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Transcendence - The Future Of Ai, Etc.

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My husband and I watched, for the 5th time (!) the movie, Transcendence with Johnny Depp. If you haven't seen it and love tech, AI, and the future of where technology is going, this movie is fascinating.


Transcendence is a 2014 science fiction film directed by cinematographer Wally Pfister in his directorial debut, and written by Jack Paglen. The English-language co-production stars Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Paul Bettany, Kate Mara, Cillian Murphy, Cole Hauser and Morgan Freeman. Pfister's usual collaborator, Christopher Nolan, served as executive producer on the project.



Every time we watch it I see something new and we end up marveling at how smart the message is, despite a lot of technical things Eric catches that are wrong that the public won't notice. Critics didn't like the film. We love it.


Essentially, Johnny Depp, his wife and a friend are sought out as criminals, as are other groups of scientists who have ventured into AI and nano tech and brain research, among many things. They are considered a threat to humanity for their research, including a massive computer called PINN that "knows" everything because it has access to every computer, camera, credit card, database in the world. Johnny is murdered, but his brain is essentially downloaded by his wife and friend into computer system with some stolen drives from PINN before it is destroyed, using research from another murdered scientist who downloaded a monkey's brain to a computer. The idea is that they created a computer version of a human. And it is Johnny. Or so thinks the wife but not the friend.


So, his wife, believing the computer is her beloved husband, and being a brainiac herself, escapes and with the help of computer Depp and his access to world banks and the world's databases, sets up a new home in the desert to power Depp and invent nano tech and other tech for use in healing humans, the planet, etc. To power Depp it takes enormous systems and meanwhile, the groups who don't believe in this stuff have kidnapped their friend and in a few years, convinced him and the FBI that computer Depp is dangerous. The only way to stop him from killing the human race, which they believe he is doing, is to introduce a virus.


The ending is moving and I cry every time. The final result has several layers, one of which is that they came to realize computer Depp was not killing anyone or had the intention of doing so, but in destroying "him", they had to destroy the worldwide web and all computers were rendered useless.


One of the things the movie touched on, but briefly, is how social media has stopped human communication, in a human to human in person kind of way. This is something we have discussed here too. The final outcome is that by destroying computer Depp, the entire world was put off-grid and the economic ramifications of that can be seen in the start of the film.


I think the movie was and is ignored by the mainstream public. It's one of those sci-fi films that is ahead of its time. With all the talk about AI and developments in science in physics and healthcare, and self driving cars...this movie shows how advances are met with fear and assumptions based on those fears.


Have any of you seen the film?

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Too many 'wrongs' including the underlaying concept (imo), spoil the movie for me; still haven't been able to watch it all the way through. Just can't let the movie flow and let the story take me with it. And, sorry, but I'm not a Johnny Depp fan. :(
Note: I think Blade Runner (based upon Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) and Johnny Mnemonic (based on William Gibson short story) are far more prescient AI/cyber-future movies than Transcendence.

We may end up with greater machine intelligence but it will remain limited to specific tasks or be a distributed system of multiple limited task agents that give a greater impression of ability until chip density far exceeds what is on today's drawing boards and concept models.

I am a life long fan of science fiction. Perhaps the most cognizant of genres is cyberpunk with it's mixing of tech, geek, corporate, social, government et al into a dystopian stew. I treat each William Gibson novel as a window into some almost recognisable present-future that has highly usable take-aways for my business. And a great read. :)

As for AI, I have long thought that rather than some artificial silicon block entity (theoretically silicon could replace carbon as a life form building block) assistive tech for the handicapped could well lead us to the far more easily achieved result described in Anne McCaffrey's Brainship Series, where the assistive tech encloses the most physically damaged but is still controlled by the person inside who can then control ships, stations, factories et al. Cyborg writ large.

The problem with far too many stories, especially rogue AI ones, is that quaint 40s and 50s concept of a few mainframes running everything. The net superseded that 50 years ago, it is about time that writers caught up to reality. And the net, itself is no longer singular.
Note: an internet is simply two or more computers internetworked; there are many private nets that are mostly or completely severed from the public net. Others use the public net but are separate by virtue, not of addressing, but of secured communications.
Note: it is common to equate the web with the internet(s). In actuality the web is but one of many available addressable communication layers. And the web itself has additional deep (not indexed by SEs) and dark (overlaid network) layers most never notice.

Final thought: should we ever achieve uploading a human mind into an artificial device I rather think the result is more likely to be that of Max Headroom than Transcendence.

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And, sorry, but I'm not a Johnny Depp fan.




Have you seen any of the Divergent movies? I refused to read the books...and by chance caught the 2 movies that are out now on HBO and was entertained. Sci-fi and all.... :):)


The third one is coming out. The plot is in the future and humans are divided up and of course, killing each other and divided by beliefs and stuff.


I believe that some of what we see, in TV, movies, books, etc. sometimes comes from "other places" and not just simple imagination. I LOVE anything that provokes us to think. Even the film Avatar did that. People forget however....


AI fascinates me. I'd love to find cures for disease and healing the planet.


ADDED: What books do you recommend by William Gibson?

ADDED: There was a line in the movie where a woman said the monkey was screaming to be free. Freaky.

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I tend to recommend the later 'Blue Ant' trilogy to those unfamiliar with his work:
* Pattern Recognition, 2003
* Spook Country, 2007
* Zero History, 2010
as much closer to 'now', indeed happening now in many instances, and so the concepts are easier, the bleeding edge recognisable.
Note: I want to meet his protagonists (who happen to be female). Too bad so sad that they are fictive.

The book he is most noted for is Neuromancer, 1984.
Note: his 'Sprawl' trilogy: Neuromancer; Count Zero, 1986; Mona Lisa Overdrive, 1988
is based on a near future following a limited global war dominated by corporations including criminal.
Note: examines the 'cyberspace' concept that he originated, and an AI becoming other.

His 'Bridge' trilogy: Virtual Light,1993; Idoru, 1996; All Tomorrow's Parties, 1999; is a middle time between the above two.

His book, authored with Bruce Sterling, The Difference Engine, 1990, established the conventions of steampunk.

Everyone's tastes differ greatly but he is most definitely my favourite not so sci-fi and futurist-commentator.

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I love William Gibson and most Scifi, especially the type with big moral ideas (which is most, to be fair). Did you see Ex Machina? That was a great film about the blurred lined between AI and humanity. Even Fallout 4 (video game that came out last year) has this really interesting storyline in it in which there's a company developing synths with a strong AI and then using them like you'd use robots - but they're so advanaced that they think and feel, making it virtually slavery.


Not sure I'd like Transcendence but I'd always encourage interest in Scifi!

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Kim - if you are a fan of these types of themes, bust out your Netflix and look for "Person of Interest". The first 4 seasons are on there now and CBS has 13 episodes of season 5 in the hopper. (Presumably this would be the last season since the order was half of what it should be, plus CBS hasn't even aired the 13 it has yet - but promises to do so "this spring." - That said, Netflix has indicated some interest in picking up the show if CBS does, in fact, axe it. J.J. Abrams shows have done really well on Netflix).


Anyway - the themes of this show are very timely. With the NSA Spying, Patriot Act, and all of that fun stuff fresh in our minds, the ideas of "do the ends justify the means?" and "do we want to sacrifice freedom for security" and all of that work well. Then, of course, you have the "Should an AI really be in control of our lives at any level?" Each episode has some sort of moral dilemma that needs addressing - impossible choices that MUST be made, and then the repercussions from that choice.


The basic premise is that Harold Finch developed an AI machine that takes all of the camera data, cell phone calls, and all of the other stuff that is out there to track people and looks at it. From that, it can figure out when something bad is about to happen. The government, despite Harold's attempts to keep it out of their hands once he created the AI, now uses it to stop terrorism. The trick is, the machine sees "everything" and small crimes and murders are deemed "irrelevant." The government ignores those and just goes after the relevant ones. Now, the machine secretly sends Harold information about those irrelevant people through a back door he put in there and he, a billionaire, sets out to save those people - because no one is irrelevant. Of course, he's plagued by whether or not anyone should be doing what they are doing at all, but he also realizes that if something is being done, then every effort should be made to ensure that everything is being done.


One of the things I love about the show is that even though there is the ongoing storyline, almost every episode stands on its own. They get a "number" and have to either stop or save that person over the course of the next 42 minutes.


Despite the timeliness of the themes, the show also is VERY good about not getting political (much in the way that "24" did). It has ideas that are political hot-topics, but it deals with them on a purely human level.


It is well cast and the diverse characters are fun to watch and get to know - especially as their ideas evolve over the course of the show.


I would be hard pressed to recommend another recent show as highly as this one, so if you haven't watched it - get on the Netflix and start. Within 2-3 episodes you'll be hooked.

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