I Am Human Review

The brain is an unfathomable organ packed with experience. Neuroscience, science with a focus in the nervous system, is reaching as far as it can to decipher ways to unlock potential–or restore senses–in its neuro-corners. It encompasses tricky studies and comprehending brain waves. Although cutting-edge, neurotechnology is expensive and time-consuming. But it will have a role to play in expanding treatment options for patients as well as the evolution of human abilities.

Directed, produced, and written by Taryn Southern & Elena Gaby, I Am Human (playing the Tribeca Film Festival) ruminates on neurotechnology and follows three patients who pursue neuro-treatments after exhausting all their options. Anne is coping with Parkinson’s Disease, a neurodegenerative disorder that robbed her of her artistic abilities; Bill is a quadriplegic, his four limbs paralyzed; and Stephen is blinded by an undetected degeneration that caused him to see only white, like “blank pages,” as he puts it.

With sci-fi celerity to the editing and score, I Am Human is packed with information without overflowing. It features many neuro-experts delivering–and basking into–an educative dive into neurotechnology’s potential and its burgeoning prevalence in society, even beyond the medical lab. These commentaries orbit around the journeys of Bill, Stephen, and Anne, the source of the film’s emotional pull when the three process their current lives before marveling at the mild breakthroughs post-surgery.

As invasive medical procedures, their kind of surgery is only recommended to patients with severe conditions and the projected benefits must outweigh the risks. Bill was told beforehand that his procedure was “Star Treky.” His brain implantation manifests in the doc’s most Frankensteinian imagery: connective ports protruding from Bill’s skull as surgeons plug tubes into the ports to stimulate his brain electrodes. Anne receives a bolt into her skull for electrode implants. Stephen has a meticulous configuration where chips are planted beneath his eyes which wears special glasses–sci-fishly called the Argus II–that the chips send signals to. Each patient keeps their expectations in proportion, not expecting miracles. The result are positive payoffs when all three experience incremental post-surgery progress. (Sadly, Bill passed away, but his participation allowed his neuro operators to push forward their research.)

If you hold technological anxieties a-la dystopic Black Mirror, I Am Human raises reasonable anxieties and concerns to supplement its optimistic stance. What are the worst-case scenarios with corporate figures like Elon Musk and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg funding brain-computer interfacing research? Especially consider the latter’s reported intention to build technology where users can navigate the social media platform with their minds alone. What if social media platforms like Facebook utilize interfacing to swipe away private information straight from users’ brain before they realize it? How will laws protect those most vulnerable to breaches in ethics? How can boundaries be constructed? It’s important to seed those questions now as neurotechnology evolves to a ubiquitous point.

I Am Human has its optimistic curiosities and lets its audience contemplate their own curiosities. It doesn’t pretend that the path is clear, but it is moving forward.

/Film Rating: 8 out of 10.

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About the Author

Caroline Cao is a Houstonian native and writer of movie reviews and essays, Star Wars thoughts, screenplays, plays and fanfiction. She loves herself some oodles of noodles and student discounted Broadway shows.