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iHuman review – staggeringly bleak look at our digitised future

This AI documentary presents a compellingly terrifying future, but its belief that this future is inevitable makes it a rather myopic piece

If the recent news of COVID vaccines and America’s rejection of overt authoritarianism have left you feeling hopeful, new documentary iHuman is here to crush that hope. A spectacularly grim assessment of our tech-dependent future, it serves to remind that no matter how many obstacles we overcome now, the potential apocalypses of the future continue to hurtle towards us, driven at lightning fast speed by the increasing power of Artificial Intelligence.

iHuman is all about AI, but if you’re looking for an explainer of how the tech works, this is the wrong film. Instead of bogging itself down in the details of the computer science that makes AI possible, iHuman instead focuses on the social and political consequences of the moment when AI overtakes humanity as the world’s dominant force, an event seen as inevitable by most of the experts interviewed here.

It makes for a terrifying, but also frustrating watch. It lays out in painstaking detail how humans will be replaced in ever more jobs, and the massive social upheaval this will cause, and how our already automated wars will become even more inhuman, but never once reckons with the ways in which computers cannot eclipse people. There’s an ignoring of art, joy, and love here which gives iHuman, ironically, a pretty robotic tone.

As a cautionary tale, iHuman can make for fascinating viewing, and is an important polemic against the tech giants that so dominate our lives and worldviews. Yet, it fails to fully appreciate the human element of society, leaving many of its dystopian predictions feeling crass and shallow. The future iHuman presents is compellingly nasty, but it’s hard to buy into this sort of fatalism when the argument is so one-sided.

iHuman is available on streaming platforms and select cinemas from 10 December.

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