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Join the Singularity with “The Final Moments of Karl Brant”

We teased it on Thursday and now the complete short film The Final Moments of Karl Brant is up on the Nerdist Channel and ready to overtake your memory. Written and directed by award-winning graphic novelist M.F. Wilson, The Final Moments of Karl Brant is part detective story, part slasher movie, and part theoretical futurism. Quite a lot going on for just 16 minutes.

The film stars Paul Reubens, being very non-Pee-wee Herman, as the scientist friend of the eponymous Brant (Pete Cheklava). Brant is working on a way to upload his memories into a computer in order to effectively reconstruct his consciousness in the virtual world. It appears someone wanted him dead for it. Two detectives (Janina Gavankar and Jon Sklaroff) are the ones investigating and the key to solving the case comes from a decidedly non-traditional source. But the question arises: at one point, in this new world, does a person stop being a person?

The science behind the story was pioneered in part by Ray Kurzweil, whose books “The Age of Intelligent Machines,” “The Age of Spiritual Machines,” and “The Singularity is Near” discuss the growing idea that artificial intelligence will one day (soon, it seems) be indistinguishable from human intelligence and that our own existence and longevity is tied to machines. Eventually, what it means to be human will depend on leaving behind physical bodies and existing within the artificial, and seemingly-infinite, virtual space. The mind, as they say, reels.

Science fiction is at its best when it’s about real science we haven’t quite achieved yet, and The Final Moments of Karl Brant has that in spades. Let us know what you think about the film and the ideas it’s putting forth in the comments below.

Brant

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29 comments

  • Matt,

    In a word…Brilliant! I hold a Master’s degree in philosophy and I think you have, in a very sophisticated way, examined Artificial intelligence while creating something very compelling. My hat off to you as well for undertaking an independent film project. For those who have no film-making experience, putting together what Matt did takes more work than anyone knows, unless you are a film-maker yourself and can understand this.

    Examining the nature of our existence is something that we must all do. What is it that makes us who we are….that is a very deep and profound question, and again, one that needs to be examined, and continuously examined especially as we move forward with technology.

    I support the independent film-maker who has the guts to examine what others fear….the film-maker who provides us with entertainment, and philosophical depth, while making us think about things we might not normally think about.

    Wonderful job. Go forth and continue to create…and thank you for allowing us into your very talented and artistic world. Being an artist, also makes us human.

  • @Matt
    Wow, well I wasn’t expecting a response from the creator of the work himself. Much respect to you for taking the time to address us.

    On thinking more about it, I think your last statement hits it on the head for me: ‘more screen time’. It must be such a challenge to fit so much depth and breadth into such a short time span and still convey the total message. If you’d had more time to develop all of the characters, I think the cop’s sudden face-heel turn at the end wouldn’t have felt so abrupt. It felt like she went from being the champion of justice to a callous executioner in a manner of seconds. If there had been more time, more opportunity to express the nuance of her motivations, that probably wouldn’t have been nearly as much of a problem.

    Of course, even if she felt that they had committed a violation by plugging Karl in, didn’t her momma ever teach her that two wrongs don’t make a right? ;)

    But in all seriousness, the fact that this work is able to spawn such discussion, and has so many dimensions to break down and explore, is just another testimony to the quality of the storytelling and the compelling tale you’ve created. Keep up the great work. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

  • Thanks for the comments. I was very interested to hear your opinions/theories on the film. I asked myself a lot of these same questions about the interactions between the cops and the Brant construct. When I started writing the script, I did some research into modern laws – specifically the current legal punishments for creating life (as opposed to destroying it). Of course, at this time there are no laws against creating a sentient program. However, in this case, I think ethics and health/safety laws banning reproductive human cloning are a good comparison – in most cases it’s considered a human rights violation (human dignity) of both the person being cloned and the clone itself. Also, they don’t always define what constitutes a “human being.”

    Do you think the cops violated Karl’s rights when they plugged his memory into the construct and recreated him? If the cops thought they might have, would they try to cover their tracks?

    That was my thinking – wish I had more screen time to explore it. Thanks for watching. Hopefully, more to come.

    Matt

  • Very entertaining, creative. Much better than I thought it would be. It Had A Bladerunner feel to it which is one of my all time favorite films.
    Dark, Scifi, cops, and more. Great Work

  • That was fucking brilliant. Thank you for sharing.

    I’ve long tried to imagine the inevitable post-physical human existence. Ultimately, we’ll obviously develop into “programs” that can encounter new information as experiences digitally via connecting to more and more networks, and once adding knowledge becomes as simple as merging databases, & interactions in the phsical world are realized via CNC, robotics & environmental inputs, there’ll be no limit to what we can do & invent and create, etc etc, but the most interesting period to me isn’t enjoying the end result, but the risky, dangerous, lossy, turbulent transition of getting from here to there. Those are gonna be some big steps in our development, and the one in this short film might be the biggest. …and certainly the most ethically explosive. It’s gonna get ugly. Awesome! Thank you!!!

  • Reminiscent of Max Headroom-20 min. into the future. I also must say that I agree with Illusion-XIIl on the ending, None the less, I really liked it, Very well done and Rubens is top shelf! The score was excellent.

  • Great and wonderful story.. yes worthy of a series or movie. So very interesting….

    I think the woman detective (?) is a little overacting, but the entire concept is really magnificent.

  • Coincidence that I’ve been revisiting Max Headroom the last two evenings and I’m alerted to this. While there are similarities, of course, the morality of a digital being is explored here in a mature fashion.
    Smart casting of Mr. Reubens who brings a subtle sensitivity to his character. In fact, I feel there’s a very intriguing backstory to his character that may be owed to the performance rather than the script.

  • If I were Brant, I wouldn’t want to be brought back. Life is about experience, and not much can be experienced as a holographic head.
    The past is best left where it belongs- in the past.

  • @FreakDriveHairdo
    Oh, I definitely wouldn’t question that the ending is thought-provoking. And in that respect, the movie definitely accomplished its mission. I just have problems with the method they chose to do so.

    I hear your points, and that does change the perspective a bit. If we interpret the cop’s action as a deliberate choice to suppress this technology because of the potential social ramifications of its existence, that does at least provide a more plausible motive for her actions. My biggest problem had been that there was no reason for it, it seemed she was just being mean for the sake of being mean and representing the “this thing isn’t really alive” viewpoint. At least now there’s some potential justification.
    However, that does not change the fact that it is still HIGHLY ILLEGAL. Whether you interpret Brant as a witness (in which case the crime is witness tampering and/or murder) or as evidence (in which case it’s merely destruction of evidence), messing with either of those is illegal. A cop doesn’t have the legal right to decide, “This evidence is too socially complex to be presented to a jury. It’s a legal conundrum, and opens up difficult ethical questions, so I’ll destroy it.” However, this wouldn’t be the first time a law enforcement officer has chosen to break the law for their own convenience, so it’s not implausible.

    Anyway, looking at it that way, the ending doesn’t feel quite as forced as it originally did to me, so I appreciate the perspective. Thanx for the input.

  • SPOILER:

    @Illusion-XIII

    Seriously. I love the ending. It made me ask myself, “did they just kill that AI?”

    In response to what you said about the cops, they mention something outside of the room. The female cop says they have what they need to build a case so… “We’re going to put it back in evidence and bury it.”

    Plus, it’s not evidence …I think it’s a witness? Is it credible? How do you explain that technology to a jury? It’s a legal conundrum. Who would be responsible for keeping it alive. Where would it live?

    I took from it that these cops realize that they may have made a mistake by allowing the machine to be turned on. That is why they are so keen to turn it off. They know that by even by allowing it to be turned it on they have created a serious problem for themselves and now they have to get rid of it.

  • Overall, really good. Paul Reubens doesn’t disappoint in the least, and the film noir-esque feel is a nice counterpoint with the futuristic themes. The mystery/detective part itself is enough to carry a short film of this length without being too bogged down in twists and convolutions. We’re not really here for the whodunit, we’re here for the science.

    I was on board for it the whole way until the ending. I have to say I have serious problems with the ending itself (needless to say, the fact that I’ve used the word “ending” directly implies that we’re entering spoiler territory. It’s a 16 minute movie, why are you reading comments before you watch it? Go watch the movie, then come back to the comments.).
    Why on earth would the detective (seriously look away now if you haven’t bothered actually taking the time to watch the short film) choose to shut Brant down? I get that the filmmaker is trying to convey the differing viewpoints on the definition of life (she sees Brant as a “thing” now that he’s in a machine), but it comes off as so abrupt and ham-handed, it wrecked the tone of the film. There’s no reason for her to shut Brant down, it wouldn’t benefit their case at all, and in fact once Bennet points out that disconnecting Brant from the projector could prevent him from being reactivated, what she’s doing becomes illegal, because it’s destruction of evidence. Even if Brant isn’t alive, his projection qualifies as recorded testimony, and since it was used to build the case, it would be considered to be evidence in a criminal case. Doing something that jeopardizes the integrity of that evidence (like randomly flipping switches and forcefully yanking the connector loose) is completely in violation of law enforcement procedure, and any decent detective would know that she was jeopardizing her case, and risking criminal charges by doing that.
    Sooo, there’s my gripe. Glad to have it off my chest. To anyone who took the time to read all of that, I take my hat off to you.
    And like I said overall I enjoyed the film. The end just stuck with me because, well, that’s the nature of endings. They’re the part you remember most. But it doesn’t take away from great performances all around, and a well put together, moody piece of speculative fiction.