Life online is becoming as ubiquitous as life itself, yet how much do we really know about the vast virtual spaces we spend so much time in? With Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World, the celebrated documentary filmmaker Werner Herzog tries to at least capture some of the more salient bits—from medical breakthroughs and self-driving cars to e-addictions that have literally destroyed at least one life and one limb. Reviewing the film upon its release last week, A. O. Scott of the New York Times called it “impressionistic rather than comprehensive,” noting that “the uses and abuses of connectivity as a tool of corporate and state power” get short shrift. Nevertheless, the movie looks to be packed with interesting interviews and stories from the virtual frontier—a realm most Americans could probably stand to learn a bit more about considering that life online could actually be altering human behavior.
Finally, in a bit of home news, one of the experts featured in the documentary is Lawrence Krauss, chair of the Bulletin’s Board of Sponsors. “Will our children’s children’s children need the companionship of humans?” he asks in the film’s trailer. “Or will they have evolved in a world where that’s not important?”
This is not the first time Krauss and Herzog have worked together, either. The Arizona State University cosmologist appears as a begoggled bad guy (also named Krauss) in Herzog’s fictional Salt and Fire, which premiered at the Shanghai International Film Festival in June. Set amid “a vague but ominous ecological disaster” caused by corporate meddling, the movie sounds like a dramatic rendition of the sort of thing the real-life Krauss warns against when he’s not playing a heavy on the salt flats of Bolivia. “When science is distorted on the campaign trail, it may produce applause lines,” he wrote just a few days ago in a New Yorker piece about Donald Trump’s anti-science rhetoric. “But if those distortions lead to bad public policy, the quality of people’s lives will suffer.”