Transhumanism is a subject that’s rarely discussed outside of the cyberpunk genre, even though science fiction should be ripe for that sort of discussion. Should human beings augment their bodies with cybernetics, synthetic biology, and nanotechnology? Or will these “advancements” only hinder our growth as a species and take away something essential?
Well, now we’ve got H+ The Digital Series, a show that pushes two boundaries by having a serious and dramatic look at a transhumanist future and by being a webseries produced by a major studio (Warner Bros.) with a major filmmaker at the helm (Bryan Singer).
In this future, an Irish technology firm called H+ Nano Teoranta has developed a brand of nanotech implants that allow for unlimited wireless Internet access and neurally-connected telecommunications. Within a few years, H+ implants are available worldwide, integrated into daily life in the same way that smartphones are in the present day. However, a nanotech-targeting virus hits the world in a single instant, creating widespread chaos and taking countless lives in the process.
What makes this story unusual is its nonlinear and global perspective. Instead of a story that moves from the Event onward, each episode focuses on a different group of individuals in different parts of the world, each at their own time relative to the tragedy. For some, it’s seven years before it happens, letting us see how this technology arises; for others, it’s just a few moments afterward, as they deal with losing loved ones and a total sense of panic; and for still others, it’s months or years later, as they try to rebuild and reconnect.
While the plot isn’t linear and can be very confusing on account of getting four-minute pieces of a larger story for each episode, I have to applaud the ambition of this series. Not only is it trying to tackle the issue of transhumanism and the global effects of nanotechnology, but it’s also looking at human interaction in all its forms. The plot reminds me of World War Z, only it involves nanotech instead of zombies. But the human pain in Max Brooks’s novel is the same as the tragedy that pervades Bryan Singer’s new show.
The production value is also good and some of the viral marketing ad videos are pretty clever, though like many viewers, I do feel some irritation at getting a lot of these extras instead of actual content (with only twelve episodes at the time of this writing). I’m also not terribly impressed with some of the acting or the dialogue, since the series is more focused on grandeur and tension (see Episode 12, “Searching Over,” for a clear example). But I’m determined to see this show through and whether it can handle this daring plot or skid along the rails toward a mediocre end.
And on a personal note: I might consider taking on implants like the kind used in the show, but only if I could be assured that they wouldn’t be leaking my personal information and that the medical risks were minimal. Then again, given the in-show viral attack, that probably wouldn’t be the case…
H+ The Digital Series can be viewed on YouTube. New episodes air on Wednesdays.
Final Thoughts (Sep. 26, 2012): After watching the first twenty episodes of the series, I have to concede that I’m no longer as interested as I used to be and have stopped subscribing to the show on YouTube. While there’s a lot of drama and development in each new episode, I just don’t feel any deep connection to any of the characters. It’s just watching faceless pieces being moved around on a chessboard, and while some may like that, I’m not a fan.
Bibliography: H+ The Digital Series. Directed by Stewart Hendler. Produced by Bryan Singer, Jason Taylor Beatriz Acevedo, Doug Greiff, Lance Sloane, Marc Berliner, Bill O’Dowd, James Henrie, Philip von Alvensleben, John Cabrera, Cosimo De Tommaso, and Stewart Hendler. Created and Written By: John Cabrera & Cosimo De Tommaso. Warner Bros. (studio). Presented by Warner Premiere, Dolphin Entertainment, Bad Hat Harry, and Hip Entertainment. Series Premiere: August 8, 2012.