible, Surprisingly Poignant
Kurzweil demonstrated a (very) early talent for invention and he has become well known for recognizing technological trends and then extrapolating their trajectory over the coming decades. The documentary maker suggests, however, that what drives Kurzweil is something a lot of people can relate to: sadness and regret. I have listened to Kurzweil in person a few times and I expected this documentary to provide more of the same quiet, understated, exponential graph-oriented talk. Instead, we discover a man beloved by the blind, confusing to his critics, too optimistic for some of his supporters, and unexpectedly family-oriented and grounded.
For many viewers, this will be the first time they are exposed to these ideas, and they will be quick to dismiss them. Being critical of outrageous claims is definitely a positive attribute, but even if you disagree with the premise, I think this is much to enjoy and be thoughtful about here. Kurzweil might be wrong, but he does not come across as a charlatan. Instead, he is quietly devoted to his insights about the future. At worst, he will be viewed as naive. At best, he will be appreciated for his proaction.
As for the documentary style, there is much to like, but I was struck by how poorly connected the criticism of Kurzweil and his ideas came across. Was the filmmaker afraid he would find noteworthy critics or were these the best he could find? These critics seems almost apologetic, even confused by their own criticism. I found it hard to follow their reasoning, especially when they were working so hard to suggest that they recognized some of the same trends in technology. It was almost like they were hedging their bets...
Highly recommended documentary.
Completely changed my life
Regardless of how you feel about Ray's predictions of the future and the validity they may hold, its incredible to think of the technologies that are approaching the market within the next 40 years. I whent to see the pre screening of the film and it absolutley blew my mind, definitly one of the best if not the best documentary I have ever seen in my life and will watch it another 10 times. Got to meet both Ray and Barry the Director, both great people. This film will provide excellent dinner table socratic and insightful conversations for a long time! Loved it!