Tribeca ’09: Ray Kurzweil is the Transcendent Man

The Tribeca Film Festival has become quite famous for the quality of documentaries that plays there every year, and few are as intriguing this year than Barry Ptolemy’s Transcendent Man, a portrait of inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil, the man whose ideas have become the basis for a lot of everyday technology – things like the flatbed scanner, for instance.

What Kurzweil might be best known for are his theories about the evolution of technology and how its exponential growth is going to lead to something he calls the “Singularity,” a period where the pace of technological change is happening so rapidly that human life will be irreversibly transformed. Some might already feel that this is happening right now, but it’s a somewhat scary thought when one realizes how some of these ideas delve into dark science fiction territory like we might see in the “Terminator” or “The Matrix” movies (at least to some). Kurzweil is far more optimistic though, seeing it as a time when humans will be greatly improved, having evolved to the point where even sickness and death might be obsolete.

These theories are discussed at length in Kurzweil’s best-selling book “The Singularity is Near” and while Ptolemy’s directorial debut streamlines these ideas and theories into something a bit easier to understand and absorb by mass audiences, his documentary also covers Kurzweil’s personal history and how a close relationship with his late musician father has driven the inventor to find ways of overcoming death itself.

This is one of those cases where being a movie website has its advantages as it offered us a very rare opportunity to lob a few questions of our own at this intriguing theorist, knowing full well that we were very well outmatched in the brains department by Mr. Kurzweil.

There are two more screenings of Transcendent Man, including a special “Behind the Screens” screening and discussion at the School of Visual Arts tonight, Tuesday April 28, and another screening on Friday, May 1. Check the Official Guide for more information.

Look for more interviews from the Tribeca Film Festival soon. Thanks to the Direct TV Tribeca Press Center for lending us the space for this interview.


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