After filming on continents , tireless searcher Werner Herzog for Keeps the Native American stuff Theater of Ideas . Even so, he went a long way, exploring one of the last great frontiers—the human brain—from multiple angles. The result was one of his sharpest investigations to date.
In Silicon Valley and in labs and conference rooms in academia, he talks to two dozen people working at the forefront of neuroscience and neurotechnology, connecting the nervous system with electronic devices and A collective term for cutting-edge inventions linked to other devices. Herzog was a sharp-eyed student—at times surprised and delighted, at other times skeptical and alarmed. In cryostats, nanoparticles and optical fibers, clunky gadgets and diagrams beyond the layman’s grasp, he conjures a mixture of awe and ominous satire and lyricism.
Theater of Ideas
Bottom Line A quintessential Herzog-style blend of hope, horror, humor, and heart.
Place: Telluride Film Festival Director-Writer-Narrator:Werner Herzog 1 hour48 Minutes
like his doctor,2020 Fireball , a film that studies meteors through chemistry, geology and mythology, into what Joseph Campbell called the inland rivers of outer space Domain, Theater of Ideas navigates where science and poetics diverge, intertwine and even sometimes merge. (Both films were precisely edited by Marco Capalbo.) Herzog’s interviewees were entrepreneurs, mathematicians, surgeons and philosophers. For good measure, he spent quality time in the Catskills with a well-known High Line artist. Crucially, he includes a clip from the Soviet-era silent film Earth , which captures a character on the verge of death; another character wants him from report on the other side. The possibility of afterlife communication is one of the hypotheses Herzog asked the experts to think about, and his questions drove the documentary from interview to interview, synapse to synapse.
As Theater peers below the skull – its only real glimpse of pulsating grey matter is fleeting — The film is steeped in both metaphysics and brain science. It’s also a poignant and profound warning: Privacy, autonomy, and self-awareness are threatened when computers can extract information directly from the brain or enter commands directly into it.
Despite the ethical concerns, the film opens with an idyllic calm: Herzog and the film’s chief scientific advisor, neurobiologist Raphael Yost stood side by side on a rock under a tree, staring at a laptop. We can’t see what’s on the screen or hear what they’re saying, but their unabashed camaraderie hints at the doctor’s spontaneous outbursts of tenderness – like Herzog’s interview with Corey Bagman and They were married scientists, as Richard Axel was, and caught them off guard with his questions about music, dinner talk, and the possibility of communicating with animals. Moments like these highlight the film’s underlying challenge: Can a brain-computer interface evoke such an emotion, such an unexpectedly sweet, awkward, endearing chord?
After a tour of the quantum computer lab, Herzog gave IBM’s research director Darío Gil a beaming smile. The ocean – the frontier of another depth just beginning to be explored – became a sub-theme. After asking a somewhat loaded question “How stupid is Siri?” to artificial intelligence expert Tom Gruber, one of the creators of the virtual assistant, Herzog admired the video of Gruber diving, Sparked a discussion about collective blindness in fish and human society—blindness to trawl nets, blindness to destructive action. Neuroscientist Christopher Koch insists that Herzog only interviewed him after his morning platoon in Puget Sound, basking in the bliss of “all movement . . . flowing without thinking.”
A different flow, a room without fear, defines the spiritual power of Philippe Pettit, the high-speed rail artist with his 2008 Walking between the two towers of the World Trade Center (a story told in a magnificent documentary Man on Wire) . Almost48 years later, seeing him It’s also fascinating to practice his art in a backyard in rural New York. Herzog’s visit with Petit followed his conversation with Joseph Ledoux, who mapped the mechanisms of fear in the brain.
The ridged and folded tissue, the cerebral cortex, produces consciousness – even as experts find ways to interact with neurons, control the nervous system and through deep brain stimulation, etc. How therapeutic procedures are used to combat the disease, the mystery remains unsolved. For people who have had a stroke or have Parkinson’s, the results can be miraculous. An engineer has shared his prototype of a chip implant that could restore sight to people with optic nerve damage.
No comment needed in the film, research on animals is clearly still part of the work of many innovators and academics. Herzog cares about how people become guinea pigs. Bioethicist Sara Goering points out that new brain technologies can modulate behavior and thinking in a way that advertises well. Talk about direct-to-consumer! As a result, the field of neuro-rights is increasingly the focus of legal attention. In 48, when Herzog is producing The Theater of Ideas , Chile became the first country to amend its constitution to protect spiritual privacy and personal identity from invasive technology. The document acknowledged the milestone but did not explain the amendment, which is seen as a potential model for other countries.
Herzog’s trip to America inevitably takes him to the screening room of Roxie, an old-fashioned movie theater in San Francisco, where he meets Jack Gallant, a neuroscientist who studies the human visual system and decoding mental imagery. What has surfaced here and in other conversations is another underlying anxiety about neurotechnology, which is close to Herzog’s heart: Will tech-enabled telepathy and other nervous system hotline feeds make the movies we know? Making and watching movies outdated? Or, Herzog ventures, everything we think is real has always been an illusion. “Are we,” he asked hauntingly, “behind our façade, ghostwriters?” by the spectacular Prehistoric Evidence After thinking about what made us human, the author asks us to consider a science-fiction future that is closer than we think.