The unsuspected powers of the brain and its evolution in the future are a recurrent topic for a large number of fantasy & science-fiction films. Masterpieces of the genre reveal the many fears and hopes of mankind when exploring the “sanctuary of brain”.
The good thing about focusing on the brain is that filmmakers have to force… their own brains to imagine the most appealing stories. Even if it’s a remake. So what makes them so appealing?
First point: technology is not necessarily the answer; and mad scientists don’t always have to put hardware components inside a head or rebuild a whole electronic brain. Human brains (at their natural state) can be boosted just by virtual stimulation, so they can receive, analyse and transmit information at higher levels. That is the case for the brain dropped to virtual games in The Lawnmower Man (1992) and its episode II (1996).
A powerful drug (an exotic or a chemical one) can also be the starter to unlock unknown sides of the brain and causes phenomenal accelerations. In 1980, Altered States, with William Hurt, shows a researcher observing strange mutations on himself. His doped and “increased” mind drives him beyond reality… to the limits of loss of control. In Strange Days (1995) from Kathryn Bigelow, neuronal drugs are subject to trafficking and crime. More recently, Limitless (2011) starring Bradley Cooper shows an absolute loser transformed into a Wall Street golden boy thanks to medication and brain stimulation. Sounds familiar ? Luc Besson’s last hit also shows a human brain elevated at 100% capacity (we just use 10% of it), thanks to a very strong drug; this one drives Lucy (2014) to the ultimate level of mutation. Watch the trailer:
The mind is boosted beyond human limits; but it is also transferable from one body to another, be it a voluntary or a forced trip: in 1983 Brainstorm by Douglas Trumbull, a team of scientists experiment it. Then all kinds of transfers are possible: between clones as in The 6th Day (2000), or between individuals for Cypher (2002) and The Anomaly (2014). Even stronger: the cerebral transfers could happen between humans and aliens Avatar (2009, by James Cameron), using special boxes with brain connectors.
In a more poetic approach, the mind can switch from one dream to another and inside other person’s dreams, such as in 1984 Dreamscape by Joseph Ruben with Denis Quaid. Based on a more violent story (investigating a serial killer), the very aesthetic The Cell (2000) introduced to the complex but masterful Inception (2010) by Christopher Nolan (watch the trailer below). Its brings the subject to his labyrinthine climax. The message is clear: there is always a danger in trying to have full control over the brain.
Transferring the mind also underlines man’s instinctive need for survival, beyond the limits of physical death. Several solutions can be used. In 1963’s Monstrosity (The Atomic Brain), scientists use nuclear fission to transfer the mind of an old woman’s body into a younger one…!
Another solution: to upload the mind of a dying body into storage machines, as seen in Chrysalis (2007) or more recently in Transcendence with Johnny Depp (2014). Is this only science fiction & craziness? When Steve Jobs died in 2011, some fans dared suggest: what if… Apple had done a preventive record & upload of the big boss’s mind?
Question: if Steve Jobs’ memory was a product, would you pay to use it ?
Laurent Dupin is a social media consultant. he co-founded digital communication agency Le Web Lab, and will be blogging at LeWeb’14. Follow him on Twitter here! And find out more about LeWeb’14 trends “The Future of the Mind” here!
Top photo: Fritz Lang’s cult sci-fi film Metropolis (1927)