Over the last few decades, German director Werner Herzog has been making some of the most compelling documentaries of our era — documentaries which probe and explore the many facets of the current human condition. His previous documentary, “Into the Abyss” explored the intersection of mass incarceration and the death penalty. In his new film, “Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World,” Herzog turns his gaze to the current digital age, exploring the rise of the internet.
The film opens up at UCLA, at the inception of the intranet which precipitated the explosion of the digital world. As the camera moves down a rather average-looking hallway (which Herzog suggests is actually quite ugly), a man explains: “This room right here, has been preserved as it is from the 1970s, because this room was the exact birthplace of the internet.”
From there Herzog interviews creators, thinkers, engineers and visionaries of the new tech world, from engineers working on robotics, to hackers discussing how vital our digital information can be, to physicists. To say this documentary is about the internet would be, in a sense, disingenuous: This documentary is much larger than that — it is about how humanity has been fundamentally changed by the digital world.
One of the most fascinating interviews is with Elon Musk, the aerospace mastermind working on colonizing Mars with his company SpaceX. Speaking about the idea of human travel to Mars, and foreign colonization, Musk gives a revealing account of his vision of the future and the plausibility of actually maintaining connection with spatial colonies.
This documentary is incredibly compelling, giving us a portrait of the complex, connected world which we inhabit, paying homage to both the bad and the good: In one scene a physicist explains how a solar flare large enough to destroy digital communications could lead to widespread famines. In another scene, an engineer demos a “chimp” robot, which could help save hundreds of lives in disasters, by getting to places where humans cannot.
“Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World” is a moving and intricately drawn account of the most revolutionary technology humans have ever invented.