November 21, 2016 -- Does the internet dream of itself? That is among the questions posed by filmmaker Werner Herzog (“Cave of Forgotten Dreams”) in this documentary film about the internet, society and philosophy. As the title suggests, this is not primarily an overview of the internet, an explanation of it, or a history of it, although some of those things are in it. This film explores different aspects and ideas about the internet, and how it relates to humanity.
The film jumps from the horrors of the trolls who lurk online, to the sublime visions of idealists who hope for a better future because of our increasing interconnectedness. There is also a lot of in-between topics.
In Chapter 3 “The Dark Side,” Herzog interviews a family attacked by internet trolls (people who cause grief by posting hurtful material) after the death of their daughter. People posted photos of the daughter's mangled body on the internet, along with insulting comments about her and her family. Similar things were emailed or otherwise sent via the internet to the family, causing terrible emotional pain to a family in grief. The dead girl's mother calls the internet “ ... A manifestation of the anti-Christ, of evil itself.”
From the abysmal depths of humanity, the film interviews some of the leading scientists and technical internet developers who talk of its history and who try to predict what the future holds. One example of how people can work together on the internet shows how a game was developed which enabled researchers to develop new organic compounds.
Herzog also explores the idea that the internet could become conscious and develop a will of its own. Maybe it already has. He asks if the internet could dream of itself. Some think it can. This is an idea that has been explored in fiction, such as in some movies in the “Terminator” series.
Another segment of the movie is about people who seem to be allergic or sensitive to the electromagnetic radiation emitted by radio, television, cell phones, communications towers, microwaves, etc. People interviewed are attracted to the area around a large radio telescope installation where most of these kinds of radiation are limited or banned.
Herzog also goes back to the very beginning of the internet in October, 1969, when the first attempt to log in from a computer system at the University of California, Los Angeles to another hundreds of miles away in the Stanford Research Institute over ARPANET, the first predecessor of the internet. The attempt failed at “G” after the “L” and “O” were sent. So the first message sent was “Lo,” hence the title of the movie.
Herzog also explores the future of the internet, including the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence. He talks to researchers who believe people will eventually be able to transmit thoughts over the internet. The possibilities, both for good and harm, seem limitless in this documentary. Herzog is curious and he seeks the truth, wherever that search leads him. This film rates a B.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.