Film review: Transcendent Man

November 18, 2009

A well-made, insightful documentary that asks some hard questions while leaving just as many unanswered, Transcendent Man is an intriguing study of techno-prophet Ray Kurzweil. Helmer Barry Ptolemy has a fascinating subject in Kurzweil and his expansive theories, and this film — a natural for healthy homevideo release and cable — should only increase his visibility (and speaking fees). Still, one wishes it weren’t so transparently on his side.

The titular transcendent man refers not to Kurzweil but to one of his most famous theories, though one imagines “Unreasonable Man” would have served him better as a title, were it not already taken. A child prodigy who built a computer while still in high school in the ’60s, Kurzweil has since attained patents for such diverse inventions as print-to-speech reading machines for the blind and high-powered music synthesizers. Yet he’s attracted the most attention with his theories of singularity, which combine technological insight with an amorphous spirituality (as well as, allegedly, some very classically Freudian wish fulfillment). […]