Whether computers are becoming smarter than human beings or whether they’re still vastly more stupid is a much-debated question. When it comes to working out huge calculations in a fraction of a second computers will win the race every time, but recreating the complex and often highly illogical emotional patterns of human beings is a much bigger step for science. As a wise man once said, “When a computer kills itself because it thinks it’s too fat, then I’ll believe in artificial intelligence.”
The idea of transferring someone’s memory and personality from their squishy brain home to a vast, disseminated computer network is the premise of cinematographer Wally Pfister’s feature directorial debut Transcendence, in which Johnny Depp plays a scientist who becomes a guinea pig in his own life’s work. After he is shot by anti-technology extremists, Will Caster’s wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) attempts to save his life by uploading his mind into a computer, only to find her husband quickly becoming hungry for more information and power.
In between the Casters’ passion for technology and R.I.F.T.’S radical hatred of it is Paul Bettany’s character, Max Waters, a friend of the two who is sceptical about whether or not the artificial intelligence that claims to be Will is really him. As evidenced in these seven new clips from Transcendence, the line between self-awareness and the illusion of self-awareness is very fine indeed.
It’s been made pretty clear in the trailers for Transcendence (which unfortunately give away a little too much about the plot, so watch them with caution) that the machine created by Will Caster quickly evolves beyond any human control once his mind is uploaded to it. The AI begins demanding more knowledge and resources, seemingly to evolve all of humanity in the same way that Will has “transcended.”
In such an eventuality, even pressing Ctrl-Alt-Del might not be enough to stop the machine. They may have to resort to turning it off and then on again.
Transcendence is out in theaters on April 18, 2014.