The Intelligence Revolution is an extolling and largely non-critical account by advocate Michio Kaku who unflinchingly explains how artificial intelligence will “revolutionise homes, workplaces and lifestyles,” and how virtual worlds will apparently become “so realistic” that they will “rival” the real physical world. Robots with “human-level intelligence” may finally become a reality according to Kaku, and in the ultimate stage of scientific mastery, the era of control imperative and domination, this culture will seek to merge human minds with so-called machine intelligence. Also, for the first time, we see how a severely depressed person can be turned into a happy person at the push of a button—all thanks to the convergence of neuroscience and microtechnology. What’s wrong with such developments? And the larger culture such that technologies like this are being developed in the first place? How do such prospects impact the real physical world and the real physical lives of all of us?
Who Pays the Price — The Human Cost of Electronics is a short film that seeks to humanise the largely hidden and anonymous global labour force that enables the ubiquitous technoculture, documenting the harsh conditions in which electronics are made and how this really impacts those people’s lives, and the environment. Toxic chemicals, plastics, and sweat-shop working conditions all contribute to the global machine that disseminates digital technologies, hidden in plain sight. Through direct footage of factory workers, interviews with them and analysis of the conditions, Who Pays the Price asks the question of the viewer, and as a call to action to stop the exploitation and toxification of people and the natural world.
Centred around the concept of open computer networks that contradictorily end up running closed corporate-controlled communication portals like Facebook and Twitter, Free The Network follows two young men who camp out at Zuccotti Park building wireless access points to connect their devices as part of the ‘Occupy movement.’ Through interviews along the way, Free The Network examines the current state of the Internet in the midst of the protest, and shows how the myth of the ‘democratisation of technology,’ along with the widespread emergence of clicktivism, is a flawed framework for driving social and political change…
In the wake of the September 11th attacks, amongst the ravaging of war, the United States has been secretly deploying drones to carry out assassinations throughout the Middle East. The drones are increasingly piloted by the likes of young computer gamers groomed by screen culture and computer games of war, where in many cases, the Pentagon is directly involved in the creation of such games as recruitment tools, actively working to lure young people proficient with technology into the new era of the military-industrial-complex. Drone unravels this complex phenomenon while travelling to places such as Waziristan, where innocent civilians, including children and rescue workers are routinely secretly killed, where families and communities ravaged by the drone strikes search for understanding, accountability and adjustment to the daily horrors. The film also takes a look at the young people sitting behind the screens of the new war machines, half a world away, that actually pull the trigger, asking what kind of world is being built in the rise of seemingly endless and lucrative war driven by technological escalation.
The Biotech Revolution is largely an exploration by scientists working in genetics and biotechnology that repeatedly promise “unprecedented health benefits and longevity for all,” amongst other things, to rationalise their work in the so-called “biotechnology revolution.” But in reality, isn’t this “revolution” simply just more of the same control imperative of science and this culture’s technology, essentially ending in the prospect of a monoculture of genetically modified people? Will such control foster into globalisation a history of inclusion and harmony? Or, will we simply end up in an extension of the current order, albeit one that is further divided, this time by genetic apartheid?
This film explores what affect the web is having on our society, as seen through the eyes of “the greatest Internet pioneer you’ve never heard of.” Josh Harris—often called the “Andy Warhol of the Web”—founded a website during the infamous dot-com boom of the 1990s which was the world’s first Internet television network. This concept was way ahead of its time, before broadband, but would go on to become commonplace in the years to come. Using this platform, a vision of that future was also exemplified at the time—an underground bunker in New York City where over 100 people lived together completely on camera, non-stop and unedited for 30 days over the millennium. The irony in which this speaks to future events doesn’t end there though. As the experiment and the film shows, We Live In Public serves as a powerful analogy for the Internet as it’s now known today and the price we pay for living in its ‘public,’ showing just what the costs of willingly trading privacy and sanity for a constant voracious audience, attention, the pursuit of the cult of celebrity—but above all, the mimic of real human connection mediated by technology—can be.
Good Copy Bad Copy is a documentary about the current state of copyright and culture in the context of Internet, peer-to-peer file sharing and other technological advances. Featuring interviews with many people with various perspectives on copyright, including copyright lawyers, producers and artists, Good Copy Bad Copy documents that “creativity itself is on the line” and that a balance needs to be struck, or that there is a conflict, between protecting the right of those who own intellectual property and the rights of future generations to create…
Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine is not just another celebratory biographical film about the life of a business man that many around the world grieved in 2011. It’s a full rounded critical examination into the fundamentals of a person revered as an iconoclast, a barbed-tongued tyrant, a business sociopath. The real Steve Jobs is revealed like this through candid interviews from those who had close relationships with him at different stages of his life, including the mother of his child, Lisa, that Jobs refused he had, but named a computer after instead. The film also takes us through the evocative essence of the brand of Apple Computers which has captured the population like zombies, and asks the question: What is the legacy of this industry, and the truth of this kind of person that the culture celebrates so much, completely ignoring the darkness?
Film maker David Bond lives in one of the most intrusive surveillance states in the world — Britain. When David receives a letter stating that both he and his daughter are amongst the 25 million residents whose details have been lost by the government in a massive data breach, David sets out to investigate some potential impacts of such data being lost in a society of mass surveillance. Erasing David documents the test where David hires two private detectives to track him down as he chooses to ‘disappear’ for 30 days to see if he can avoid being caught amongst the vast data trails generated by modern society…
How does the military train the solider of tomorrow? Video games. The most popular games are those that replicate the war events as seen on the news as close as possible. Such games now far outpace the biggest Hollywood blockbuster movies, popular music, and best-selling books, combined. What does this complete immersion in high-tech war mean for our political culture? As well as those directly affected by state violence? What does it mean when the technological sophistication of modern militarism become forms of mass entertainment? Returning Fire profiles three artists and activists that decided these questions needed to be answered. We see how Anne-Marie Schleiner, Wafaa Bilal, and Joseph Delappe moved dissent from the streets to the screens, infiltrating war games in an attempt to break their hypnotic spell. The results ask all of us—gamers and non-gamers alike—to think critically about what it means when drones and remote warfare become computer games and visa versa. Can we reflect on our capacity to empathise with people directly affected by the trauma of real war?
Kevin Warwick is a renowned researcher in the precarious field of cybernetics, the study of ‘artificial intelligence,’ human-control functions, robotics and so-called “cybernetic organisms.” His work, as self presented here, shows how implant and electrode technology can be used to control human brain functions, to create biological brains for robots, to enable so-called “human enhancement” and treatment for neurological illnesses. The end goal is transcending human “limitations” or transhumanism, according to Warwick, which inevitably stirs up many social, ethical and practical questions. What are the implications of this work, and this world view?
InRealLife asks: What exactly is the Internet and what is it doing to our children? Taking us on a journey ranging from the bedrooms of British teenagers to the explosive world of Silicon Valley, filmmaker Beeban Kidron suggests that rather than the promise of free and open connectivity, young people are increasingly ensnared in a commercial world. And as this is explained, InRealLife asks if we can afford to stand by while our children, trapped in their 24/7 connectivity, are being outsourced to the web.
Transhumanists claim a beautiful and apparently now-not-so-distant utopian future made possible by artificial intelligence, life extension and cybernetic technologies. But upon examining the convergence of these technologies and the history behind them, Age Of Transitions details how this movement of “transcending human limits” was born out of pseudo-science eugenics, and what the implications are for a world divided by the have’s and have-not’s.
The Hacker Wars explores the strange duality of the modern-day computer-hacker as a mischievous provocateur, but also in some cases, societal activists with underlying political fervour, serious or not. The film explores this by profiling some of the renowned characters that have tickled the secretive inner workings of corporations and government agencies for various reasons—ranging from the nefarious and narcissistic, to the political and scandalous. Some do it for the lulz, others do it to prove a point, and others still do it to speak truth to corrupt power. In any event, many have faced severe punishments as a result. Weaving through this, The Hacker Wars touches on issues of whistleblowing, social justice and power relations, in a time where computer technologies represent extreme power and control. But for whom? And what? This poses the question in deciphering the personalities of the hackers themselves. Are they troublemakers driven solely by a need to instigate havoc and chaos? Or are they in part activists with good intentions?
The dominant culture measures itself by the speed of “progress.” But what if this so-called progress is actually driving the physical world towards full-force collapse? Surviving Progress shows how past civilisations were destroyed by progress traps—alluring technologies and belief systems that serve immediate needs, but ransom the future. As the total destruction of the environment accelerates and those in power cling to their power ever more tightly in denial, can this globally-entwined civilisation escape a final, catastrophic progress trap?
Through exploring deep questions about the way mainstream media is organised and perpetuated in concert with technological development, media expert George Gerbner delivers a solid indictment of the way the so-called “information superhighway” is now being constructed. Following on from his solid work looking at the impacts of television on society, Gerbner turns to examining emerging technologies like V-chip and the way they interface with globalisation. This film urges the viewer to struggle for democratic principles in this emerging technoculture.
The latest findings in genetics, robotics, artificial intelligence, bionics and nanotechnology appear in the media frequently, but almost no analysis is found of their common aim which is to “exceed human ‘limitations’ and capability”—literally to ‘transcend’ humanity: transhumanism. This three part series covers the notion of transhumanism, the desire of technologists to become physical machines in totality, prompting serious physical, ethical, philosophical and practical questions. Will the transhumanists achieve their sacred so-called singularity? And what will that mean in the real world?
High Tech, Low Life follows the journey of two Chinese bloggers who travel their country chronicling undner-reported news and social issues stories. Using laptops, mobile phones, and digital cameras, both develop skills for reporting while learning to navigate China’s continually evolving censorship regime and the risks of political persecution. The film follows 57-year-old ‘Tiger Temple,’ who earns the title of China’s first “citizen reporter” after he impulsively documents an unfolding murder; and 27-year-old ‘Zola’ who recognises the opportunity to be famous by reporting on sensitive news throughout China. From the perspective of vastly different generations, both personalities must reconcile an evolving sense of individualism, social responsibility and personal sacrifice. The juxtaposition of Zola’s coming-of-age journey from veggie-farmer to Internet celebrity; and Tiger Temple’s commitment to understanding China’s tumultuous past, both provide a portrait of China and of the wider questions facing news-reporting in the age of the Internet.
All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace is a series of films about how this culture itself has been colonised by the machines it has has built. The series explores and connects together some of the myriad ways in which the emergence of cybernetics—a mechanistic perspective of the natural world that particularly emerged in the 1970s along with emerging computer technologies—intersects with various historical events and visa-versa. The series variously details the interplay between the mechanistic perspective and the catastrophic consequences it has in the real world.
HyperNormalisation wades through the culmination of forces that have driven this culture into mass uncertainty, confusion, spectacle and simulation. Where events keep happening that seem crazy, inexplicable and out of control—from Donald Trump to Brexit, to the War in Syria, mass immigration, extreme disparity in wealth, and increasing bomb attacks in the West—this film shows a basis to not only why these chaotic events are happening, but also why we, as well as those in power, may not understand them. We have retreated into a simplified, and often completely fake version of the world. And because it is reflected all around us, ubiquitous, we accept it as normal. This epic narrative of how we got here spans over 40 years, with an extraordinary cast of characters—the Assad dynasty, Donald Trump, Henry Kissinger, Patti Smith, early performance artists in New York, President Putin, Japanese gangsters, suicide bombers, Colonel Gaddafi and the Internet. HyperNormalisation weaves these historical narratives back together to show how today’s fake and hollow world was created and is sustained. This shows that a new kind of resistance must be imagined and actioned, as well as an unprecedented reawakening in a time where it matters like never before.
The latest in the string of controversies as part of the United States’ ongoing “war on terror”, is the military’s growing reliance on “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” otherwise known as ‘drones’, evidenced by the international reaction to recent drone missile attacks along the border in Pakistan. The military is also deploying other technological advancements alongside, such as robots in the battlefield and drones that work in swarms. Is this just a big computer game? A new tech-driven arms race? It doesn’t end there though — drones are now creeping into use by police and the intelligence services as a surveillance tool, and even into commercial and civilian use…
In 1960, NBC aired what is widely considered to be the first reality television show in American broadcast history. Billing itself as a new kind of visual reporting, the show was called Story of a Family, and it purported to document the day-to-day lives of the 10-member Robertson family of Amarillo, Texas. While the show has long since faded from public memory, media scholars and television historians have long recognised its significance as a precursor to the “unscripted programming” that dominates television today. TV Family draws on this history by interviewing several of the children featured in Story of a Family, to offer a fascinating behind-the-scenes account of how the show was made, and what it means to shape culture. Weaving personal anecdotes with commentary from historians and scholars, TV Family reveals the story of how the show’s producers carefully choreographed the way they wanted the family to appear to the American public—all in the name of “authenticity.” The result is an eye-opening look at one of television’s earliest successes in shaping the reality of family life in commercially viable ways.
Why was the the electric vehicle made by General Motors destroyed in the late 1990s? Why did it receive only limited commercialisation despite being hugely popular? It was among the fastest, most efficient production cars ever built. It ran on electricity, produced no exhaust and catapulted American technology to the forefront of the automotive industry. The lucky few who drove it never wanted to give it up. So why did General Motors suddenly crush its fleet of EV-1 electric vehicles in the Arizona desert? Was it because of a lack of consumer confidence or conspiracy?
The United States of Secrets chronologically accounts the Bush administration’s embrace of illegal and widespread dragnet surveillance and eavesdropping programmes, along with the Obama administration’s decision to not only continue them, but to dramatically expand them—despite denials and promises to the contrary. By weaving narratives by those who sought to blow the whistle on these programmes over the decades—culminating with Edward Snowden’s unprecedented dump of insider documents in 2013—we see how and why those inside the NSA and other government agencies came to act; what actions were effective, and what role the mainstream media had and continues to have in keeping such secret projects alive and untouchable in the name of ‘national security.’
Ray Kurzweil, noted inventor and futurist, is a man who refuses to accept physical reality and the inevitability of death. Instead, he claims that the trending exponential increase in the growth of information technology can continue indefinitely, and that a so-called “singularity” will emerage—a point where humans and machines will converge, allowing one to “transcend” biological “limitations.” But there are many who share deep concerns about the consequences of working towards Kurzweil’s world…
How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change travels the globe, from New York City to the Marshall Islands and China, to meet with people who are committed to reversing the tide of global warming. The film examines the intricately woven forces that threaten the stability of the climate and the lives of the world’s inhabitants.
Robot Wars visits companies in the United States that are producing robots for the military to disarm bombs, fly unmanned aircraft (drones), withstand repeated attacks and even choose targets and fire without any human intervention. The rapid development of autonomous robots and the use of them right now is surging ahead at a crazy rate, all with little regard to ethical and psychological questions, concerns about technological privilege and other obvious impacts. With military robots currently being operated using video game controllers, is the line being blurred between fantasy and reality?
Adrift is a short film that explores the phenomenon of space junk, where human-made objects launched into space and are now defunct orbit the Earth literally as garbage. The film makes visible some of the immediate impacts and dangers of the technological escalation of this culture, where old satellites, spent rocket stages, and other items orbit the Earth, only to collide with one another at high velocities, generating smaller fragments that collide with other items, and so on. The end point is a cascading complex of junk that engulfs the entire space around the Earth. Adrift aims to make this phenomenon visible, putting a big question mark against the claims made by many futurists and technologists that future space colonisation would even be possible, if only it were a tenable or sensible idea in the first place…
Presenting accounts from prominent players such as The Pirate Bay, Piratbyrån, and the Pirate Party in the Swedish piracy culture, Steal This Film documents the movement against intellectual property. In particular, the film provides critical analysis of the alleged regulatory capture attempt performed by the Hollywood film lobby to leverage economic sanctions by the United States government on Sweden through the WTO…
Social media networks purport the ability to interact with culture—talking directly to artists, celebrities, movies, brands, and even one another—in ways never before possible. But is this real empowerment? Or do marketing companies still hold the upper hand, as before? Generation Like explores how the perennial quest for identity and connection is usurped in the pervasive game of cat-and-mouse by vast corporate power in the extensive machine for consumerism that is now the online environment. The audience becomes the marketer; buzz is subtly controlled and manipulated by and from real-time behavioural insights; and the content generated is sold back to the audience in the name of participation. But does the audience even think they’re being used? Do they care? Or does the perceived chance to be the ‘next big star’ make it all worth it?
The Light Bulb Conspiracy investigates the history of Planned Obsolescence — the deliberate shortening of product life span to guarantee consumer demand — by charting its beginnings in the 1920s with a cartel set up expressly to limit the life span of light bulbs, right up to present-day products involving cutting edge electronics such as the iPod. The film travels to France, Germany, Spain and the US to find witnesses of a business practice which has become the basis of the modern economy, and brings back graphic pictures from Ghana where discarded electronics are piling up in huge cemeteries for electronic waste, causing intense environmental destruction and health problems…
At the time of making this film, the year 2000, computer games represented a $6 billion a year industry, and one out of every ten households in the United States owned a Sony Playstation—numbers that have no-doubt since skyrocketed. Back then, children played an average of ten hours per week—a stat also since to have increased today—and yet, despite capturing the attention of millions of these kids, video games remain one of the least scrutinized cultural industries. Game Over seeks to address this fastest growing segment of the media, through engaging questions of gender, race and violence. Game Over offers a much needed dialogue about the complex and controversial topic of video game violence, and is designed to encourage viewers to think critically about the games they play.
Just as mobile phones and wireless capability dramatically changed the way technology interacts with modern society, drones—or ‘Unmanned Aerial Vehicles’—are set to become the next major influence in technocratic life, directly impacting and seriously expanding the already extensive capabilities of surveillance. Rise Of The Machines takes a look at already developed drone technology and how governments, military and even civilians are rushing to adopt the gadgets which can be purchased off the shelf for just a few hundred dollars and controlled by already existing smart phones. So what will a world of drones look like? And what of the many, serious, unexplored implications on how society will function in a world of drones?
Ten years on from his previous film, Advertising & the End of the World, renowned media scholar Sut Jhally follows up by exploring the since-escalating devastating personal and environmental fallouts of advertising and the near-totalising commercial culture. The film tracks the emergence of the advertising industry in the early 20th century to the full-scale commercialisation of the culture today, identifying the myth running throughout all of advertising: the idea that corporate brands and consumer goods are the keys to human happiness and fulfilment. We see how this powerful narrative, backed by billions of dollars a year and propagated by clever manipulative minds, has blinded us to the catastrophic costs of ever-accelerating rates of consumption. The result is a powerful film that unpacks fundamental issues surrounding commercialism, media culture, social well-being, environmental degradation, and the dichotomy between capitalism and democracy.
Humanity is absolutely dependent on animals as part of life. In industrial society however, this has extended to animals as pets, ‘entertainment’ and for expendable use in scientific research — animals are tortured for ‘scientific tests’, locked in cages as pets and at the zoo and are bred on mass for cheap meat. What does this say about industrial civilisation? Earthlings conducts an in-depth study into pet stores, puppy mills and animals shelters, as well as factory farms, the leather and fur trades, sports and entertainment industries, and the medical and scientific profession, using hidden cameras to directly show the day-to-day practices of some of the largest industries in the world…
Instafame is an exploration of a teenager’s relationship with the concepts of success and fame through the lens of the screen, exemplified by the popular photo-sharing website ‘Instagram.’ The short film speaks volumes about this specific aspect of screen culture in that the notions of celebrity are self-reinforced in the closed-loop of the ‘social networking’ environment which is itself a purpose-built, commercially-mediated experience. So what happens to the notions of identity, friendship, personality and so on; in this space, and in the wider culture?
Combining graphs and other visual examples in animation, this short film goes through the issues surrounding the collapse of industrial civilisation—by collating the interconnectedness of energy depletion, carrying capacity, population growth, peak natural resource extraction, and other issues with the problems of exponential economic growth on a finite planet. Can this current way of life continue? The film takes us through these problems and also examines some of the many flaws inherent in some proposed solutions, such as ‘change-by-personal-consumer-choice’, or the vague belief in technology as the deus ex machina to save the day. These serious problems need serious solutions and require a radical rethinking of this current way of life that cannot continue indefinitely. Time is short…
Stuxnet is a malicious computer virus, first identified in 2010, that targets industrial computer systems and was responsible for causing substantial damage to Iran’s nuclear program, as well as spreading across the world. The virus is believed by many experts to be a jointly built American-Israeli cyberweapon, although no organisation or state has officially admitted responsibility. Zero Days covers the phenomenon surrounding the Stuxnet computer virus and the development of the malware software known as “Olympic Games.” It also examines the follow-up cyber-plan entitled ‘Nitro Zeus,’ showing how the United States has opened the Pandora’s Box of cyberwarfare.
Over the past decade, the United States military has shifted the way it fights its wars, deploying more technological systems in the battlefield than human forces. Today there are more than 7,000 drones and 12,000 ground robots in use by all branches of the military. These systems mean less deaths for US troops, but increased killings and precision elsewhere for the United States war machine. With lethal drone strikes being carried out in secret by the CIA and occurring outside of officially declared war zones such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, the secret use of robots and drones in this way evokes serious questions about the operations of the United States and what this means for the rest of the world as more and more autonomy is developed for these technologies.
We live in an absolutely saturated media environment of images that span ‘real’ and fake—whether it’s newspaper and tabloid photos, journalism itself, art and culture, or the human body. Images claim to be hardly distinguishable from the originals, while the virtual world is increasingly becoming ‘seamless’ in the real world. Kids today see a Clown Fish but instead impose their imagery of Finding Nemo. People interact with machines more than they do living beings. The narratives imposed by this technological and media culture are fast seeking to entirely replace the real world with a simulation of it. So what does that mean for the truth? The Industry of Fake explores the shifting boundaries and inequality in journalism and in art, as well as providing a basis to question this culture’s fascination with simulacra—a process of mimicry mediated by images that represents the real thing, but is not the real thing. What does it mean if we value our projections or stories about the thing as opposed to the thing in-and-of itself? What does this mean in the real world if we come to value our simulations or representations as more authentic things as opposed to copies or toxic mimics?