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Transcendent Man [DVD] [2009] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

Dispatched from and sold by RAREWAVES USA.
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Region 1 encoding. (This DVD will not play on most DVD players sold in the UK [Region 2]. This item requires a region specific or multi-region DVD player and compatible TV. More about DVD formats)
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Product details

  • Format: NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 97,481 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

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Format: DVD
“Transcendent Man” is a documentary about the life and ideas of Ray Kurzweil, a successful American inventor and author of the book “The Singularity is Near”. The documentary shows him hobnobbing with both Colin Powell and William Shatner, later turning up at an event featuring Barack Obama. Stevie Wonder is another celebrity interviewed. Kurzweil's association with Shatner (Captain Kirk in Star Trek) is perhaps symbolic.

Kurzweil is a believer in “the law of accelerating returns” and exponential technological progress. He claims that a new evolutionary leap will take place around the year 2040, when a state he calls “the singularity” will be reached. At that point, machines will acquire super-human intelligence, and nothing will ever be the same. The documentary discusses both Artificial Intelligence, nanotechnology, the potential immortality of the physical body, genetic engineering, and the creation of new human bodies through computer-generated virtual reality. Kurzweil himself imbibes mysterious pills which supposedly reprograms the biochemistry of his body, thereby extending his life span. (This interests Shatner, who says he doesn't want to die.) When talking to Powell, Kurzweil claims that all our energy needs can be taken care of by highly advanced solar panels. If this sounds like science fiction, it probably should. Indeed, “The Terminator” is explicitly referenced in the documentary, and other ideas sound strikingly similar to those in “The Matrix”. This makes the pairing of Kurzweil and Captain Kirk look pregnant with meaning!

A couple of critics have been included in “Transcendent Man”, but most of them don't really question the idea of eternal technological progress.
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By Bernie VINE VOICE on 3 Aug. 2011
Format: DVD
This presentation was just a lot of half formed, repetitive sound bites. The information is dated, the concept is dated, and frankly we have seen it all before in the movies. There was nothing concrete or usable. When it really got boring they would throw in a celebrity or two as Colin Powell or William Shatner to spice it up a tad. I know this presentation is really an attempted biography but still falls short of its purpose.

Basically it went from the possibility of improving man then machine then eventually building the ultimate man/machine as in the film "Over Sexed Rugsuckers from Mars" (1989).

I did like looking at the old-time computers and bygone personalities.
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Format: DVD
I'm somewhat familiar with the work of futurist Ray Kurzweil having read and reviewed his book The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence (1999). He has since written several other books. He's won a lot of prizes and several honorary doctorates. He's a brilliant and original man.

As this documentary film makes clear, he is also a man afraid of dying and a man who very much misses his father and dreams of somehow bringing his father back to "life." Yes, quotation marks around "life." Kurzweil thinks that it will someday be possible to down load our brains onto some kind of software and in such form we will live forever.

I probably should read some more Kurzweil because I am sure he has an answer to my main critique of this fantastic idea, which can be illustrated by this consideration:

Suppose your brain is downloaded. Which of you is you? The one in the software whose experiences are virtual or the one in the flesh and blood whose experiences are very human-like with all the ups and downs? The lives that can be downloaded onto software will be interesting, incredible really, but only to other people.

Another thing to ask when thinking about this is "How do you program a computer to feel pain? Or joy for that matter. Human beings are evolved beings that are subject to pleasure and pain. Software and AI machines not only don't feel any pain, they couldn't even if they wanted to. They can be programmed to act as though they feel pain but that is all. It is not even clear how animals came to develop the pleasure/pain reward/punishment system. What came first the mechanism to deliver pain or the ability to recognize the experience as pain? Nobody knows.

I wonder if Kurzweil realizes that death is part of life.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0xa19df42c) out of 5 stars 229 reviews
35 of 41 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1824a14) out of 5 stars When Biology Merges With Robotics--Contemplating The Future Of Man's Evolution 27 May 2011
By K. Harris - Published on Amazon.com
As an inventor, businessman, and theorist--there is no denying the brilliant accomplishments or the noteworthy eccentricities of the estimable Ray Kurzweil. Alternately hailed as a prophetic genius and/or a raving madman, there is a probably a touch of truth in either position in how Kurzweil and his Singularity Doctrine view the future. "Transcendent Man," an intriguing and lively new documentary, serves as both a biographical sketch and a contemplation of man's progression through time. Kurzweil's position is that the current evolutionary cycle predominantly incorporates technology and that future incarnations of man will be human/robotic hybrids of some variation. He makes a compelling case, and has been quite astute in past predictions, about these changes--and, in fact, science has been working in that direction for quite some time with nanotechnology, robotics, and artificial intelligence.

The documentary begins with a fascinating introduction to its subject and his many revolutionary contributions. It's hard not to be caught up in the man's brilliance, impressed by his creations, and intrigued by his vision for man's evolution. As a biography, "Transcendent Man" works tremendously well. But as the movie progresses, it becomes clear that Kurzweil is abundantly obsessed with two concepts--achieving immortality through science and reviving his long dead father by computer programming and artificial intelligence. The second half of the picture evolves into science fiction. There is something both disturbing and touching seeing him contemplate rebuilding his father through old journal entries and documentation.

The final argument of the film is about the nature of man's future. Many other scientists participate in the discussion of the social and philosophical implications of Kurzweil's suppositions. While everyone agrees that technology has a large role to play, there are questions about the timeframe and the depth of that involvement. And while Kurzweil sees only the positive aspects of this hybrid society and allowing technology to take over--many others posit that there are just as many risks. The film really becomes a theoretical debate, which while interesting, seems disconnected from the start of the documentary. A definite and easy recommendation for the subject alone--the film didn't always seem to have narrative cohesion. But regardless of film structure, there is much to digest from the man and the movie. KGHarris, 5/11.
50 of 62 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1853fd8) out of 5 stars Not a good representation of Kurzweil's ideas. 14 July 2011
By Christopher Kent - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I've seen Ray Kurzweil speak at a conference, and it was a life-changing experience for me. His insights about the future, based on what he's learned about the speed of change, are remarkable. But the DVD doesn't capture that well at all. Instead of making his points, providing evidence and refuting key objections that people have raised over the years--which is what he did at the presentation--this video focuses on a few soundbites about his ideas, doesn't illustrate them, and doesn't show you the objections that commonly get raised and his answers to those objections. Instead, it spends a lot of time on irrelevant side trips, such as showing him talking about his father and how he'd love to "recreate" his father via computer technology; and it shows people giving their opinions about his ideas without giving him a chance to respond. Despite the awards this video has apparently won, it is a LOUSY representation of Kurzweil's ideas and his defense of them. Don't waste your time and money. Instead, try to see him talk live. (His book about the singularity isn't totally satisfying either--it's complex material even for a well-educated fan--but it's far superior to this video.)
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa18621a4) out of 5 stars The future without me 17 Oct. 2012
By Grace Battjes - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
When you pass your 80th birthday you realize that you will not be around for a lot of what technology will provide. It doesn't matter if you think it good or bad.... there are those whose visions are beyond ours. This video is an exciting adventure into other peoples' minds and creativity. Science fiction? I don't think so. The brain is a wondrous gift and this a chance to see it in action.
23 of 30 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1862288) out of 5 stars I hope it happens! 21 Mar. 2011
By Minhaj Arifin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
Sure there is the technical stuff and the robots and the idea of singularity, but more than that what struck me was the soft spoken Ray Kurzweil gently saying, 'No' to death. He intends to invent his way out of it. The documentary explains how all this might happen and I am not even going to pretend that I am being balanced here. I love this guy! It was a pleasure to see him speak at the Screening. I was sitting in the balcony and the normalness of this man astounded me. Someone who invented the flat bed scanner, helped the blind to read, made a robot create music, went to M.I.T, is really not an introverted geek. I was expecting a large headed man in a white labcoat. Instead there he was standing in a checkered jacket, telling us that how the computer that once occupied the whole room now sits in our pockets. How far are we from this pocket sized machine going into our blood cells? Just as we dont feel the earth moving around the sun at thousands of mile per hour, we are also perhaps unaware of how quickly things are changing. Ray also spoke about a pill that may allow us to eat all we want without gaining weight. These things are in play. And then he sat down to watch the Transcendent Man. It was weird watching the film and also being able to see Ray sitting in the same room. In one scene he wore the same jacket that he was wearing that evening. Anyway I will end this most balanced review now. Just watch it!

Minhaj Arifin
Author of
How Desis Became The Greatest Nation On Earth
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1862720) out of 5 stars Interesting then insane. 18 Feb. 2013
By Patrick Aderhold - Published on Amazon.com
It starts off with some very limited and justifiable extrapolations based on good data, but devolves near the end of the video. The claims change from the plausible (supercomputers smarter than humans, blood-cell sized robots to monitor health) to the philosophical (digital reincarnations and apocalyptic wars over AI doodads) and jumps the shark in the end with a couple wacky christiany claims about armageddon for no apparent reason and as we fade to black we hear Ray talking about transforming all the matter in the universe with intelligence-laden nanobots.

Forty minutes of interesting material.
Twenty minutes of head-shaking, controversial-for-controversy's sake speculation.
Ten minutes of "WTF!?"
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