The premiere of the film Transcendance, directed by Wally Pfister and starring Johnny Depp as AI researcher Dr. Will Caster, was last night in Westwood. I got to go since my spouse produced and co-wrote the iOS and Android game that accompanies this movie. Johnny Depp and other cast members were there, but, alas, I did not get to hang with them; there were many interesting conversations nevertheless and I was glad to get to see the film for the first time. (Those involved with it had often seen very many cuts already, of course.) The general theatrical release of the film is April 18.
It’s an idea-packed film with a good bit of action, explosions, and so on, as well as innumerable nanites. Much can and will be said of it. One thing I was pleasantly surprised to note, though, was that the film expressed a bit how AI researchers (and by extension academic researchers more generally) have different motivations for what they do. Some are mainly interested in the challenges that problems present, because those problems are beautiful or inherently interesting. Some want to learn and understand things about the world. Some want to produce benefits in the world. And (although this group is not represented among the top researchers in the world) for some it’s just a job to make a living. It was nice to see the nuance of these different motivations in the way AI research was portrayed in Transcendance.