Chris Paine’s documentary looks at the potential dangers of our intimate relationship with smartphones and laptops.
In fact, it’s really more of a film essay, in the methodical way it introduces, dissects and draws conclusions from ideas applied to real-world developments. Having tried narrowing his focus to a single topic in the 2006 breakout Who Killed the Electric Car?, Paine decided to go wide for this project, weaving together far-reaching trends and headlines to form a more holistic meditation on the theme of technology.
“With this film, we wanted to pick apart the stuff we take for granted,” Paine tells the Guardian. “We wanted to say: ‘What is the reality behind these things? Which anxieties are well-founded, and what’s just fear?’”
It’s hard not to enter full-on panic mode as Paine blows through digital threats to life as we know it as if from apocalyptic flashcards. While advances like artificial intelligence, increased automation and algorithmic learning have propelled humanity into a faster and more convenient future, they have paved the way for some chilling developments as well.
“There are tentpole concerns,” Paine explains. “The danger of autonomous weapons, the danger of election tampering and other hacking, the hazards of overpersonalization – these are part of the ‘existential risk’ we’ve covered in the three years of working on this film … People are very fast to trust things that take care of them. We trust airplane autopilots, and we trust the FAA to make sure the pilot’s not flying under the influence or something. Like machines or governments, digital programs have a real relationship with the humans that use them. When we go to a computer program to buy from an online marketplace, purchase flight tickets or book a hotel, we trust that the algorithms in place are giving us good information, the best prices.”
See more + trailer on The Guardian: