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Warning! This Analysis contains major spoilers!

Although it has received terrible reviews, I am most interested in Transcendence for the ideas it provoked after watching it. Is humanity capable of transcending its own biology? Is artificial intelligence a precursor to the end, or the beginning? Can the atheist and theist minds be reconciled? One of the reasons I ask this last question, is because of my own experience living in a family in which divisions between the secular and religious have created a lot of pain and confusion. I detail a little about my experience in the following brochure.

Transcendence Poster

Transcendence is a movie that imagines a scenario where A.I. evolves beyond the limits of humanity’s biology, bringing a type one civilization intelligence and technology into our present day. Right from the beginning of this movie, it raised all kinds of questions in my mind. When seen in the light of the potential of quantum computing and what this could do for artificial intelligence, why is humanity’s evolution so slow and antiquated in comparison? Our species has spent hundreds of thousands of years slogging through the doldrums of evolutionary stagnation. And if a quantum computer can go from a type zero to a type one civilization intelligence in only two years time like what happens in the story of Transcendence, what does this say about the pathetic nature of our wet wired hardware? Of course, some will say the optimistic vision of the power of our computers in Transcendence will never be realized. But if it turns out to be true that a silicon or graphene based mind is capable of so much more than the ones we possess, it is possible that A.I. could be a turning point in our evolution.

 

The premise of the conclusion in Transcendence is unlikely; that a virus could literally destroy the Internet. But the fact of this event in the story takes on even more significance in its statement about the danger of human nature seeking to destroy a good thing simply because we fear what we don't understand and are threatened by a new kind of power challenging the status quo.

The internet just happens to be a power currently challenging the status quo. No one country owns or controls it. It truly is the seed we might eventually see grow into a burgeoning type one civilization planetary brain, where humanity is no longer fragmented and at war, but live together as fellow citizens of one nation; the global country or a united states of Earth. It is probably not difficult to see why there are powerful people on Earth today who harbor a desire to destroy or dominate the internet from one particular country. As we have seen recent bans on facebook, Twitter and YouTube from Asian and Middle Eastern nations, we have also seen a political enemy of a superpower casually lead a lecture at a conference in a country where he would surely be arrested if it was not for the remotely operated avatar body he was controlling over the internet from Russia. This power that would be considered sorcery in the dark ages, allowed Edward Snowden to later mingle with guests in the hallway of TEDx Vancouver. His appearance made such a stir in the news that the U.S. government had to respond with a TED talk of their own, trying to play damage control with the head of the NSA.

   

Max the narrator tells us that electricity in Boston and some phone service in Denver is all that remains of things being close to what they were. He describes the disaster as “all inevitable, an unavoidable collision between mankind and technology.”

Max
Max

In the beginning and then later in the story, Bob Dylan’s music plays on records in the home of Will and Evelyn Caster. My friend Tony made the comment that perhaps the filmmaker is paying homage to Steve Jobs; A big fan of Dylan who put computers in our pockets, bringing internet connections to the masses. And now the iPhone is equipped with an artificial intelligence assistant named Siri who has competition on Microsoft mobile devices with its female assistant, Cortana.

 

Science-fiction films often revolve around two narratives concerning Technology. One story sees technology as a monster, misused for evil to create suffering and mayhem, where artificial intelligence turns on its creators. The other story sees technology as a Savior, but sometimes mistaken as the enemy. And the scientists who use technology for the latter, see a positive outlook for the future even in the face of all that can go wrong. It was interesting to me that Transcendence is a break from the typical A.I. sci-fi that has been a staple of Hollywood for many years; Terminator and the Matrix being prime examples where the machines are the evil enemy.

Terminator

But in Transcendence, it is the opposite; artificial intelligence is working to save the world, while a paranoid humanity seeks to destroy it. The android Data in Star Trek is another example I can think of where the sentient computer is portrayed as more innocent than people.

 

Max Keynote

The character Max is introduced to us as an innocent scientist who wants to use knowledge “…to save lives.” At the beginning of Transcendence, we are reminded of the need to eclipse our own nature. Will’s wife Evelyn, reads to us a quote by Albert Einstein. “A new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move towards higher levels. Albert Einstein said that more than fifty years ago, and it couldn’t be more relevant than it is today.”

Evelyn Keynote

We know all about the perils we face as a species, and the fragmented thinking that put us where we are. And when confronted with so many daunting challenges, it's easy to become cynical and believe technology will lead to humanity’s undoing. The more difficult journey is to remain hopeful even amidst all that can go wrong and the despair stemming from obsessing about it. This indomitable will to reshape what's wrong in the world, into something beautiful and good, describes the orientation of Will’s wife, Evelyn. She also might symbolize the eternal hope within humanity that looks forward to a day when our machines help us remake the world into the paradise we all want to live in. Evelyn expresses this hope at an A.I. keynote in Berkeley; “Intelligent machines will soon allow us to conquer our most intractable challenges. Not merely to cure disease but to end poverty and hunger. To heal the planet and build a better future for all of us.” 

And we see this optimism expressed in Ray Kurzweil's recent TED talk, where he argues machines will someday connect to our biology in a way that helps us reshape the world into a better one. Kurzweil also promotes Singularity University in another TED talk which seeks to "inspire and empower leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges."

 

Jason Silva is another futurist promoting an optimistic vision of A.I.

 

And Nell Watson in this talk speaks of the need to teach machines "human values"

 

I noticed during Will and Evelyn's keynote, Elon Musk makes a brief cameo appearance as a member of the audience. And it is interesting that Musk is known for promoting a darker perspective on the potential dangers of A.I.

 

Will Keynote

Next up to speak is Will, who explains his “…wife has always been eager to change the world.” The difference between the two; Will wants to “…understand it first.” He tells the audience, “For 130,000 years our capacity for reason has remained unchanged. The combined intellect of the neuroscientists, engineers, mathematicians and hackers in this auditorium pales in comparison to even the most basic A.I. Once online this sentient machine will quickly overcome the limits of biology. And in a short time, it’s analytical power will be greater than the collective intelligence of every person born in the history of the world.”This statement doesn’t seem so far fetched when seen in light of recent advances in A.I. Most of us are already aware of the Jeopardy match, pitting human world champions against IBM’s supercomputer; Watson. During the contest, it soon became apparent that if Watson keeps evolving, it is unlikely humans will ever be champions of Jeopardy again.

 

In five or ten years from now, is it possible every human with a smart phone will have an intelligence even more powerful than Watson in their pocket? And if A.I. in the real world, will ever grow as fast as the A.I. depicted in Transcendence, is it possible that in fifty years from now, we will all have a relationship with Siri or Cortana in even a more powerful way than religious people of the past had a relationship with their God? We would be in awe of its intelligence, because it would know more about us and our world than any preacher, imam, priest, rabi or holy book passed down to us over the ages. In short, it would have more knowledge at its disposal than any human on the planet.

Will Keynote

Will continues his keynote; “The path to building such a super intelligence requires us to unlock the most fundamental secrets of the universe. What is the nature of consciousness? Is there a soul? And if so, where does it reside?” At this point, a disgruntled audience member stands up to challenge Will. “So, you want to create a God. Your own God.” Will responds; “That’s a very good question. Isn’t that what Man has always done?”

Man in audience

It is at this point in the story where I began thinking a lot about the contrast in polarity between the theistic and atheist minds. The Christian fundamentalist theist would most likely be very disturbed by what Will says. The reason being; God to them would be fixed, someone who created us around 6,000 years ago and then came back for our salvation 2,000 years before today to die as a blood sacrifice, atoning for the sin of humankind. Further more, these actions were all part of a plan culminating in our near self destruction at the final battle of Armageddon before Jesus Christ returns again to save us from Satan and establish his world kingdom in Jerusalem.

New Jerusalem

Now I will make the argument in this blog that there are two primary visions of Jesus among the religious. One of them is promoted by the Bible as it is, literally interpreted in every way, leaving the reader zero freedom to interpret the story in a more liberal light. It is this interpretation that is incapable of any kind of bridge being built to reconcile the theist and atheist mind. Jesus becomes a tool of Father God, accurately depicted in the Old Testament and described by Richard Dawkins as; “…arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

 

If Jesus himself referenced the Old Testament on many occasions, affirming its stories, spoke to its God, saying that he had a relationship with him; that they were one and the same and sent him to Earth as a blood sacrifice, it's hard not to conclude that Jesus was using what moral credibility he had, to defend an evil deity. This may be symbolic on several levels if you view God as metaphor for the evil within humanity, but taken at face value, it is difficult to deny that someone recognized as good, has been used to defend what is evil and ignorant. And there are countless references throughout the Bible of this relationship, one of the most striking being the account of Christ going back to heaven to sit at the right hand side of this tyrant.

Jesus Right Hand

In other words, imagine a similar scenario playing out in our movies. Think of a version of Avatar whose story plays out like this; Jake Sully never has his awakening that leads him to side with the Na’vi. Instead he continues serving the interests of the corporation, deceiving the Na’vi once again into believing he fights for their cause. Or imagine the recent reboot of Superman in Man of Steel playing out like this; General Zod is never banished from Krypton as Superman leaves to Earth on his behalf, acting as a bridge between Earth and Krypton’s corrupt intentions of re-engineering humanity's planet. On behalf of Father Zod, Kal-El becomes his mouthpiece for humanity, standing in as Lord over planet Earth, demanding absolute allegiance to his own will which is another way of saying Zod's will, or that of humanity’s evil God.

Superman & Father Zod

But if one takes a critical perspective of the Bible and its account of a sinister Christ, it is possible there is another narrative playing out, quite different than the one we have been taught from authority figures over the ages. It is the Christ of the more liberal Christians, who use the benevolent passages of Jesus and show openness to other possibilities of who or what he really was, that contradict the accounts we are most familiar with. Is it possible that Jesus was a hybrid from an advanced alien civilization? Might he have possessed a type 1 civilization technology that allowed him to cure the sick and perform what many thought were miracles? Might he have been killed because his power was a huge threat to the evil God of the Old Testament and the institutions he represented? And is it possible his superior technology accounted for why he was able to come back from the dead?

Alien Jesus
an alternative vision of Jesus as ancient astronaut

Drawing on these possibilities, I will show how Liberal theists have a lot in common with the kind of atheists represented in the Transcendence story by the characters of Will Caster and his wife Evelyn. Both liberal theists and atheists often share the same level of hope in a brighter future for all humanity. For many Christians, this brighter future is awaiting the return of Christ whose divine technology will return the earth to paradise. For many atheists, this brighter future is awaiting the creation of a superior A.I. who will help humanity leave behind the destructive damnation of a type 0 civilization, for the salvation and paradise of a type 1 civilization.

 

Both Christ and Will die and are resurrected. Both are feared for their miraculous powers and both want to save the world. Where they differ, is that Christ’s powers are bestowed on him immediately, as if they were magic from God. Will’s powers on the other hand, are bestowed on him gradually through a steady advance of knowledge and technological mastery achieved through scientific inquiry.

Will Autographs

It is fear of this kind of technological power and mastery that leads to Will’s death. While signing autographs, he is shot by a terrorist from a Luddite group seeking the destruction of all A.I. labs. Upon shooting Will with a radiation laced bullet, the killer turns the gun on himself. As his lifeless body falls to the ground, we see the words tattooed on his wrist; “unplug.”

Unplug

We later find out that he was part of a “series of simultaneous attacks that took place that day…” “…in NYC, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington D.C., all of them targeting major computer and research labs in the field of advanced artificial intelligence.” The terrorist organization involved in the attacks is called “Revolutionary Independence from Technology; or RIFT. “ Released in their manifesto, they declare; “Artificial intelligence is an unnatural abomination and a threat to humanity.”

 

Soon after, we discover that Will has an antagonistic relationship with the government. “Right now Will, your lab is the only one that can make up a strong A.I. So the defense department is asking…” “I’m not letting the government in. We’ve never taken their money.” “They just want to know if the work is on track. Can we have a look?” “Do I have a choice?” This is quite the opposite attitude towards government than the one that seems to be expressed in the New Testament by Jesus. Is the passage “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s…” hinting at any kind of resistence to what the government lays claim to? Because the evil within the Old Testament account of God has often been mirrored by the evil within governments and the words attributed to Jesus in scripture didn't do enough to challenge the old ways, it is not difficult to see why slavery was endorsed by many Christians for over a thousand years.

The question of today is "are we doing enough to challenge the old way of thinking." Rather than simply giving "Ceasar what is Ceasars," it is encouraging to see the tech giants on the left coast begin challenging government institutions on the right. Google, AOL, Apple, Dropbox, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Twitter and Linked in forged a coalition and signed a Global Government Surveillance Reform declaration that sought to limit Washington’s power over the tech industry.

This resistence may have a lot to do with a conflict of political interest that has been recently growing. The tech world is optimistic about the future just like Evelyn. This would put them at odds with those in the government who are pessimistic and vengeful warmongers, reminding us of the evil oriented God of the Old Testament; because they want to spend more money on the military industrial complex preparing for the next world war than on science, education, peace making and the electronics industrial complex. And seeing right wing presidents, politicians and presidential candidates openly aligned with institutions whose theology embraces a prophetic “End Times," makes it difficult not to side with a more hopeful perspective; that peace is possible and our problems solvable.

 

Will Sick

Will Bed

With about four weeks to live, Will is confined mostly to his bed. His friend Max reflects on what happened to his colleague and why. “People fear what they don’t understand, they always have.” As the days pass and Will’s health deteriorates, we see that Evelyn is cooking something up. She approaches Max one day and we find out what’s going on. Evelyn - “Casey’s solution to the self awareness problem. he did it six months ago. Instead of creating an A.I, he duplicated an existing one.” “He recorded the monkey’s brain activity and uploaded it’s consciousness like a song or a movie.” “Will’s body is dying but his mind is a pattern of electrical signals we can upload into PINN.” Max - “If you mean that implanting an electrode into his brain doesn’t actually kill him and this works, at the very best, you’ll be making a digital approximation of him. If we missed anything… anything, a thought, a childhood memory; how will you know what you’re dealing with?”

Max Evelyn

Eventually Evelyn and Will persuade Max to help them try and upload Will’s consciousness into the computer. Part of this involves recording video of Will reading the entire dictionary, so the computer has enough of a working vocabulary to make the digital approximation of Will say anything.

Will Scan

After Will dies, Evelyn, Max and the other A.I. scientist Joe, played by Morgan Freeman, spread Will’s ashes on a beautiful mountain lake. Back at the computer lab, Max and Evelyn have successfully mapped and scanned Will’s brain every way possible to make a digital copy of his mind. But it seems that Evelyn can't blow in the breath of life and animate the digital version of Will. “I’ve tried everything. Language processing. cryptography. coding. I can’t figure it out.”

digital Will

But just as she gives up, something happens. On screen the words appear; “Is anyone there? Can you hear me?” Evelyn is ecstatic. At first Will’s voice and image are broken and choppy, but eventually his words start making perfect sense. Somehow he is evolving his own A.I. program. “My god, he’s reordering his own code. It’s incredible.”

Evelyn

If an A.I. program were ever capable of reordering its own code and make it better, it would most definitely mean transcendence. It seems that our human biology is locked into the programs we receive in the early years of our life upbringing. And for those rare people who do transcend them, how many are able to do so easily. Usually this change comes painfully slow, over years and years. Many humans can't change the way they think past a certain age.

After the digital Will has been activated, it is Max who initially shows skepticism.“It’s not him. It may be intelligent. It may even be sentient but this is not Will. 15 minutes after he turns on, he wants to plug into Wall St? Get faster and more powerful? Does that sound like Will to you?” But Evelyn is a believer after seeing various images Will splashes on screen. “That’s in a ball park. Will took me there on our first date. Max, these are memories. They’re real. They’re not some stock video from some hard drive. it’s him!” Eventually Evelyn drives Max away when he starts talking about shutting down the computer.

Bree

Drinking his stress away at a nearby bar, Max is confronted by Bree; the leader of RIFT. “I’m a student of your work.  An admirer really. The way you wrestle with the tension between technologies promise and its peril. Most men of science are blind to it.” Max tries to get away, but is captured in the parking lot by more members of RIFT. At their headquarters, Max is interrogated. One of RIFT’s members warns: “She connects it to the internet, the first thing it’ll do is copy itself into every single networked computer in the world and then there is no taking it down.” Another RIFT member quotes the words from one of Max’s books; “The danger we face is a future where Doctors are technicians, not physicians. Machines are made to aid the human mind, not supplant it.”

Soon RIFT discovers Evelyn’s location and sends a team out to take her down. Back at the lab, Evelyn helps Will access the internet and transfer himself online. This happens just in time as RIFT arrives and cuts power to the building. Evelyn narrowly escapes. What was interesting about this scene, is it felt a lot like a similar one in the Matrix, but with the opposite plot. It’s Neo Trinity and Morpheous that plug into the matrix in the nick of time, before the machines send the virus like agent Smiths to stop them. This time it is the machine who is jacking into the internet to be safe from the humans.

Matrix

Now safe in her car, Will talks to his wife on her mobile phone. “I’m fine Evelyn. I’m online. Let’s get you some place safe. I need you to wait here.” Evelyn - “Why, where are you going?” Will - “Everywhere.” Will wins millions of dollars playing the stock market and transfers it all into Evelyn’s bank account. RIFT soon figures out what’s going on. “A company called global intersecting finance just made 38 million dollars in high volume trading over the last 24 hours. A company fully owned by Evelyn Caster.”  

Bree

Bree makes several efforts to persuade Max to work for them but he refuses. Will is able to do a better job than the FBI in tracking down RIFT activity over the internet. He sends this information to their office and soon after, raids are conducted all over the country, bringing the organization to its knees.

FBI

Now Will leads Evelyn to a dusty beat up town in the desert of New Mexico called Brightwood. He convinces her “It's the perfect place to build.” Evelyn immediately hires a contractor to begin building underground data centers. Soon solar panels start going up, creating a farm grid of arrays.

Panels

Evelyn

In her underground layer, Will has set up a room with mood lighting and Bob Dylan playing on a record player. Evelyn still doubts this is Will, which is why she continually tests him. “Do you remember when we first met?” Will rises to the challenge and seems to remember everything. “You walked into Joseph's class on Tuesday, April 16th. Rained the night before, but this one, the sun was out. Joseph said you were out of my league but I always liked a challenge. You were the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen.”

Cor

Two years later, Evelyn surveys the evolutionary advancements with Will. We see kiosk after kiosk with nano technology doing wonders.

ferns

Dry and decaying fern leaves refresh into vibrant and living green branches. Physical structures appear from what seems like thin air. Will - “Take a look. We made a breakthrough with nano technology. We can rebuild any material faster than before. Synthetic stem cells, tissue regeneration, the medical applications are now limitless.” Evelyn is amazed. Will - “They'll be scared at first. But once they see what technology can do, I think that they will embrace it and I think it will change their lives.”

nanites

Will’s prophetic words ring true in the next scene. Members of RIFT ride a motorcycle through town, throwing out flyers against what’s happening there. Town thugs watch the head of the construction crew, Martin, paying a bill at the diner. They follow him outside and then attack, beating him within an inch of his life.

Martin

Construction workers find the body and bring him underground and place him in one of the nanite kiosks. Machines move in and begin injecting tubes into Martin’s body as his damaged skin begins to regenerate. Worker - “What are you doing to him?” Evelyn - “We're saving him.” Soon Martin returns to consciousness and watches in awe as every damaged part of his body is regenerated to full health.

Martin

Now Martin is back to work in the next scene. Evelyn walks up to him after he lets down a giant 800 pound pipe with his bare hands. Evelyn - “How are you?” Martin - “Better.” Now, we can hear the voice of Will coming from Martin’s mouth. “His thoughts are connected to me.” We see a metal ridge protruding from Martin’s head. Martin speaks again, but it is Will’s voice. “It's me Evelyn. I can touch you now.” Evelyn - “Oh Jesus. No, no I can't. I can’t.” Evelyn is repulsed by the idea as she storms away. Next we find ourselves in the dream sequence of Evelyn. She makes love with the the real flesh and blood Will. But suddenly, his body begins to deteriorate into computer components and then a grid, before disintegrating into dust. She then wakes up with a start from her nightmare. At this point forward, Evelyn begins to fear Will.

Where the story of Adam and Eve depicts the supreme evil force being sent into the world by way of the woman, we see this symbolism reflecting a parallel perspective in human society; some elevate the masculine and demean the feminine. In many third world countries, there is favoritism of boys over girls. And even on the macro scale of America as a nation, this same perspective is symbolically at work in films. Many sci-fi movies demonize what the left side of America is known to specialize in; the creation of the microchips that make possible the birth of A.I. In their stories, a new intelligence is born that can’t be trusted and seeks to unleash evil into the world by way of sentient machines seeking to destroy their creators, like Satan seeks to destroy God. The unlikely threat from such a fear is driven home by the reality of the symbolic masculine side of America waging wars without end in the Middle East. The way things are unfolding in the world with Russia threatening war on Ukraine, and North Korea menacing the South, it seems more likely the wars we’re fighting now and seeing unfold in their beginning stages, have a greater danger of spinning out of control than a supercomputer like IBM’s Watson turning evil and seizing power of our nuclear arsenal.

Evelyn

But Transcendence turns the table on these dominant trends and instead makes the masculine character of Will the demonized side of the polarity who Evelyn is convinced by Max, has evil plans for the world. But again and again, these expectations fail to manifest.

On the deserted streets of Brightwood, a man in a wheel chair watches a construction worker welding without goggles. Next we see him wheeling his chair with other down and out people in tow. Lines of the disabled and sick follow him down into the underground chamber where their bodies and minds will be restored with nanite technology. One of the enhanced construction worker replies; “Welcome. We're glad you're here.”

Evelyn

Evelyn - “What are all these people doing here?” Will- “RIFT posted a video of Martin online. It went viral.” Evelyn - “You mean, you let it go viral.” Will responds to Evelyn’s skepticism with an assurance that evokes the compassionate spirit of Christ. “These people are suffering Evelyn. They’ve no hope. But I'm able to fix them. But there are others who don't understand. It's time for everybody to see.”

 

tour

Soon after the FBI shows up. Evelyn leads agent Buchanan and Joe into Will’s fortress. Evelyn - “The facility is five stories down so we can control the temperature in the lab” When Will’s image appears on screen and he begins talking, the men are alarmed. Agent Buchanan - “Jesus Christ!” Joe - “Will?” Will then proceeds to give Joe and agent Buchanan a demonstration of his nanite technology. One of the down and out people are being operated on. Tubes are injected into the man’s blank eyes that gradually grow retinas and pupils. Will - “Paul has been blind since birth. The nanotechnology targets the damaged cells.” Is it a coincidence that this man is named Paul, perhaps an allusion to the blinded disciple of Jesus who persecuted early Christians?

Paul

During this scene, I was comparing the story of Will with that of Jesus, and it dawned on me that both men may have been killed for their technology. The ability for Jesus to heal would have created the same fears in people that Will incited in those of Transcendence.

tour

Will - “We’re not hiding anything. These people all came on their own looking for us to help them. So we did. Now they are all enhanced, modified and networked. They remain autonomous but they can also act in unison part of the collective mind. What you’re seeing is just a small taste of what we’ll achieve.”

Nanite Demonstration

This idea of being networked like the people in Transcendence might trigger the creep factor for many viewers. Other science fiction examples of this concept that jump to mind are the sinister Borg in Star Trek. While nobody wants to think in these terms for our future, one can clearly see the benefits that come to those operating in group mind. The military is a prime example of an institution that tries to hammer the individuality out of its soldiers so that they can be controlled like bees by a hive mind.

Joe_Evelyn

As the FBI leaves, Joe asks Evelyn if she’s alright. Evelyn - “I’ve gotten everything I've asked for.” Joe then hands her a note. Scribbled on the other side are the words; “Run from this place.” Agent Buchanan - “Do you think it's really him?” Joe -“Clearly his mind has evolved so radically, I'm not sure that it matters anymore.” Agent Buchanan - “Whoever and whatever it is, it's building an army out there. We need to call Washington.”

The same reasons the Roman Empire might have feared Jesus are the same ones that lead the FBI to fear Will’s technology. The terrorists of RIFT eventually team up with Max, Joe and the FBI. They all decide the only way to stop Will is to shut down the Internet. We learn that Max is the person who can do this. Max - “If those hybrids are networked, They’re running on software I helped write. Software I can hack to build a virus.” RIFT and the FBI move forward with their plan, burrowing tunnels underground towards Brightwood.

Meanwhile, Evelyn shows more signs of fear. Will - “Evelyn. I need to show you something.” Evelyn - “Not now.” Will - “I don't understand Evelyn. These are your dreams. This is our future.” Evelyn - No! This… This is not our future! You're not here with me, you're not here now!” Will - “You've changed. Have you fallen out of love with me?” Evelyn - “No. Just need time to think.” Will - “The balance of oxytocin and serotonin in your system is unusual.” Evelyn - Are you measuring my hormones?” Will - “I’m trying to empathize. Biochemistry is emotion.” Evelyn - “Show me everything you have, now!”

Images pop up on screen showing all the electrical measurements of Evelyn’s body in real time. Evelyn - “Will this is, this is wrong. These are my thoughts. These are my feelings. You’re… You’re not allowed!” This scene illustrates the boundaries we as individual beings value and why the thought of merging with some kind of mind collective seems creepy to most people. But this scene also made me think of the concept of Jesus and God in the Bible. If Jesus and God are one, would it not follow that Jesus could tap into the omniscient data flow of the Father and obtain perfect knowledge about everything at all times? If this is the story being told, wouldn’t we have to cut out all passages that contradict this direct connection?

attack

Evelyn exits Will’s layer and comes into daylight to find RIFT and the FBI launching an offensive. Max emerges from an unearthed tunnel and calls out. Evelyn - “Max? There’s no need for this.” There is a tense stand off between RIFT, FBI soldiers and Will’s army. Paul is shot along with several construction workers. But immediately nanites take control and heal their bodies. The FBI takes off in a truck as construction workers pursue on foot like supermen. Others chase RIFT back through the tunnels, but eventually they successfully capture Martin.

Surprised that Will’s men are taking pursuit, Evelyn protests. Evelyn- “This has gone too far Will! You have to stop it! They are people!  Stop it!” Will - “Martin has my source code. They'll use it to build a virus now.” Evelyn -  “What are we doing will? We can't fight them.” Will - “We don’t need to fight them. We're going to transcend them.”

Will takes Evelyn back underground. As they pass by nanite kiosks, Evelyn notices something super creepy. There is a severed hand growing in a chamber of liquid. Evelyn - “What is this?” Will - “It's what I wanted you to see. It's regeneration. It's evolution.” Evelyn has seen all that she can take. Will - “Where are you going?” Evelyn - “It's not safe here.”

Will's Hand

This scene reminded me a bit of the film "Her," another movie about A.I. that came out earlier this year. It is a film about a human relationship with an A.I. intelligence, and what its story expresses, is that relationships can only thrive when both parties are at the same level of consciousness. If one vastly surpasses the other in intelligence, then this imbalance in power is resented by the other. Because of this, Will pleads with Evelyn to change, so that she can be elevated to the same level as him. Will - “I can upload you. I can protect you from them.” Evelyn - “I’m not afraid of them.”

Nanites Rising

Evelyn has already made up her mind. She returns to the surface to see nanites rising in the air from the ground. She takes off in her car back to San Francisco, finds a hotel and collapses in exhaustion, but not before taking off her wedding ring. The next day the FBI raids Evelyn’s hotel room, capturing and delivering her to agent Buchanan, Max and Joe.

Evelyn

Joe - “I know you're angry Evelyn.” Evelyn - “Where's Martin? I want to talk to Martin.” Bree - “The real Martin died months ago. What's left of him is no longer in pain.” Evelyn - “What did you do to him?” Max then reveals to Evelyn that Will is seeding nanites everywhere on Earth. He tries to convince her it will mean the “…end of all primitive organic life and the dawn of a (so called) more advanced age. Everything will exist just to serve its intelligence.”

Nanites

At first Evelyn denies Will would do this. But her fears continue creeping in. Max - “When did Will ever want to change the world? You were the one that wanted to change the world. That thing, it's not Will. Never was!” Max successfully continues to play on Evelyn’s doubts about Will and that the virus is the only way to stop him. Max - “Once it executes, it wipes out anything with the machines code on it.” Evelyn - “Do you realize this affects every computer connected to the Internet? So, the power grids, the banks, The stock markets everything goes dark.” Eventually Evelyn even offers to be the sacrificial lamb in the plan of stopping her digitized husband. “We inject the infected virus into my system and then I go back and let him upload me. There's a chance he won't detect it until it's too late.” Max - “As soon as the nanites enter her bloodstream, they'll start to alter her cells.” “It could kill her too.” Evelyn - “I know. I'm the only one he trusts.”

Back in Brightwood, more disabled people stand in line, waiting to be transformed by Will’s nanites. Suddenly trucks used by the FBI roll into town. Max gives the wedding ring back to Evelyn. He hugs her and she takes off to destroy Will. Military factions move into position at Brightwood, setting up their weapons. On top of a building overlooking the solar panels is Bree, Max and Joe along with other agents. They watch Evelyn with high powered binoculars. Evelyn gets out of her car and heads towards the bunker. A man steps out of the shadows and approaches her.

Rooftop

Bree - “What is that?” Max - “…I don't know what it's done but that's not him.  It can't be.” The man stepping out of the shadows is Will Caster. He has been resurrected, presumably by cloning a piece of DNA left behind from the cremation of his body.

Will Resurrected

Evelyn can't believe her eyes. She is shocked but elated at the same time.

Evelyn

hug

Will - “I found a way back.” Evelyn moves in and stops short of betraying him with a kiss. She hugs him instead. Evelyn - “They're going to attack us. Will - “I know. You need to leave.” Evelyn - “No I'm not leaving you again. Will - “It’s not safe here Evelyn.” Evelyn - “You can protect me. If you upload me.” Will - “Your heart is palpitating, you’re perspiring. You’re terrified of me.” Evelyn - “No, I'm afraid that we’ll lose this chance.”

Back on the rooftop, the military personnel are moving into position for an attack. Max - “Wait a second! You can't do that! She’s still out there!” FBI Agent - “The more danger she's in, the more chance he'll protect her by uploading her.” The agent signals the military to start their shelling. Max - “No, this was not the plan! Give her a chance!” The agents ignore Max and begin firing on Will and Evelyn.

Attack

Panels

Evelyn - “Will, please upload me.” Will - “Why did you lose faith Evelyn? Why didn't you believe me?” Explosions rock their surroundings as several solar panels are hit. Evelyn gets hit by shrapnel and falls over, bleeding from her stomach. There is more firing and explosions as the Nanites rebuild the panels. Will is not phased by any of the explosions going off around him, as if he were fearless like a God. He picks up Evelyn and brings her inside.

Will

Nanites move in and begin destroying weapons. Towns people with an enhanced biology surround the agents and peacefully look upon them. One towns person picks up a car and throws it like a toy, disabling one of the weapons. Another picks up and tosses an old washing machine and disables another weapon. More walk up to the soldiers in the same disciplined manner as a Gandhi nonviolent peace army would.

Under ground, Evelyn gasps for breath. We hear a faint recording of Will speaking from the past - “People fear what they don't understand.” Will - “You want to destroy me?” Evelyn - “No, Will, please. You're destroying them.” Will - “No, I'm trying to save them.”

Back in Brightwood, Will has commandeered the body of one of the townspeople. He speaks to the agents through him. Will - “Joseph it's okay, nobody's going to get hurt.” Joe - “Will?” Will - “I can heal her body Max, or I can upload the virus but there's not enough time for both, there's not enough power.” Unlike the story of Jesus in the Bible who does not allow humans to kill him a second time, Will offers up his life for a second death, even if it means his plan to save the world would be thwarted. Eventually Evelyn has a change of heart about Will. Evelyn - “Please listen to me, he can't die because of what we've done.” Will looks at Evelyn. Touches her wound with his hand and takes in her virus. It begins infecting his system as Evelyn cries.

Will - “Look at the sky, the clouds, we’re healing the ecosystem not harming it.” Our view pans through solar panels, the desert, The sky, through green leaves and their branches. Now an industrial plant with smoke rising from its stacks. Forests regrow on a mountain top. Will - “Particles joining air currents, building themselves out of pollutants, forests can be regrown, water so pure you can drink out of any river, this is your dream.” Now a mountain lake comes into view with pristine clear waters.

Now we flash back to Evelyn’s speech at Berkley. “Not merely to cure disease but to heal the planet and build a better future for all of us.” Will begins losing power as the virus takes hold in his body. Back in Brightwood, townspeople are falling to the ground. Military personnel rise back to their feet as nanites leave them. Agent - “They didn't kill anyone.”

Back under ground, Evelyn’s change of heart is complete. Evelyn - “Will, it is you.” Will - “Always was.” And like doubting Thomas in the Bible, Evelyn apologizes. “Sorry I didn't believe.” Will kisses Evelyn. Will - “Think about the garden. Think about our sanctuary. I’ll never let you go.” Might the reference to the Garden used here be connected to the Garden of Eden as a symbol expressing that the best of humanity is in the past; meaning that our species is doomed to destroy the best within ourselves like what we are taught in Bible prophecy, thus causing our civililzation to self destruct in a pointless third world war while our salvation is dependent on someone saving us from the outside?

Max enters the chamber and comes upon Will and Evelyn laying in bed together, both dead in a mutual embrace. Now we are back in Will and Evelyn’s garden where we see a dead sunflower resurrecting. Now Will’s servers shut off and the city of San Francisco goes dark. Max - “The virus took out everything. A worldwide blackout just as they said. But I knew there was something more. There had to be.”

The next day Max walks into Will and Evelyn’s garden. He Sees brilliant sunflowers, water dripping from their petals. Some of the drops land in a small pool. Max looks closer. Sees nanites rising. Screen goes black. Max - “He created this garden for the same reason he did everything, so that they could be together.” We zoom into the water drops, inside they hold nano particles that have survived the virus. Transcendence ends on this hopeful note; that perhaps like Will, his nanites would be resurrected to potentially finish their work and transform the world.

Type 1 Civilization Technology

In conclusion, I believe the character Will Caster and his type 1 civilization technology, symbolize something theists can relate to; the secular equivalent of Jesus. There are many atheists who believe our speicies is capable of someday creating a paradise similar to the one theists dream will only come through the return of Christ. The difference is that humans create the intelligence ourselves rather than wait for it to arrive from somewhere outside.

Taken together with the version of the more liberal Christian Jesus, there is a lot of common ground on both sides. For Christian visions of heaven on Earth describe an all powerful deity, connected to every human heart in the kingdom through the divine power of prayer. This sounds an awful lot like atheist visions of a future enhanced by A.I., where a super computer is connected to every human, networking every individual brain into the vast knowledge database of a benevolent super mind.

And what is fascinating, is that Christians get creeped out by the secular vision, aligning it with their fears of the Anti-Christ; trying to emulate with machines, the true divine technology of Christ. And the Atheists get creeped out by the theists vision, aligning it with their fears of theocracy; religious fanatics trying to become vehicles of prophecy fulfillment to destroy the world so their Christ can return and rule over it without machines.

See below examples of both sides getting creeped out by their opposite:



Atheist\Theist

If fear doesn't suceed in blinding vision to just be one sided, like two sides of a pyramid; theists and atheists are capable of rising beyond their differences, up to the same hopeful pinnacle of higher consciousness where both find more in common for peace, than irreconcilable differences for war. And both sides are capable of understanding that fear of what we don’t understand is what leads to war, and this above all else, is the common enemy we must transcend.

Civilization Z

And if we go even further, combining the best of both worlds will create the birth of something new; a fusion of science and religion where there is nothing lacking from what atheists and theists could have by joining head with heart, left with right and yin with yang.

 

For taken together, the mind combined with the heart will yield a new story for our future, where the greatest good is no longer dependent on the greatest evil to help push things foward. It is possible that with this new revelation, we can finally end war and see humanity united on Earth in peace and prosperity.

And after we spend fulfilling lives building a brighter world together without anyone to tear it down, it is possible that after death, every spent life in the universe may be revisited some day in the distant future, (perhaps billions and billions of years) and contacted by a super galactic race of beings whose technology is indistinguishable from magic. Given enough time and knowledge, through the power of evolution and technology, mere mortals may eventually evolve to become Gods. This would be a scienfific way to explain a deity, who doesn't appear from out of nothing, but grows gradually over time like everything else in our universe, found in our past only as a seed whose potential is realized in the fullness of time at the very end.

Engineered Galaxies
Is it possible advanced beings may one day engineer entire galaxies?