"All too often, science is portrayed as a monolithic, objective truth, rather than as a human endeavor subject to the same biases and controversies that can define anything we do..."
April 6, 2021 - NEW YORK - With major funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the film IN SILICO is bringing the opportunities and challenges of "big data" neuroscience to virtual screens across North America on April 30th. The independent documentary chronicles an audacious 10-year quest to simulate the entire human brain. IN SILICO will show through May 29th in select theaters, debuting at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Massachusetts.
The film follows neuroscientist Henry Markram who, frustrated with his field's status quo, sets out on a 10-year project to simulate the human brain on supercomputers. Film director Noah Hutton documents his quest for 10 years, taking viewers behind the scenes of the Blue Brain project, and later the $1B Euro Human Brain Project, exposing a controversy-filled space where the scientific process meets ego and where the lines between objectivity and ambition blur. The film includes interviews and perspectives from dozens of leading scientists, including Anne Churchland (UCLA), Christof Koch (Allen Institute for Brain Science, Seattle), and Sebastian Seung (Princeton University), Zach Mainen (Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, Lisbon), among others.
The film comes at a time in which a Silicon Valley ethos is creeping into academic neuroscience, luring scarce funding with the promise of a better brain future. IN SILICO challenges audiences to cut through the seductive brain imagery and flashy presentations to more critically evaluate brain research and technology.
"We're proud to have supported the production of Noah Hutton's insightful 10-year chronicle IN SILICO, which examines the enormous promise and daunting challenges of big neuroscience and big personalities," says Doron Weber, Vice President and Program Director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. "By partnering with the Sloan-supported Science on Screen program, run by our wonderful partners at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, IN SILICO will reach a wider public, encouraging discussions about what a successful simulation of the human brain might mean for our technology and for our humanity."
Following the film's release, the film's director and writer Hutton (LAPSIS, DEEP TIME, CRUDE INDEPENDENCE), along with filmmaker Werner Herzog, will participate in a virtual discussion made available through the Coolidge Corner Theatre. The virtual launch will kick off community screenings and panel discussions worldwide.
The film was made possible by an early grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, as well as financing from Sandbox Films, in addition to being part of the Sloan Foundation's Science on Screen grant program. It was Executive Produced by Greg Boustead and Jessica Harrop and produced by Kellen Quinn, Taylor Hess, and Jesse Miller.
"IN SILICO cuts to the heart of current debates over 'big science' while also revealing the very human and personal side of scientific exploration," says Greg Boustead at Sandbox Films. "In telling the story of one 10-year project, it reveals the fascinating ways in which ambition, ego, and showmanship can shape a scientific endeavor."
"All too often, science is portrayed as a monolithic, objective truth, rather than as a human endeavor subject to the same biases and controversies that can define anything we do, which is all the more reason we need a critical approach to cycles of hype and salesmanship," says Hutton. "The film is a call for continued research in neuroscience with an acknowledgement that there are ongoing debates about the best methods and the established truths."
This theatrical release is part of the ongoing Science on Screen partnership between the Coolidge Corner Theatre and the Sloan Foundation. Since its launch in 2011, the program has awarded 274 grants to 96 nonprofit cinemas across the country. Science on Screen features classic, cult, science fiction, and nonfiction films provocatively matched with presentations by experts who discuss scientific, technological, or medical issues raised by each film. The program aims to inspire in audience-members an increased appreciation for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
About Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is a New York based, philanthropic, not-for-profit institution that makes grants in three areas: research in science, technology, and economics; quality and diversity of scientific institutions; and public engagement with science. Sloan's program in Public Understanding of Science and Technology, directed by Doron Weber, aims to bridge the two cultures of science and the arts by supporting books, radio, television, film, theater, and new media. The Foundation works with about 20 film school and film festival partners and has supported over 700 film projects, including over 30 feature films. For more information visit sloan.org or follow @SloanPublic on Twitter or Facebook.
About Sandbox Films
Sandbox Films is a mission-driven film company that specializes in creative and boundary-breaking documentaries rooted in scientific ideas that inform society and culture. We collaborate with production partners and visionary filmmakers, providing co-production and financing opportunities for bold, artist-driven ideas. Our films have premiered at the top festivals around the world -- including Sundance (winning the Special Jury Prize for Nonfiction Experimentation), SXSW, Telluride, the Toronto International Film Festival, and the Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival; and our films have been acquired by Netflix, Apple Original Films, Neon, BBC, and PBS, among others.