Movies with Meaning

It’s almost inconceivable to think of life without the Internet. As if out of nowhere, this remarkable technology quietly emerged from modest beginnings and proceeded to explode, revolutionizing the world in countless ways – as well as in countless ways we have yet to imagine. But, given how unexpectedly this remarkable phenomenon arose, not to mention how it has come to so completely dominate many aspects of our lives, are we fully aware of its current influence and potential future impact? Those ideas are among the many raised in director Werner Herzog’s thoughtful new documentary, “Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World” 

Making a film about a subject as overarching as the Internet is no small task. The sheer volume of material available for possible inclusion is itself overwhelming. There’s so much to cover that it’s impossible to believe any one picture could do it justice.

Given that, Herzog wisely chose not to try and incorporate all facets of this potentially unwieldy subject into this project. Rather, he selected a handful of relevant topics, illustrating them with specific examples. This material is effectively complemented by interview segments with such experts as entrepreneur Elon Musk, Internet pioneer Dr. Leon Kleinrock, computer scientist Danny Hillis, former hacker Kevin Mitnick, educator and robotics expert Sebastian Thrun, visionary physicist Lawrence Krauss, and astronomer Lucianne Walkowicz.

Among the topics covered in the film are the Internet’s origins and its future, as well as a number of key questions about its current and evolving character. Through the picture’s various examples, Herzog examines such net-inspired innovations as virtually instantaneous universal connectivity, technological wonders in areas as diverse as robotics, smart phones and self-driving cars, and the capacity for unfettered global participatory problem-solving. By contrast, the film then depicts the darker side of the electronic world, such as its potential to inflict devastating emotional harm, the debilitating impact of some forms of wireless technology on physical and psychological health, and the implementation of web-based platforms and hacking programs for intentionally wreaking economic, social and political chaos. The film also explores a number of pending developments, such as Internet-based applications for use in space exploration and interplanetary colonization, brain mapping, and even the creation of highly personalized residential units incorporating “the Internet of Me.”

But, as becomes apparent in the film, much of what ultimately happens with the Internet and related technologies depends not so much on the hardware and software but on what we do with it, considerations driven as much by human nature as by microchips and algorithmic protocols. Of course, as the technology evolves, so is human nature, especially when we look at what electronics now make possible, capacities for creativity and productivity not previously envisioned, let alone capable of being deployed. And none of this takes into account the impact of what’s in the pipeline, developments whose influence can hardly be predicted at this point (if you doubt that, consider the fact that virtually every 20th Century futurist who speculated about the nature of life today never saw the Internet coming).

So what does all this mean? Essentially it’s a rallying cry that we choose carefully what we do with this amazing new technology. That may be easier said than done, though, given the volume of new information that is being added to the Internet on a daily basis. As Herzog astutely points out, if we were to copy to CD all of the data that is being added to the web every day, the stack of disks containing it would extend from Earth to Mars. That’s 365 new interplanetary CD piles every year. That’s some serious food for thought – and a lot to digest.

Though occasionally uneven, “Lo and Behold” is a fascinating documentary about what is arguably one of the most transformative inventions in human history. The bulk of the segments make their cases clearly and succinctly, though there’s a slight tendency to succumb to inadequately explained computer jargon, leaving the technically uninitiated in the dark. Nevertheless, there’s much to like here. Geeks will assuredly adore the film, but even casual users of this technology will likely come away with an enlightened perspective.


Topics: Speaking Engagements, documentary, Elon Musk, penetration testing, smart phones, Werner Herzog, wireless technology, cyber security, electronics, human nature, internet, Lawrence Krauss, Leon Kleinrock, Mars, Sebastian Thrun, Kevin Mitnick Security Awareness Training, Lo and Behold, Lucianne Walkowicz, robotics, self-driving cars, Danny Hillis, phishing, instantaeous universal connectivity, Kevin Mitnick

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