Tonje Hessen Schei follows up her documentary Drones with this prescient look at how technology is changing our lives. It’s timely because, if nothing else, the global pandemic has accelerated the rates of change, socially, culturally and even scientifically, and what seemed like a hot potato back when this doc was first seen in 2019 is now verging on scalding; our digital footprint is increasing incrementally as we seek connectivity online rather than in person. This cinema release coincides with International Human Rights Day on Dec 10th 2020, and it’s our human rights that seem to be at stake.
Of course, Google and Facebook refused to take part in iHuman’s look to our uncertain future, but that’s probably for the best; there’s plenty of evidence here that artificial intelligence, specifically the development of algorithms that are quietly changing the way we live, may not be on the side of the human race. Back in the early days of the Internet, online communication seemed to promise a better world through easy, instant interaction. Instead, elections seem to have been influenced, minds have been set in opposition to each other, and divisions have been exaggerated rather than being solved. The algorithms may be happy, but the consumers are not.
iHuman is a striking documentary in that Schei tracks down experts who have a window into what’s coming down the pike, and it’s not good news for most of us. Driverless cars have been on the cards right now, but what happens to the 10 million jobs which would be automatically lost in the US alone? Some hold out hope that technology will allow us to engineer a ‘more decent, free society’ while others suggest that the development of drone technology promises ‘war at machine speed’, a terrifying prospect. Offering sombre conspiracy theories about why ridiculous conspiracy theories have flourished offers a mental gymnasium of contradictions to navigate, a hall of mirrors ever darkening before our eyes.
One on-screen non sequitur has ‘employment’ as one of the problems that we have to face moving forward; presumably unemployment is what they meant. But there’s obvious dangers in the way that the world is going right now, and most of those doing well out of this financially don’t seem to give two hoots about the damage being caused. In the face of a deadly pandemic, we’re left holding hands like the characters in Toy Story 3 as we head down the conveyor belt towards the furnace; for those seeking a weather-forecast for our uncertain future, iHuman is a more-than-worthwhile watch for anyone with concerns about how technology may affect our current predicament.
iHuman being released in the UK in cinemas and digitally from 10 December 2020
See https://www.modernfilms.com/ihuman for UK screenings.