March 22, 2020
on CBC Docs
9:00 PM EST
and will stream on CBC GEM afterwards
The cyberpunk revolution is here. No, we don’t have massive corporations in control yet, but the Internet–the backbone of what drives data back and forth between the user and computer systems–is considered everywhere. Brett Gaylor‘s The Internet of Everything nicely explores where we are at presently and perhaps where it will go.
His documentary suggests two possibilities: It will either be a surveillance nightmare or an eco-utopia. The outcome is based on what start-ups in Silicon Valley and Shenzhen will offer. Gaylor is a tech junkie much like how I am. We both hail from Victoria, British Columbia with its own unique tech scene. This city has a technology park interested in creating a future for all to enjoy.
From smart home connected toilet seats to fertility monitors, the amusing ideas this filmmaker focused on is not above using a bit of humour to get his point across. He communicates his ideas very effectively and it works to keep viewers engaged to the discourse that keeps this documentary fascinating. This work also interviews tech analysts from major publications like Forbes and New York Times to get their take on what’s moving forward and what are the realistic concerns consumers must take. A little voice in this film also reminds us if we really need Big Brother watching, and what we can do about it.
One of Gaylor’s previous works include RiP! A Remix Manifesto. This piece concerns copyright law and the culture of remixing well known music which sees use in clubs and raves. Do Not Track maps the public’s relationship with the Internet, first with fascination and then obsession. The growing discomfort around the abuse of our private information is always a concern and a theme in this filmmaker’s works. These prior documentaries helped him win awards and his latest continues in this trend. As for what got him started in seeing how tech works, he cites using the Apple’s early products–the Macintosh–is what inspired him. He programmed in HyperCard, an early form of hypertext before the Web, and although these early programs were limited in what they could offer, he saw more in what “stacks” and these “data sets” can offer. He said what le learned from that was a transformational experience.
When did the Internet become a viable medium to be more about simply sharing/visualizing data when it was first created.
When the web came out in 1995, it went from something that was only for geeks like me to being something for everyone. And now it’s something we don’t really notice. How often do you think about how the electricity gets to your house?
Do we truly have the infrastructure for what your documentary proposed? Not everyone has unlimited bandwidth to allow for all the asynchronous data transmission to stay online forever.
Right. But that will change with 5g and low orbit satellites. Fairly soon the entire world will be blanketed in fast, ubiquitous connectivity.
What about the second and third world?
Folks in these regions often receive the Internet on their mobile. Many don’t differentiate between Facebook or WhatsApp and the Internet. It’s why it’s important to ensure the Internet isn’t controlled by just a few companies. Everyone needs to understand that the limits of their experience and imagination online shouldn’t be in the control of strictly commercial interests.
When did you start filming this work?
It took a year to film and edit. We started at CES in 2019. But it took a few years before that to develop and finance the idea.
In closing, would you say this interconnectivity is helpful for humanity in the future, or are we cornering ourselves?
What I learned is that a binary isn’t the most useful frame. Technology is good, bad and neutral. It’s how we use it, and the structures and institutions that we create in a world that has been changed by the Internet, that matter.