Evgenia and I talk about “We Are As Gods,” the Stewart Brand hagiomentary that just came out. We were at the film’s theatrical premier in San Francisco — with Brand himself in attendance.
Stewart Brand turns up as a minor but important character in my book Surveillance Valley. His personal contribution to the development of the internet was in the “branding” department: He helped move the anti-establishment cultural capital of the hippie movement into the corporate-military world of early internet and computer development — effectively imbuing a counterinsurgency technology with the spirit of the counterculture. It’s a rebranding that we still live with today.
But that’s not something you’ll get in the film. Instead, you get the heroic selfless visionary Brand — a man who practically invented the counterculture and the environmental movement and who is now using his last years on earth trying to stop global warming by…doing Jurassic Park gene splicing with woolly mammoths out in Siberia, while actually-living-life dies out all around him. It’s absurd. But that's the legacy that his generation leaves us with as it dies off — a legacy of accelerating ecological collapse and unwavering technophilia.
The film fits in well with the previous episode we recorded about our society’s terminal techno-utopianism.
PS: A couple of notes. In the first hour we talk about the myth of Stewart Brand. In the second hour we move on to talk about the documentary in greater detail.
Want to know more? Check out previous episodes of The Russians.