The Future of Work and Death is a documentary narrated by British actor Dudley Sutton. The film is broken into two parts: work and death, and discusses the issues tied to the rapid progress of technology and what this means for human beings in regards to these areas of life.
This film that features a bunch of “experts” whose credentials are not quite clear and still aren’t clear to me after trying to look up their credentials. While we are a culture that loves our experts, it is always important to understand where their supposed expertise comes from. A number of the “experts” actually hold graduate degrees, but others are self-named experts on subject fields that are academically questionable. There are even a few fiction writers thrown into the mix who have written about the future. It felt like the filmmakers were telling the audience, “Here are a bunch of experts you should listen to because if they weren’t experts we would not have put them in our film.” This documentary was funded on Kickstarter and is directed by Sean Blacknell and Wayne Walsh. Futurist and philosopher Gray Scott, one of the “experts” in the film, is the executive producer.
While part one of the documentary on work does provide some really interesting statistics about what jobs are subject to automation, the arguments in part two on death really caused me some concern. Some of the “experts” make a lot of faulty arguments in this section and therefore come off as ethically confused. Two of these “experts” really stand out among the others, Zoltan Itsvan and Aubrey de Grey.
Zoltan Istvan is a former television host and reporter for NatGeo. He is a member of Transhumanist movement, a self-identified Atheist, and an author who has written a science fiction novel about Transhumanism called The Transhumanist Wager. I like to call him, “the Atheist who is afraid to die.” In the film, Itsvan states that he does not want to die and he believes that death can be beat. And hey, if you are a rich white male living in America in one of the richest parts of the world, why would you want to die?
Aubrey de Grey is a Bio-gerontologist who is working diligently to end aging. (And yes, I know that Biogerontology is a real scientific and academic field.) I was excited about him as an expert at first but then he went on to make the faulty argument that if a person is against ending aging, then that person is against health care for the elderly. This is untrue as well as a very, very slippery argument.
These “experts” want to stop aging and in turn want to stop death, but they way they want to do it is selfish.They claim that if they take care of the most important people in the world first, then this technology will eventually be available to all people in the world. However, as the film points out, everyday on Earth there is enough food produced to feed everyone in the world over 2700 calories a day, and yet there are still people starving and dying. On top of that, perfectly good food is thrown away at an alarming rate. So if we already have the food to feed everyone, why is anybody in the world starving? It’s because those people that are starving are considered undesirable. They cannot contribute to capitalism or an economy, and are considered “other”. If this is still the case when we have more than enough food to feed everyone, I don’t see the technology to stop death trickling down either.
Another big question The Future of Work and Death does not address is if aging and death has not been cured, are we really looking to care for those who are still going to die? The experts in this film don’t seem to care about the reality of death today and tomorrow and what happens to those who are still going to die. Remember, without their cure, that is all people, including them.
The film lightly touches on population control, but not to my satisfaction. One of the other Transhumanists just makes the case that people really need to think about why we should have children. Shouldn’t everyone think about why they want to have children? Yes. But economically and culturally, not everyone in the world has the same choices we do in the industrialized and colonized western world. But again, she presented as a white, college-educated female with a doctorate. So for her position of privilege and accessibility to birth control, that may be a much easier choice for her.
This film is deeply lacking in experts of color and representing people of color as a whole. It feels like one big pro-white propaganda film trying to inform the world about how white people in power can stay in power. Yet it disguises itself as a documentary that is trying to inform others about the future. I am still willing to better understand these belief systems, but this documentary leads me to believe that these futurists, Transhumanists, and experts are mostly selfish people who only care about the privilege they want to hold on to.
While this film does make some interesting points about how technology is progressing exponentially, the film’s move into the Transhumanist point of view and the faulty arguments in the film take away from any of the real points made early on in the movie.
The Future of Work and Death is available now on DVD and has a running time of 88 minutes.