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Recently there has been a lot of discussion in academic circles about the singularity, the point at which artificial intelligence, of our own design and construction, surpasses the limits of what mankind can achieve. Thanks the rising popularity of science oriented shows on cable networks devoted to such matters, what was once a topic restricted academia has now proliferated through a much wider swatch of our society. Despite the undeniable fact that we are rapidly approaching machines that cannot only think for themselves, but more efficiently and far faster than any human would be capable of. What is not too frequently discussed is that there is another type of singularity looming on our horizon; a biological one. The decoding of a number of genomes including mankind’s in the new understanding of how epigenetics supplies and deeper level of understanding of life by his ability to turn genes on and off. When you combine this with the incredible leaps made in neuropharmacology, we getting closer to understand how the brain works on a molecular level and have begun investigating ways of inhibiting and enhancing various functions of our minds. Just as the reason Johnny Depp film, ‘Transcendence’ provided us with a frightening look at the potential for the artificial intelligence singularity, the latest movie, by Luc Besson, ‘Lucy’, examines the potential of a neurological singularity on the course of humanity’s future.

Lucy Miller (Scarlett Johansson) is a young woman in her mid-20s studying abroad in Taipei, Taiwan. Lucy’s new boyfriend, Richard (Pilou Asbaek), deceives her into becoming a drug mule. Before she can fully comprehend what’s going on, Lucy finds itself handcuffed to a briefcase, which contains ample supply of a new pharmaceutical, CPH4. The Korean drug syndicate behind the illicit transportation of this drug has gone beyond interest in the usual illicit substances, like cocaine and heroin. CPH4, unknown to most people, is potentially one of the most dangerous substances ever devised. It is the traffic it by a Korean drug syndicate controlled by Lucy’s new boss, Mr. Jang (Choi Min-sik). Things begin to go predictably awry when Lucy is forced to swallow a bag containing vials of this new blue synthetic drug one of the worst fears of any drug mule is manifested when the integrity of the container is compromised in the drug begins to leak into Lucy’s blood. While most drugs smuggled in this fashion are intended to induce a euphoric high, this one has a drastically different affect. Lucy finds her mind expanding as she develops a number of metaphysical abilities. These include many of the typical higher mental facilities such as telepathy and psychokinesis. The pace of telling the story quickly picks up as Lucy watches helplessly as her boyfriend is shot and killed. The bag containing the drug is sewn into the abdomen for transport, procedure repeated on several of the respective mules. Lucy is abducted and while in captivity an altercation with her captors’ result of being kicked in the abdomen rupturing the bag. The ultimate result of this attack is that she now has sufficient power to overwhelm her captors and escape. She does make it to a hospital and successfully has the damage bag. She tracks down the nefarious Mr. Jang and using her new mental abilities goes into his mind to extract the location of the others involved in this conspiracy. The drug has induced incredible changes within Lucy, not only in her mental facilities, but shopping has somatic reflexes beyond what any human being has ever been capable of. Lucy meets up with Mr. Jang in order to extract the location of the other young women.

Lucy decides that she has to track down the other three young women that were carrying the drugs. This information is extracted directly from the mind of the drug Lord. The process seems simple enough from Lucy’s point of view, but from the person perspective of the drug kingpin, the extraction procedure is exceptionally arduous and incredibly painful. Desperate to understand what is happening to her, Lucy begins to research whenever she can find related to the topic becomes of course of individual who appears to be one of the foremost experts in the field, Professor Samuel Norman (Morgan Freeman), who after seeing a demonstration of abilities as a fly off to Paris to she can contact Pierre Del Rio (Amr Waked), a captain in the Paris police force who can help her locate the other three drug mules. As any fan of comic books, those there’s one thing about superpowers, exponentially until they are far beyond the original scope. Lucy finds she is able to incapacitate armies with her thoughts. In a, moment, she has a discussion with the professor about such lofty and esoteric subjects as life and the perception of time. By this time they had obtained the missing three bags which Lucy now take intravenously setting more the ultimate change in her mind and physical form.

Many of us can remember a time when science fiction movies and that’s a half own pool of actors that would take on the roles in the movies. While there were some natural crossover between sci-fi and westerns. It was rather rare to see actors from mainstream movies appear in a genre flick now that science-fiction films and those based on comic books are not only among the largest box office hits, but almost universally hailed as some of the best examples of the cinematic arts, science fiction films and now attracting an incredible range of actors with incomparable talents. When you think of the main franchise that Ms. Johansson is featured in, The Marvel Cinematic Universe, most of the offerings have one or more Academy award-winning actors in it. Genre movies like this are no longer be ignored stepchild of the industry; they have taken center stage in profits, critical acclaim and outright quality. Johansson is obviously gotten to the best physical shape of a life thanks to her commitment to the Mobile franchise. It must also be kept in mind that even before she stepped into the curve hugging outfit of the Black Widow. She has been in a wide range of incredibly poignant and well performed movies. From her beginnings as a somewhat lost teenager in ‘Ghost World’ to the romantic comedy, ‘The Nanny Diaries’, this actors has shown she is far more than a beautiful woman able to believably appear an extraordinarily well choreographed action movies. Films such as ‘Lost in Translation’ continued to demonstrate this young woman has what it takes to be recognized as a serious actress with a considerable range in her performances.

As mentioned above, this is the perfect companion piece to ‘Transcendence’, and would make a fascinating double feature to watch with some friends. It is certain to spark a lively debate as we consider the very real potential for our current level of technology and understanding to reach the points depicted in these films. Just as artificial intelligence is reaching a tipping point, so is our understanding of life on the fundamental molecular level. In many ways ‘Lucy’, is a cautionary tale concerning our ability to understand the elusive quality of mind and change it, long before we have the wisdom and experience to responsibly real these new tools. Full of personal perspective, my degree work was in genetics, so I have a particularly well vested interest in the themes presented in this movie, while my brother is very involved in some of the cutting edge research and quantum physics. This lifelong interest in the subject matter inevitably: mice perspective of this film, influencing what I thought about it. The writer/director, Luc Besson, as a stylistic trademark of portraying exceptionally strong female characters in bizarre, almost surreal circumstances as demonstrated by a body of work that includes a somewhat surreal ‘The Fifth Element ‘to one of the most poignant stories ever about a professional hetman, ‘Léon’, starring a 13-year-old Natalie Portman as the killers apprentice. Mr. Besson is obviously fascinated with female empowerment and has come up with some of the strongest women in the history of film, albeit frequently in situations so unbelievably dire that it requires an incredible strength of will for them to succeed.

Posted 12/2015

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