Different forms of media have made a lot out of considering the future of humans and technology. The reigning examples tend to be on the darker side of predictions, which is understandable since it’s hard to have a good story without the drama. Within a subset of those examples, serious and valid questions arise but they’re usually pushed aside in favor of action or the drama. “H+”, Warner Bros. new web series, is another one of those stories, with a few passing moments of interesting concepts.
In the far-flung future, an Irish biomed company has developed a nano implantation that makes people into their own walking Internet hubs, always connected to each other in a large cloud. If Google dabbled in nanotechnology, it would probably look like the H+ implant. The plot is a document of the before and after “It” happened. “It” is a devastating virus that is uploaded into the cloud, killing almost everyone who had the implant done.
The sometimes-noir, sometimes-cyberpunk, sometimes-drama is divided up into small 3 – 5 minute webisodes. Those webisodes are further thematically organized into eight chapters, each of which clocks in at about 25 – 28 minutes each. Each webisode is a jump from one small situation leading up to the “It” situation, and its aftermath. The inartful jumping around detracted from the story, and made the show difficult to watch overall.
One of the interesting concepts is the underlying one: a virus being uploaded in this cloud for transhumans and killing them off. It is an intriguing thought exercise, especially in the light of smart viruses being developed, such as Stuxnet. Since that serves the basis of the show, the topic is covered fairly well but the flat, stock characters and the mostly familiar action sequences don’t carry the story very well.
It is also hard not to mention how unfair the show is toward a sympathetic or advocate view of transhuman future. Scare and fear of the future sells, though, and it would be as much beating a dead horse complaining too much about it, as much as it is beating the dead horse of technological apocalypse.
Within the subplots, there was another aspect that I welcomed in the story and that doesn’t get much play when talking about these issues. That is, considering how these advances can affect poorer countries and their citizens. One plot line follows an Indian woman who is a surrogate for a wealthy Irish couple. During the process, she is heavily pressured to take the implant so the Irish parents can have total and constant access to her.
This question of the underlying power relationship between those who are developing and pioneering the technology, and those who can are affected almost against their will, would have been nice to explore but it was not ultimately fleshed out. It is kind of thrown into the show and feels like a token critique.
The last interesting-for-a-few-seconds part was a very brief and surface consideration of human spirituality in a new, H+ world. This happened in Chapter 5, between the architect of the H+ chip and a scientist; and then again between a priest and his parishioner. The conversation didn’t come up anymore in later episodes, but “God” is used as a reference for some dastardly plan by a bunch of rag-tag, Luddite crusty dudes (among the evil-doers, one is a lanky guy with dreadlocks and the other a futuristic looking Che Guevara impersonator. I think I saw the same pair in “Children of Men.”)
What good can be said of the show is that it attempted a different-than-mainstream way of storytelling, even if it did fall way short of the mark. It was also cast well, the acting is mostly good and it looks good. If it were sewn together in a cohesive manner, the show would probably pass for a decent mini-series or made-for-TV flick on cable. Though, if you were looking for an honest jumping off discussion point regarding a possible transhuman future, then this isn’t it.
You can watch the series and judge for yourself here.