Opening HotDocs ’21, A.rtificial I.mmortality takes a look at achieving immortality through artificial intelligence. While it is personalized – director Ann Shin takes a look at her father who has dementia and what kind of legacy she wants to leave for her daughters – she also films Deepak Chopra, philosopher Nick Bostrom, and two androids. Kannon Bodhisattva is an android that doesn’t have concepts of “I”, “me”, or “mine”, so they embody Buddha’s teachings and don’t discriminate. Bina48 is a sassy and fashionable android based on Bina Rothblatt, mother of Pastor Gabriel Rothblatt, a pastor in the Transhumanist movement. For counterpoint, Shin interviews a Baptist pastor who thinks that artificial intelligence and this level of informational exchange spells the end of mankind.
I felt like the documentary could have benefited from Shin introducing herself like Michael Moore did in his first feature, Roger & Me (1989). We are thrown into the subject matter, but she never says, “Hello, I am Ann Shin. This is my story.” We meet her family and we learn that she’s recently celebrated turning 52, so there’s an urgency to record stories for her daughters. However, we’re initially left to guess who she is and how her story fits into the greater scheme of things.
The documentary briefly talks about Digital Deepak, an interactive experience where Deepak Chopra can communicate with his audience. In the Q&A, Chopra mentioned that the digital version of himself doesn’t “exist”, so he’s interested in you and not himself. I took the liberty of downloading the app. During the pandemic, Deepak Chopra’s guided meditations were invaluable to me, personally. With Digital Deepak, you can ask him questions and he will give provide you with solutions. Because it’s a 7 day free trial, you won’t pay a penny if you don’t want to or if you can’t afford it.
In the Q&A with director Ann Shin and subject Deepak Chopra, Chopra explained that technology is neutral and it’s our choice on whether it’s going to be our master or our slave. He thinks that incorporating social and economic justice with A.I. could make our world more peaceful.
Dealing with the subject matter of memory, encryption, owning the rights to our data, and intelligence (artificial and otherwise), this documentary gives us a lot to think about. The viewer could benefit from multiple viewings and looking up the subjects to gain a deeper look into the topic.