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DRONES #MindMelt

DRONES #MindMelt

In the first of a new series of video shorts, here's a quick overview of what it is about drones that will melt your mind!

GATTACA 20 years later

GATTACA 20 years later

Here's the final edit of the event, created by Luke....


Last week, I took part in a debate hosted by Luke Robert Mason of Virtual Futures, which focused on the legacy and impact of GATTACA. We covered everything from CRISPR Cas9 to film theory and the challenge of speculative ethics. 

It was fantastic to have put this together with Luke, as the film is such a remarkable examination of a potential future, where the prospect of genetic perfection is taken seriously. Having worked in bioethics for nearly 20 years now, it feels still like a really pressing subject, which we haven't quite figured out still.


Machine of Human Dreams #sheffdocfest

Machine of Human Dreams #sheffdocfest

Today, I took part in a conversation focused on the ideas within a documentary directed by Roy Cohen called Machine of Human Dreams. It focuses on the story of Ben Goertzel and his work to make a robot which could demonstrate Artificial General Intelligence. It was a great chance to re-visit some of the early ideas around the AI research world and we covered so much ground, from Deep Blue vs IBM and the Turing Test, to a future in which all human jobs become automated and where we need to figure out what will be left for us to do.

It was fantastic to take part in this event and fantastic to see how a neuroscientist who took a documentary film module while at university found a way into telling one of the most complicated stories in science today. Very grateful to Erinma Ochu, who worked with Wellcome Trust to curate this programme of events, which gave me a chance again to be at the amazing and inspiring Sheffield Documentary Film Festival.

Steve Kurtz, Bioart and Strange Culture

This fascinating film from Lynn Hersmann-Leeson reveals the story of Steve Kurtz, an artist who works with cell cultures who found himself at the centre of an FBI investigation into his work. His plight is the focus of the chapter by George J. Annas in Human Futures on Bioterror and Bioart. Here's a clip of the film's trailor: [youtube=]

and here's an interview with Kurtz:


Biomedical Ethics Film Festival (Edinburgh, 14-16 November, 2008)

Euthanasia: A Good Death?Biomedical Ethics Film Festival on the topic of Assisted Dying

14-16 November 2008 – Edinburgh Filmhouse - 88 Lothian Road, Edinburgh EH3 9BZ Box Office Tel: 0131 228 2688 See:

Is euthanasia a good death? What is the difference between euthanasia and assisted suicide? Why has euthanasia been so much in the news lately? These are some of the questions which will be asked in a three-day biomedical ethics film festival taking place in Edinburgh between the 14th – 16th of November 2008. During this event, films will be presented all supporting reflection on the subject of assisted dying. At the end of each film, a discussion will be taking place with a panel of 3-4 invited experts in bioethics, science, law, medicine and politics who will support, but not take over, a debate lasting about 30-45 min with the general public attending the film.

Friday the 14th of November 2008 - 18.00 hrs

Reverend Death Channel 4 Documentary directed by Jon Ronson with Jon Ronson, 2008 The Reverend George Exoo is a seemingly jolly, but not very successful Unitarian minister from West Virginia, USA, who has drifted into helping non-terminally ill people commit suicide. At the start of filming, Jon Ronson believed that everyone should have the right to terminate their own lives. However, as the film progresses, he begins to change his mind and starts to have serious reservations about what Rev. Exoo does and about the motives of his new assistant Susan, who claims she'll help practically anyone kill themselves if the price is right: 'For George it's a calling,' she says. 'For me it's a business.'

Saturday the 15th of November 2008 – 13.00 hrs

The Sea Inside (Spanish: Mar adentro) Spanish/Chilean director Alejandro Amenábar, 2004, Rated PG Drama based on the real-life story of Ramón Sampedro (played by Javier Bardem), a Spanish ship mechanic left quadriplegic after a diving accident who fought a 28-year campaign in support of assisted suicide and his right to end his own life. The Sea Inside won the 2004 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, the 2004 Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, and 14 Goya Awards including awards for Best Film, Best Director, Best Lead Actor, Best Lead Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Screenplay.

Sunday the 16th of November 2008 - 13.00 hrs

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (French: Le scaphandre et le papillon) Directed by Julian Schnabel, 2007, Rated 12 The film describes the real-life experience of Elle magazine editor-in-chief Jean-Dominique Bauby after suffering a massive stroke that left him mentally aware of his surroundings but physically paralysed with the exception of some movement in his head and left eye. The French edition of the book, on which the film was based, was entirely written by Bauby blinking his left eyelid during July and August 1996. It received excellent reviews, sold 150,000 copies in the first week, and went on to become a number one bestseller across Europe. The film won awards at the Cannes Film Festival, the Golden Globes and the BAFTA Awards, as well as four Academy Award nominations.

The film festival is organised in partnership with: (1) the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics, (2) the Edinburgh Filmhouse (venue for the event) and (3) the Edinburgh and South-East Scotland Branch of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

Peace One Day

Peace One Day

Originally uploaded by andymiah

Each year, I show the documentary film 'Peace One Day' to fourth year undergraduates in 'Becoming Posthuman'. I saw a premiere of this first in Glasgow, at the GFT. The screening was followed by a live link up with Jeremy Gilley, director, presenter, author and just about everything associated with POD.

The film tells the story of POD, Gilley's mission to get the UN to recognise a specific day in the calendar dedicated to the cessation of conflicts. His pursuit takes him to the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and the United Nations in New York on September 11, 2001. It's a powerful movie about the difference one person can make to the world and the importance of not getting too bogged down in the pursuit of this. Did Gilley's film change the world? Yes. Are our expectations of change too great? Yes. Today, the UN recognizes the 21st September as the global day of peace. Gilley and his supporters throughout his process made that happen and yes, conflicts still occur on that day. Afterthought: surely there's some marketing mileage for Peace one Day in the acronym 'iPOD' ie: taking individual responsibility for bringing about peace, especially since their main event is an annual concert.

How Arnold Won the West

A couple of weeks ago, the local art cinema screened this documentary made by Alex Cooke. There was a brief introduction from a local journalist who was, not suprisingly, a little alarmed at the state of California. The documentary seems to pursue this peculiar charcater, deliberately highlighting its wackiness - somehow it makes sense that The Terminator is Governor here. In fact, in one of the crucial candidate debates, Arnie even throws in a few one liners from his movies. Aside from the prostitute candidate, that guy from Different Strokes, and a range of superheroes who were interviewed for the documentary, this is a really regular film! Actually, it seems a little too gratitutious, as if some commissioning editor has just experienced a Eureka moment when realizing that Arnie might one day become Precident. The celebrity as spectacle finds its paradigmatic case through this film, but it also feels a little like the bottom has dropped out of protest-documentary making, which was disappointing. There is no protest here, message here, except 'weird, huh?'.

I much preferred the Spike Lee short 'We Wuz Robbed', which was 10 times shorter (and not about Arnie's governorship). Watchable, if only to witness how lazy documentary making might become, though I am sure it was not an easy film to assemble.

Hitler and the Pope

Last night, it was announced that the Pope, John Paul II, was preparing to die. We left the media to play it out, setting the video to record the entire evening, seeking that moment of catastrophe that only the news presenter can now convey to us. It was not clear how much time he had left, but the news would suggest only hours, as they continue to do today. It is now around 6pm and the coverage has become considerably more measured and expectant, though it is likely that he will continue for another night. After setting the video, we proceeded out to the cinema, where we watched the long-awaited German film, The Downfall. It tells the story of Adolf Hitler’s final days, as the war is about to end. As I was watching the portrayal of this historic figure, I could not help but compare the life and character of this man with the contrasting greatness of John Paul II. While a comparison of this kind might appear to be grossly untasteful, there does seem to be something meaningful about their different iconic status. There seems first something terribly interesting about Downfall. The film maintains a dignified encounter with the terror and grade of this figure and one finds compelled by his vision. There also seems something very authentic about its having been made by a German production company, which further reinforces its importance as a statement about how far we have come in dealing with this forgettable past.

To this extent, the fading of the Pope is similarly moving for me, an agnostic at best. One feels the need for people to gather and reclaim some sense of the spiritual and non-trivial celebrity whose character – for better or worse – is based on something sincere and real. This is what they both represent. This is why Hitler’s Downfall is reminiscent of the Pope’s death and both are played-out through their respective fictional spaces - for the Pope BBC News 24, for Hitler, The Downfall.