Science fiction doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Well, sometimes it does — in deep-space scenes — but culturally speaking, science fiction almost always proceeds from real science and/or cultural concerns. One of the enduring pleasures of being a sci-fi nerd is tracking how science fiction constantly holds up a funhouse mirror to the real world.
This is especially true at the movies, where science fiction has a rich history — going back more than 100 years now — of projecting our hopes and fears onto the big screen. Nuclear war. Space travel. Robot revolution. Those sorts of things.
The much-anticipated sci-fi thriller “Transcendence,” starring Johnny Depp and opening Friday in theaters, is squarely in the tradition of such notional sci-fi. The film deals directly with the concept of mind uploading — sometimes called whole brain emulation (WBE) — in which the human brain is digitized and transferred to a computer, ushering in a new era of posthuman immortality. We take a look at “Transcendence” and the science behind the fiction.