Transcendence features a story of a man (Johnny Depp) who is pushing the boundaries of artificial intelligence and how computers and humans can meld. In the film (teased in the Transcendence trailer), his character gets uploaded to an artificial intelligence computer and the unthinkable happens. He is able to become smarter than the collective intelligence of the human race and it is a very dangerous thing.
When we spoke to the star in our Johnny Depp interview, he let his feelings be known on the subject of technology and where we’re going as a society. Now, we let his co-stars explore the questions that permeate our time. Morgan Freeman, Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara and Paul Bettany all chime in.
Mara portrays a member of an anti-technology group whose actions set the landscape for the thriller. For the actress, she found herself surprised how dependent on technology she is in life. “Well, I’ve been without my phone for the past three hours and I’ve been sitting here thinking about it,” Mara said and laughed. “I didn’t think that I would so reliant on technology.”
Hall sees it as a hope, but one that should be approached with caution. “It’s interesting what the film brings up. Technology will be the thing that gets us out of a lot of problems. It’s probably our greatest hope in regards to the environment and disease,” Hall said.
“But equally will bring us problems that we have no perception or imagination of what they could possibly be at this point. It’s complicated, but whether we like it or, we are becoming more integrated with technology.”
In the film it is Hall who, in her grief over losing her husband, fulfills his wishes and uploads his sub-consciousness to a computer, and that sets our world in peril story in motion. Is there a line that can be crossed when it comes to death – with the heart to blame?
“There is a line. And if I were in Evelyn’s shoes, I hope I would think about the moral ramification about maintaining my husband in cyberspace. But those decisions come from places of grief, so who knows? How much are you willing to do before you lose the human? Is integrating with machines the next step?” Hall said.
The actress also believes that the fiction aspect of this Transcendence science fiction story will soon have to be removed. “It probably will happen whether we think there are lines or not. It’s not if it’s going to happen but when.”
So he would know a bit more about what his artificial intelligence scientist was talking about, Bettany visited with those who are really exploring these worlds. What he found was startling.
“I spoke to a professor at Caltech. He was gratifyingly called Christoph Koch. A brilliant man, when I walked into the room, he was gratifyingly looking at a human brain while listening to Wagner. [Laughs] I’m a blond actor, not a science guy, trying to make unreal things seem real,” Bettany said.
“What is the truth of this? How farfetched is this? He said, thirty years. But, you’re talking about immortality. He said yes. It is a terrifying thought that scientists are unified in the opinion that we are on a collision course with technology and the next stage of our evolution will involve machinery.”
For Freeman, he sees something in this entire discussion that is not being approached. “The question for me is the chemistry of life. It seems to not be considered in this whole equation,” Freeman said.
“When you look in the eyes of a beautiful woman and fall in love, what happens if you’re uploaded? You no longer have the chemistry of life. What do you have?”