2030—A wonderful new film about an iconoclastic visionary.
by Chris T. Armstrong
Having followed the writings and interviews of transhumanist and futurist, FM-2030, for several years, I was naturally excited to hear of a new biopic or documentary coming out about his life and ideas. Upon finally experiencing the film, I am so pleasantly surprised and intrigued to find that it wasn’t just a dry rendition of the chronology and facts of his life, as so many of these kinds of films are, but rather, it was a multilayered interweaving of fact and speculative-fiction, in a film-within-a-film style. As the director, Johnny Boston, has explained: The film is “not quite a biopic or an homage or even a traditional documentary, ‘2030’ is an engaging docu-drama with thriller and sci-fi flourishes that seeks to answer the deeply philosophical question…‘What will it mean to be human when technology has finally given us a world where no one dies?’”
Even though I know a good amount of facts about FM, I still found this blurring and intermingling of fact and dramatization to be a pleasingly disorienting artistic choice. It heightened my engagement with the flow of these two related, but disparate, narrative streams. It was as though FM’s abstract philosophical musings began to take shape in a more concrete, albeit fictionalized, form as we saw people reacting to, and within, this unusual alternate-universe of ideas that sprang from the decidedly non-neurotypical mind of FM-2030.
FM’s radical and revolutionary ideas and the fact that, upon his death, he was placed in cryonic suspension, are juxtaposed with a fictionalized account of a months-long countdown to his reanimation—a unique and momentous scientific achievement. We see a small circle of people who know it is about to happen and all their anxieties, power-plays, and conflicts of interest. They, along with proponents and critics of these types of sci-fi sounding ideas, speculate about how the world may react to such an unprecedented paradigm-shift in how death will be viewed in the new world, post-FM-2030’s reanimation. Let’s just say, they definitely are concerned about how well it will be received.
There was a good balance between FM’s optimistic vision of future technologies that will enable humans to transcend their biological limitations and the positive impact he believed this will have on individuals and society, versus the often derisive and dismissive statements by critics who don’t share FM’s optimism (to put it mildly) regarding how positively we will move into a world of abundance, cooperation, and indefinite lifespans. Near the end of the film, there are audio collages of a kind of point-counterpoint between FM’s hyper-optimistic statements and the dire pessimisms voiced by his critics.
We also hear from people who knew and loved FM. They recount his charms, his quirks, and how strongly he is still felt in their hearts. Since his passing was not considered to be a death, but more like a pause…to be continued…there was no funeral, nor the other things that would typically attend a process of “getting over” the fact that he will never be seen again. They may have thought they would still be around long enough to see him when he was brought back to rejoin the world of the living and they could continue their relationships. FM made a great impact on them and on those who knew him only through his ideas of hopefulness for an ongoing future.
FM-2030’s animating concepts, which drove his life’s work were: Optimism, Abundance, and Immortality. He was an idealist whose dream was to see humanity “dissolve barriers” and rise to something greater than we have achieved through our glacially slow and undirected process of evolution. He declared that we ought not to put up with being “shoved around by the forces of nature.” His vision was to seize the reigns from evolution and steer our futures toward physical, intellectual, and moral enhancement. His was a program of human-directed “intelligent design.” In the film, we get many opportunities to hear FM speak. One of these inspirational gems comes near the end, when he expresses what may be his core reason for hope that humans can rise above their humble origins and their current shortcomings: “If you travel across, time and time and again, across this planet, one of the things that cannot help but strike you is the remarkable, the remarkable adaptability of us organisms. I don’t see a limit to human adaptability or human resilience or the human capacity to move and to grow. This is, in fact, one of the great great extraordinary things about us.”
As he once wrote, “We humans are not geese or jackasses trapped in genetic and environmental dead ends. Every day we are transcending our programmings…Bit by bit we are de-animalizing our bodies.”
All this is music to the ears of any transhumanist, but maybe this kind of mind-music will also resonate harmoniously in many others who have not yet thought to identify as transhumanist. This film, with its thought-provoking artistic approach, could be instrumental in spreading FM’s vision to those who are interested in creating a positive and transformative way forward.