plug & pray

Detail of the promotional poster for the documentary 'Plug & Pray' (Schanze 2010)

Computer experts around the world, like Raymond Kurzweil and Hiroshi Ishiguro, strive towards the development of intelligent robots. Will man and machine merge as a single unity? Rejecting evolution’s biological shackles dangles the promise of eternal life for those bold enough to seize it. But Joseph Weizenbaum, a pioneer of the computer age, counter attacks against society’s limitless faith in the redemptive powers of technology. Filmed in the U.S.A., Japan, Germany, Italy.

Since antiquity, humankind has dreamed of creating intelligent machines. The invention of the computer and the breathtaking pace of technological progress appear to be bringing the realisation of this dream within our grasp. Scientists and engineers across the world, like Raymond Kurzweil and Hiroshi Ishiguro, are working on the development of intelligent robots, which are poised to become an integral part of all areas of human life. Robots are to do the housework, look after the children, care for the elderly… Yet, the ultimate vision goes even further, envisioning a merger of man and machine that will throw off the biological shackles of evolution and finally make eternal life a reality. The film delves into a world in which computer technology, robotics, biology, neuroscience, and developmental psychology merge. We visit the world’s leading experts in their laboratories in Japan, the USA, Italy and Germany. One of their very own, a pioneer of computer development and artificial intelligence, former MIT professor Joseph Weizenbaum, has become one of the harshest critics of those visions of technological omnipotence. He sees the widespread belief that nature can be entirely grasped by means of science and thus is computable as a disastrous aberration of human thinking. Weizenbaum, who created ELIZA, the world’s first speech recognition programme and mother of all chatbots, witnessed how, within only a few decades, computers have been entrusted with all kinds of tasks, even decision-making. Wary of unstinting devotion to progress, he keeps asking: Do we need all this? And what will it mean to be human in a world run by machines?

SCHANZE, JENS. 2010. Plug & pray [documentary film]. München, Berlin: Mascha Film, Farbfilm.
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