Saturday, 26 April 2014

Transcendence, transference, trans...something

I went to see Transcendence really hoping all the critics were wrong. I was thinking often people just don't get scifi, or they went expecting mega special effects and didn't get them or whatever... But I have to say were it not for Mr Depp on the cast, it would have sunk without trace by now. I felt like I was watching a Dad's race at a primary school: lots of urgent flailing of legs & arms to get to the finish line but eventually falling into a lumpy heap.

The film tries desperately to knit together nanotechnology, spirituality, psychology, biochemistry and artifical intelligence (yeah, all that) into something that ends up being cross between a reworking of the myth of Icarus, the Six Million Dollar Man and Cold Mountain. So I thought, who was the writer? It turns out to be one Jack Paglen whose credits include a forthcoming remake of Battlestar Gallactica. Say no more. Watch this film only if you drool over Mr Depp (and plenty do).

One of the core themes to the movie might be summed up in the words: just because you can does not mean that you should. At one point in the film, it is proposed that the difference between self aware AI and plain ordinary very clever AI is knowing the difference between right and wrong (as if ethics is ever binary). And then the film goes on to show how even self aware AI doesn't know the difference between right and wrong. It is all very confusing, rather than been consciously ironic - or perhaps it was! (Certainly, there is a moment where one of the main characters is booked secretly into a hotel room in name of Turing: even though I was sitting in MK, which includes Bletchley, no one else seemed to laugh...)

But to get back to the leadership point: the film is about the wise (and unwise) use of technology. I would contend that the mark of a fine leader is one who is able to distinguish what can be done from what should be done. In other words ethics is core to good leadership.

As a leader, what was your last ethical decision?


This is the twenty sixth of my new series of blogs about leadership ideas to be found in the movies of our time. You can read here as why I am doing this. Please subscribe to this blog if you want to read more. Thanks. Click the label 'film' to see all the others.

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