Lucy: Transhumanism Without Technology?

Lucy feature

[WARNING: Spoilers Ahead]

What can only be described as a mishmash of Neil Burger’s Limitless and Wally Pfister’s Transcendence, the latest science-fiction box office hit Lucy is a rollercoaster ride of pseudo-science and futurist ideals.

Taking place in a modern day Taipei, Taiwan, Lucy (starring Scarlett Johansson) finds herself in an all-around fatal situation as she is forced into becoming a drug mule for the Korean mob, carrying a synthetic drug known as CPH4 that is forcibly stored in her abdomen. By accident, however, some of the drug enters her bloodstream, consequently igniting a reaction that allows Lucy to access 20% of her brain’s capacity and counting.

With her new found powers, she makes it her mission in not only stopping the Korean mob from successfully transferring the drugs throughout the globe, but to also rendezvous with a Professor Samuel Norman (starring Morgan Freeman), whose research could very well be the key in understanding and unlocking the secrets within CPH4 and its ability to help humanity transcend its biological limitations. Unfortunately, she’s racing against a clock in which, as Lucy somehow senses, marks her eventual “death” in less than 24 hours. By that time she hopes to have accessed 100% of her brain’s capacity.

As I said, this film is a rollercoaster ride of different interpretations of actual science. On the one hand, Lucy bases its entire plot on the long debunked, pseudo-scientific belief that humans only have access to a limited selection of their brain’s capacity. On the other hand, as a result of this supposed “breakthrough” in neuroscience, the film delves into the very real world of what is known today as Transhumanism.

Going into the “10% of the brain” myth is practically pointless, because we have mountains of direct evidence showing that humans do have full access to their entire brain, as each section and region has a very precise function to our day-to-day activities. What is more fascinating about the film is its belief that humans have certain potentials past their biological nature. In fact, throughout the entire film, it produced several cut scenes of primal nature at its wildest, attempting to create an analogous correlation between how humans and the rest of the animal kingdom act. Thus, whenever Lucy gains access to the rest of her brain, she becomes something much more; she becomes post-human, essentially.

The only problem is that Lucy’s method of achieving such powers is not only scientifically unfounded and erroneous, but is also completely unnecessary. Each power that she displays throughout the film – telepathy, telekinesis, global wi-fi access, and so on – are powers in which can, theoretically, be accessed by use of advanced technologies, rather than some fictional nootropic drug.

In fact, we’re at the cusp of a new paradigm shift in which exponentially growing information technologies are allowing us to redefine the human condition. Using legitimate, advanced science and technological innovations, we’re breeding a new era in which will allow us to achieve everything displayed throughout Lucy, and perhaps much more. The movement that is leading this revolution is known as Transhumanism, i.e. to go beyond human via advanced science and technology.

Thankfully the film ends on a positive note, with Lucy uploading all of her knowledge into a newly created supercomputer, which is then transferred into a USB drive. Unfortunately, though, in doing so, she had to sacrifice herself to achieve this, becoming the very matter and energy she harnessed within herself. This is also a topic that is near and dear to the Transhumanist mindset – the eventual ability to upload our minds (a conscious brain) into an artificial brain. Though, to be clear, this is only one of many ways in which Transhumanists believe they can achieve indefinite life extension.

Lucy’s sacrifice, however, scares Professor Norman, claiming that the human race isn’t ready for such knowledge.


Professor Norman: “All of this knowledge, Lucy…I’m not even sure that mankind is ready for it. We’re so driven by power and profit. Given man’s nature, it might bring us only instability and chaos.”

Lucy: “Ignorance brings chaos, not knowledge.”


And with that note, I must say, despite the ironic ignorance the film bestows on us in regards to actual neuroscience, I really enjoyed watching Lucy and highly recommend people to at least watch it once themselves. Lucy’s methods of achieving Transhumanist powers may be full of holes, but the powers themselves are both philosophically and scientifically enthralling.

After all, what scientific and technological innovations throughout history didn’t base itself on what were originally deemed both “science-fiction” and “fantasy” beforehand? For all we know, Lucy could very well be the film that inspires our next innovative steps towards Transhumanity!

About B.J. Murphy

B.J. Murphy is Editor in Chief for Cyberlife, a Writer for the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, and the Editor/Social Media Manager of SeriousWonder.com.

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