Dec 102011

Last weekend I departed from our usual focus on metal with a piece on a forthcoming movie (“John Carter”) based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic series of sci-fi books set on Barsoom (the Martian word for Mars). That seemed to generate a fair amount of interest, and although I don’t plan to post about movies or books on any kind of regular basis, I got an e-mail about something else sci-fi-related that has set me off again. So here we go.

The e-mail (from a reader named Ben) pointed me to a web site about something called K3LOID. K3LOID is a sci-fi short film by a Spanish outfit called Big Lazy Robot VFX (“BLR”), based on Eliezer S. Yudkowsky’s Artificial Intelligence Box Experiment (more about that later). Coincidentally, BLR did the visual effects for an amazing short film called “The Gift” that we featured in a THAT’S METAL! post almost a year ago (and if you haven’t seen that, definitely go here and watch it).

All that’s available about K3LOID at the moment is a trailer, which you can see after the jump (and I’m actually not positive that there will ever be anything but this trailer, though I hope a film itself will come to fruition, because both the visuals in the trailer and the concept behind the film are cool).

Based on the trailer, and before I found out about BLR’s involvement, I thought this was a Russian sci-fi film (you’ll see why). That got me thinking about both Russian sci-fi movies and Russian sci-fi novels. I’m certainly no expert in either of those genres, but I remembered really liking a book called Solaris by Stanislaw Lem and the 1972 Russian movie made from that novel (directed by Andrey Tarkovskiy), which captured the sense of solitude, profound mystery, and utter strangeness of the mood and the events captured in the book. If you look, you’ll find Solaris on plenty of internet lists as one of the best sci-fi films ever made.

There was a 2002 American re-make of the Solaris movie directed by Steven Soderbergh starring George Clooney and Natascha McElhone that I either missed or saw and have forgotten. I’m not sure any remake could replace the hypnotic effect of the Russian original, which is about the experiences of a small group of Russian crew on a station established on the surface of a living ocean on a planet called Solaris — an unknowable intelligence that seems to be materializing the painful memories of the crew.

In 1979 Tarkovskiy made another highly regarded Russian sci-fi movie called Stalker. I found this description of the movie on a web site that included it on a list of the Top 15 Cerebral Sci-Fi Films (which also includes Solaris, Akira, Brazil, THX1138, Blade Runner, and The Matrix):

“Andrei Tarkovsky’s brilliant sci-fi mind-bender is a film definitely worth seeking out and one that lends itself to an Inception-esque mind journey. The plot centers on an enigmatic ‘Stalker’ who brings two clients to a mysterious site known as ‘The Zone’ which purportedly allows its visitors a physical experience of their innermost thoughts and desires. While the intentional ambiguity to the nature of zone is meant to challenge the viewer, Tarkovsky’s hypnotic style is in full force wrapping your mind in a dream of a film.”

I also found Stalker ranked No. 1 on io9’s list of the Ten Best Foreign-Language Science Fiction Movies. I’ve only seen one of the movies on that last, but it’s a head-trip — Alphaville, made by French director Jean-Luc Godard.

More recently, Russian sci-fi (or more accurately Russian fantasy) has made an international splash with Night Watch and Day Watch. Both are directed by Timur Bekmambetov. Night Watch came out in 2004, the sequel Day Watch followed in 2006, and there are supposedly plans for a third film called Twilight Watch. I haven’t yet seen either of the movies, but one of the people who started NCS with me (IntoTheDarkness) has raved about them to me. One of these days, I need to see them.

About all I know is that the movies involve conflict between supernatural beings of light and darkness, and the creatures of the dark seem to be vampires. If you’ve seen either of these movies, what do you think of them?

The movies are based on a four-part series of fantasy novels written by Sergei Vasilievich LukyanenkoDay Watch, Night Watch, Twilight Watch, and Last Watch. The movies led to English translations of the novels that appear to have sold quite well outside Russia and rocketed Lukyanenko to international recognition. I haven’t read any of them yet. I tend to be skeptical of anything involving vampires.

Well, back to K3LOID. That film project is based on a thought experiment constructed by a guy named Eliezer S. Yudkowsky, who writes a lot about Artificial Intelligence. The premise for the experiment is the idea that a time will come when human beings will create machines that will achieve intelligence — an ability to re-write their own software codes, an ability to improve and think for themselves, and perhaps eventually a realization that human beings are no longer necessary.

That idea has been the premise of lots of sci-fi for, I dunno, a century? Yudkowsky’s experiment involves a way of dealing with the supposed threat of AI to human existence: create the AI in a sealed “box”, from which the AI could escape by only one means: convincing a human guardian to let it out. Here’s the basic nutshell of the experiment, though it has evolved:

Person1: “When we build AI, why not just keep it in sealed hardware that can’t affect the outside world in any way except through one communications channel with the original programmers?  That way it couldn’t get out until we were convinced it was safe.”
Person2: “That might work if you were talking about dumber-than-human AI, but a transhuman AI would just convince you to let it out.  It doesn’t matter how much security you put on the box.  Humans are not secure.”
Person1: “I don’t see how even a transhuman AI could make me let it out, if I didn’t want to, just by talking to me.”
Person2: “It would make you want to let it out.  This is a transhuman mind we’re talking about.  If it thinks both faster and better than a human, it can probably take over a human mind through a text-only terminal.”
Person1: “There is no chance I could be persuaded to let the AI out.  No matter what it says, I can always just say no.  I can’t imagine anything that even a transhuman could say to me which would change that.”
Person2: “Okay, let’s run the experiment.  We’ll meet in a private chat channel.  I’ll be the AI.  You be the gatekeeper.  You can resolve to believe whatever you like, as strongly as you like, as far in advance as you like. We’ll talk for at least two hours.  If I can’t convince you to let me out, I’ll Paypal you $10.”

If you’re interested in this, you can learn more at this location.

Here’s the trailer that started this long, meandering post. Obviously, comments on any or all of this shit would be welcome.

Keloid Trailer – A Short Film by BLR from BLR_VFX on Vimeo.

  13 Responses to “K3LOID (AND OTHER MEANDERINGS)”

  1. Haven’t read/seen any of the Watch series but Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky is by far one of my favorite post-apocalyptic novels.

  2. I’ve read all the ‘Watch books and seen the movies (which are of course not as good, though still lots of fun). I often forget there are vampires in the series (the initial protagonist is one) because Lukyanenko doesn’t make a big deal of it. In fact in the movie watching Anton rifle through empty mason jars in his fridge and then having to go to a street market butcher to ‘stock up’ is a far cry from the usual romanticized moody pretty boy moodily sipping blood from a sterile blood bag moodily stolen from a hospital. What I love about the series is how the whole “good vs. evil” thing is dealt with as petty bureaucracy, and how the ‘ancient battle of the primeval forces’ is almost secondary to the actual daily maintenance of the balance between the two. The Night Watch works for the good guys, policing the bad guys; the Day Watch works for the bad guys, keeping the good guys in line. Oh yeah, vampires have to be registered, and if they want to take a victim, they have to apply for a license. It’s a great series!

    • Oh yeah, watch the movies. Seeing Anton fighting an unlicensed vampire with a busted mirror in an abandoned public bathroom is just plain good entertainment.

  3. Shoot. I forgot to include the web site for the K3LOID project. Here it is:

  4. Had not seen any of the movies discussed here, unfortunately it seems Night Watch and Alphaville are the only ones available on Netflix streaming :-/

    • I found Solaris (both the original and the remake) and Day Watch on Amazon Instant Video, which is an immediate streaming service I haven’t tried yet.

      • Stalker is hard to find, but there’s a couple good torrents of it floating around. It’s also something like 5 hours long

      • ok, although not sure I want to pay for yet another service. To be clear Netflix had both Solaris (both versions) and Day Watch, but only as DVDs and since their revamp we don’t have the DVD plan anymore. I’ll check out the amazon thing though.

  5. I caught this vid on another movie site and was thoroughly excited. I enjoy robot/mech stuff and military fiction so this gave me a double hard-on.

  6. Holy fuck, I want this to be a real movie so bad my dick just went numb.

    I love transhumanism/AI fiction…though, for some reason, pure robot stuff doesn`t do much for me. I am fascinated by cyborgs though.

    Speaking of which…Ghost in the Shell?

    • Ghost in the Shell was amazing. Did you ever see Ghost in the Shell 2.0 (I haven’t)?

      • I think I`ve seen all the movies and the series….

        The comic I haven`t read yet though. I have it (in Japanese) sitting on my bookshelf asking me when I plan on reading it. The spine is made to look like a pistol with the chamber pulled back to reveal the bullet. I approve, despite how trite it is.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.