Warning: There are spoilers ahead.
After watching a screening of Johnny Depp’s new movie, “Transcendence” Wednesday evening, I was left with a ton of questions.
- Can you upload a person’s consciousness into a computer?
- Can artificial intelligence be self aware?
- Are we too reliant on technology?
- Will we be able to clone humans — and should we?
The movie follows Dr. Will Caster (Depp), an Artificial Intelligence scientist, who has created an omniscient machine that appears to have the ability to feel. When Caster is poisoned by anti-technology terrorists, his mind is uploaded into his AI super computer, and, ultimately, the Internet to keep him alive.
Yes, it’s a stretch.
Plotwise, the movie has a lot of holes and problems that I won’t bother getting into because it gets rather confusing. (The film is currently sitting at a sour 13% on Rotten Tomatoes.)
The big takeaway from the film is to address the possible dangers of not only artificial intelligence but our technology-driven society as a whole.
However, there was one brief topic that stuck out to me that audiences will probably have questions about.
At one point in the film, Caster’s AI program heals a man who has been brutally injured.
The next time we see the character on screen, he exhibits super strength — he’s able to lift objects that no possible human could with their bare hands.
He’s not the only one. As the movie progresses, more individuals are seen with impossible strength as a result of Caster enhancing particular genes in addition to healing individuals. Soon these new enhanced humans start to be called hybrids.
With the influx of superhero movies this summer it instantaneously brought to mind images of Marvel’s X-Men — comic book characters who all have an extra gene that “normal humans” don’t possess.
Instead of “hybrids” though, Marvel refers to them as mutants.
We’re not sure whether “Transcendence” first-time director Wally Pfister and Jack had Marvel’s comic characters in mind or just enhancements to human genes. Either way, it’s difficult to imagine that people who head to theatres won’t see that scene and think of characters like Marvel’s Wolverine or Hulk who have superhuman strength or Captain America, whose enhanced abilities were received from a gene-altering serum.
Will people eventually have the ability to receive genetic enhancements?
Technically, we already do if you consider gene therapy and human growth hormones.
As well, mice with expanded muscles coined “Schwarzenegger mice” have been bred in labs 10 years ago.
That doesn’t mean we’ll have mutant/hybrid humans walking around any time soon.
The National Human Genome Research Institute says genetic enhancement’s ability to affect human evolution is unlikely.
“As the evolution of the human species is a nonrandom change in allelic frequencies resulting from selective pressure. The change progresses over generations because individuals with specific patterns of alleles are favoured reproductively. If new alleles were introduced by gene transfer, the impact on the species would be negligible. Moreover, there is no certainty that genetically enhanced individuals would have greater biological fitness, as measured by reproductive success.”
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