Human Enhancement Movies and Series. What are the best (science fiction) movies about human enhancement and human augmentation? My top 7 tips for movies and top 5 tips for series.
Movies human enhancement
I made a video on YouTube about human enhancement movies in five themes and nine movies:
In the rest of this article, I write about a couple of examples of human enhancement in movies. These are my tips:
- Ghost in the Shell
- Mary Shelley
- Blade Runner
Films human enhancement
The most striking examples of human enhancement are where people literally merge with machines. This aspect can be found in Ghost in the Shell (from 2017). The most interesting thing about the film is the question of who owns a body full of mechanical and electronic components. What does that mean for your autonomy, independence and identity?
A film that explores the consequences of moral and emotional interventions is Equals from 2015. That film with Kirsten Stewart, among others, is about a society that is extremely rational. Citizens who feel or exhibit emotions such as anger, love or fear are treated with compulsory therapy.
The founder of the genre is of course Mary Shelly when she wrote her book Frankenstein. Countless films have been made about Frankenstein, such as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein from 1994 with Robert de Niro.
A more recent film is Mary Shelley (2017). This film is about the then nineteen-year-old author of the book. What led her to write the Frankenstein story? What or who inspired her to do this?
There are a couple of movies about upgrading the brain. In Lucy, the main character (played by Scarlett Johansson) can even influence the outside world with her brain. She can use her thoughts to take over televisions and pick up all the telephone calls in her surroundings.
Limitless focuses a bit more on the characters themselves, where the protagonist Eddie (played by Bradley Cooper) works his way up from being a loser to a successful writer with the help of pills.
The movie Transcendence revolves around a brilliant computer scientist (played by Johnny Depp). His specialism is artificial intelligence, and his vision is to model an artificial system after the human brain. Because of a fatal disorder he doesn’t have long to live, and so he, his wife and a friendly colleague make the decision: they will copy his brain and use it as the basis for super-intelligence.
The movie Blade Runner 2049 is the successor of the original Blade Runner. Both movies are set in a future in which androids exist. These androids are artificial, but barely distinguishable from real people.
The movies made me think about whether the future of mankind is in our current biological form. Apart from that, I loved the dystopian images of the Los Angeles wasteland. Especially combined with the futuristic music composed by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch.
Series human enhancement
These are my tips for series about this topic:
- Black Mirror
- Electric Dreams
- Six Million Dollar Man
- Orphan Black
I elaborate on my choices in the rest of this article.
It’s no surprise: Black Mirror, on Netflix, is one of my favorite TV shows. The most impressive element of the show is that its creators are stretching the limits of (technological) developments in our current society.
Staying within the realm of this particular article, the episode San Junipero really appealed to me [link at the bottom]. The episode Real Life of the show Electric Dreams on Amazon Prime deals with a very similar concept [link at the bottom]. Both episodes are about virtual life in a simulation.
This concept of a true to life simulation has been around for a while, think for instance of the ‘Experience Machine’ by philosopher Robert Nozick in 1974 [bottom left]. This is the idea: what if you get into a machine and then you experience the life of your dreams? However, there is one but: the moment you get into the machine, you forget that it’s a simulation. Life inside the machine is then experienced as real life. What would you choose?
Talking about the question if the future of life is biological makes me think of the series Westworld. Season was a bit hard to follow for me. In the second season, it became more visible how the (fictional) world came into being and what the consequences would be if machines started to act autonomously. Is being alive substrate-independent, i.e. not bound to biological organisms? In other words: can human life be simulated in machines, and can machines also develop their own consciousness?
Six Million Dollar Man
More than 40 years earlier, the series Six Million Dollar Man (1974) was released. In that series, a crashed fighter jet pilot is equipped with implants and bionic components. After this he works as a secret agent and has unlikely physical capacities, such as speed, strength and endurance.
In 2020 the movie The Six Billion Dollar Man is made as a successor to the serie.
Another show, which uses a different technology, is Orphan Black – again available on Netflix. The process of cloning creates multiple genetically identical characters. The protagonists, played by actress Tatiana Maslany, are separate individuals with the same DNA. The show plays around with this idea, which makes you, as a viewer, wonder about what the influence of genetics is on your identity.
These are documentaries that I recommend:
Supersapiens (online). Documentary with Richard Dawkins, Nick Bostrom and Sam Harris, among others, about artificial intelligence.
Unnatural Selection (Netflix). Four-part series on the implications of gene therapy and CRISPR / cas9 on health care, nature and human improvement.
Darknet (Netflix) A documentary series about the dark side of the internet. Episode 2 of season 1 is specifically about human enhancement.
These are my favorite podcasts about this theme [links at the bottom]:
- After On. The American author Rob Reid makes a podcast about the themes in his book, such as synthetic biology, artificial intelligence and regularly touches on human enhancement;
- Singularity FM. Show that touches more on transhumanism, such as super intelligence and blockchain. Themes are often about the distant future of humanity.
Do you want to know more about human enhancement?
Please contact me if you have any questions! Like if you want to invite me to give a lecture, presentation or webinar at your company, at your congress, symposium or meeting.
Or if you want to book a session with me as an expert consultant on this area.
I previously wrote these related articles about human enhancement:
- What is human enhancement?
- What are human enhancement technologies?
- What is human genetic enhancement?
- What are human enhancement drugs?
- What is human enhancement research?
- What are arguments in the human enhancement debate?
- What are the ethics of human enhancement?
- What are the best books about human enhancement?
These fiction books, TV shows and movies were discussed in the article:
- Movie Lucy
- Movie Limitless
- Movie Transcendence
- Movie Blade Runner 2049
- Movie Elysium
- Movie Edge of Tomorrow
- Series Black Mirror
- Series Electric Dreams
- Orphan Black TV show
- TV show Westworld
- Serie Black Mirror
- Serie Westworld
What is your favorite movie on this topic? Leave a comment!