A series of films about how humans have been colonised by the machines they have built. Although we don’t realise it, the way we see everything in the world today is through the eyes of the computers.
This is the story of the dream that rose up in the 1990s that computers could create a new kind of stable world. They would bring about a new kind global capitalism free of all risk and without the boom and bust of the past. They would also abolish political power and create a new kind of democracy through the internet where millions of individuals would be connected as nodes in cybernetic systems – without hierarchy.
The film tells the story of two perfect worlds. One is the small group of disciples around the novelist Ayn Rand in the 1950s. They saw themselves as a prototype for a future society where everyone could follow their own selfish desires. The other is the global utopia that digital entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley set out to create in the 1990s. Many of them were also disciples of Ayn Rand. They believed that the new computer networks would allow the creation of a society where everyone could follow their own desires, yet there would not be anarchy. They were joined by Alan Greenspan who had also been a disciple of Ayn Rand. He became convinced that the computers were creating a new kind of stable capitalism – Like a New Planet, he said. But the dream of stability in both worlds would be torn apart by the two dynamic human forces – love and power. —BBC.co.uk
Adam Curtis (born 1955) is a British television documentary maker who has during the course of his television career worked as a writer, producer, director and narrator. He currently works for BBC Current Affairs. His programmes express a clear (and sometimes controversial) opinion about their subject, and he narrates the programmes himself.
After attending Sevenoaks School (a member of the ‘art room’ that produced musicians, Tom Greenhalgh, Kevin Lycett and Mark White of The Mekons along with Andy Gill and Jon King of the Gang of Four) Curtis studied for a BA in Human Sciences (which included introductory courses in genetics, psychology, politics, geography and elementary statistics) at the University of Oxford. Curtis taught politics there, but left for a career in television. He obtained a post on That’s Life!, where he learned to find humour in serious subjects.
Curtis makes extensive use of archive footage in his documentaries. An Observer profile said: Curtis has… read more
I was sort of interested for a time in these left-brain films by Curtis, but after 3 or 4 of them, I just have to hit the pause button and put them aside. It's a nice thing to have someone so diligently catalog the development of science/psychology, but really none of the theories that are so eloquently explained play out in everyday life. It's more or so a history of intellectuality, not people.
Curtis appeals some times to gross over simplifications ( logical positivism is given a sub high school textbook definition) but the amount of information, and the connections established make this a must see. And unlike something like Inside Job, he doesn't take the safe way, he goes radically to the end in his critique of capitalism. Plus it's the most avant garde'ish of his docs so far
The retrospective of work by “the 21st century’s calm, reasonable, insidious Cassandra” is on in New York through April 14.
“We sort of do the lineup by the seat of our pants.”
Also: Michael Atkinson on Adam Curtis, Sukhdev Sandhu on Geoff Dyer’s Zona and more.