The battle lines are already being drawn around Ray Kurzweil’s new documentary. The Singularity is Near, based on the book of the same name, discusses the future of accelerating technology while presenting a fictional narrative about an artificial intelligence based on Kurzweil himself. We were very sad to miss the movie’s Sonoma Film Festival debut on April 16th, but there are two reputable reviews of the premier and the panel discussion that followed. Sonoma News was less than flattering of Kurzweil’s film, calling it narcissistic and self-congratulatory, comparing it unfavorably to a documentary about Wavy Gravy the clown. H+ Magazine, a futurist site of some renown, praised the film as a “total blast to sit through.” Maybe there’s little surprise that a singularity-friendly site enjoyed the movie while a traditional media source was turned off by it. Yet if the documentary is supposed to proselytize, as so much of Kurzweil’s work seems aimed at doing, shouldn’t we worry more about what the traditional movie reviewers think?
I’ve read The Singularity is Near, I’ve watched a lot of Kurzweil’s presentations, and I keep track of his predictions. While I understand why, financially, I should be the documentary’s target audience, philosophically it doesn’t make much sense – I’m already interested in the Singularity. That’s why it’s disappointing to see Sonoma News prefer the loving tribute to Wavy Gravy rather than a serious film about the future. Admittedly anybody might have lost to the “clown” because he is a a truly phenomenal social commentator, but c’mon, we’re talking about new forms of (artificial) life here! Will the film be unappealing to an average viewer? We probably won’t know for certain until the final cut makes it to theaters. In the meantime, I would love for anyone who attended the Sonoma Film Festival premier to tell us what they thought of the movie in the comments below. Is this a film to bring the Singularity to the masses or is it a total dud? Or is it just a nice romp for those of us who are already fascinated by the concept? Let me know.