Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Welcome to the Machine: The Singularity is Nigh
is like the Rapture for geeks. The
Singularity is the not so theoretical point at which artificial intelligence eclipses
the old school human variety. For some,
it summons dystopian images of The Matrix. Others anticipate a golden age of brain
implants and downloaded consciousnesses.
It may well be the world filmmaker Avi Zev Weider’s newborn triplets
inherit. Weider explores the evolving
relationship between man and technology on their behalf in Welcome to the Machine (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in Brooklyn.
ten weeks premature, Weider’s daughter and two sons spend the first months of
their lives connected to machines. The
products of in vitro fertilization, their lives are truly defined by
technology. Most of Welcome’s experts argue that is a good thing. First and foremost is Ray Kurzweil, the
developer of the famous synthesizer and the reading machine for the blind, who
now serves as the leading evangelist for the Singularity. Kurzweil argues the scary sounding turning
point might even offer a means to pseudo-immortality.
are not so sure. MIT technological
ethicist Sherry Turkle is cautiously cautious about the implications of blurring
the distinctions between humanity and technology. Philosophy lecturer David Skrbina goes
further, often citing the work of his notorious correspondent, Ted Kaczynski. Skrbina suggests the Unabomber is something of
a prophet regarding the dehumanizing effects of technology. While undeniably learned in his field, the
extent to which Skrbina adopts Kaczynski’s arguments is problematic. Aside from the Unabomber’s lethal methods
(largely unremarked upon in Welcome),
it seems highly dubious that the pre-industrial serfs eking out a subsistence
existence lived richer, more examined lives than the majority of those in the contemporary
industrialized West, including the working class.
periodically tracking the development of his triplets, Weider provides a
pointed, if perhaps inadvertent rejoinder to the borderline Luddite premises of
Skrbina and his pen pal. Without the
advancements of modern medicine, Weider’s three babies could never survive (and
would not have been conceived in the first place). Oddly enough, Welcome could be a big hit with the pro-life community. According to the filmmaker, he and his wife
were not so subtly encouraged to abort one of the triplets. Although their first year is an exhausting
struggle, it was clearly worth the effort for their parents. Along the way, Weider also provides a behind
the scenes look at the U.S. military’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle program, which
certainly ought to interest the same audience.
Anyone who watches Welcome will wish all the best to Weider and his lovely
children. For the same reason, they will
shake their heads in disbelief when he also attempts to correspond with Kaczynski. This is not someone who ought to have your contact
info. Just ask the three people killed
by his mail bombs. Regardless, there is
enough discussion of artificial intelligence, military drones, and robotics to
keep the Wired magazine crowd
consistently engaged. At least one cut
above a Discovery Channel special, Welcome
to the Machine is worth considering should you happen to be in Brooklyn
over the coming week. It opens at the
ReRun Gastropub this Friday (1/11).
Labels: Documentary, Singularity