Typically, films about technology focus solely on specific inventions, scientists or discoveries. In the daily major media as well, most technology stories are focused on the business of it all or gadget reviews, glossing over any nuanced issues. It is with rare exception that a film engages the larger questions surrounding technology. However, quite the opposite is true of most people’s daily encounters and conversations. That is to say, every time we have a discussion about technology, be it artificial intelligence, cell phones or e-mail, the conversation invariably ends up being about ourselves – about what we value as people. And it is these values – be it choices, be it relationships, be it family – that are what make us human.
When I began considering who to include in a documentary film about technology, the list rapidly became very long and discursive. One thing was certain, though – I wanted strong voices. And the strongest anti-technology voice I could think of was that of Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber. But, having a correspondence with him was not an easy one to maintain, and it’s something I consider on every viewing of the film. I did feel, however, that in order to really make clear the importance of thinking about our relationship to technology, it’s important to look at the extremes. But by the same token, the longer our correspondence continued, the more difficult I found it and the more I did not want to give him the last word.
And then, as it turned out, the extreme is exactly what I got when I became the father to triplets. What I had been thinking about in the abstract was made real – as many of the choices my wife and I were making with the help of technology were tied up with very real issues of life and death. Ultimately, what I continue to really find fascinating is that the force that shaped the creation of the smartphone in my pocket is the very same one that pushed a man to plot and kill for seventeen years and is also the same force that might very well allow my children to live forever.