• Charlie Vogelsang

iHuman (2020) Review

Tonje Hessen Schei investigates whether AI will radicalise human society for the better, or if it's a dystopian world waiting to happen.

In a world full of technological advancements, iHuman couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s the follow-up to Tonje Hessen Schei’s documentary Drone, and interrogates the challenges and positives AI will bring onto the world. The cinema release coincides with International Human Rights Day on December 10, and it’s a film that you may not want to miss.

Technology is a force of nature that comes with groundbreaking developments that help humanity, but it can often come at a price. iHuman tries to give both sides of the argument with professional and interesting interviewees guiding the story. Experts such as the father of modern AI, AI Jürgen Schmidhuber, and former Google employee, Tyler Breisacher, are a few that stand out and make valid points.

Unfortunately, not all interviews feel needed as many simply repeat similar points. Most of the time, this feels like padding to make the film longer but doesn't add anything extra. It makes the film feel a bit too broad with no real focus on specific AI. iHuman goes from general intelligence in computers to smartphones to military technology, all without a huge amount of detail. Perhaps if the documentary focused on these topics more rather than covering the same ground, it would’ve added a more unique spin on the topic of AI.

iHuman is captivating with its interviewees and insights

iHuman aims to provide a balanced argument, but it tends to lean more towards the side of AI being bad for humanity. It mentions the positives of AI solving employment, disease and poverty - but nothing else is properly explained. No one informs of how this could be possible with any facts or figures. The fake news and cyber attacks that come as a result of AI are shown and given a section, but the positives are only briefly mentioned.

The core subject and general interviews are fascinating with valuable insights into AI in a broad sense, but iHuman needed a guiding force such as a narrator or a connection to link them together more smoothly. It can seem incredibly random and seems a bit confusing as you go from the topic of smartphones straight to military technology. This could easily be fixed with something to steer the film, as there are many moments that feel conclusive - but then it jumps to another topic.

Overall, though, this movie is captivating with its interviewees and general insights. The sound and visual effects make you feel like you’re in a dystopian science-fiction film, and add to the eeriness of the topic. iHuman will make you feel uneasy and question whether AI will help to build a better future. It interrogates what big powers such as the government and corporations are capable of doing and what the astronomical effect could be.

It’s a relevant documentary for our time. If the argument was more varied and the documentary had more of a focused narrative, iHuman could’ve been a masterpiece. Nevertheless, it’s a compelling documentary that’ll make you actively think about the future and could help to start the conversation of whether AI will help or hinder humanity.


iHuman being released in the UK in cinemas and digitally from 10 December 2020.