Oscar nominee Steve James (Hoop Dreams) has been set to direct Mind vs. Machine, a new docuseries on the lightning rod topic of artificial intelligence from Oscar winner Alex Gibney’s Jigsaw Productions, Closer Media, Anonymous Content, and Emmy-winning producers Alyssa Fedele & Zachary Fink of Collective Hunch (The Rescue List, The Ride of Their Lives).
Gibney comes to the project after working with Closer Media and Anonymous Content on the forthcoming documentary Musk, to be distributed by HBO/Universal. Within the last year, his Jigsaw has also teamed with the companies on the MGM+ acquired documentary In Restless Dreams: The Music of Paul Simon and the Raoul Peck-helmed Orwell on 1984 author George Orwell, to be distributed by Neon.
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As artificial intelligence bursts onto the world stage – and into our lives – it may seem like a radical new life form has suddenly been created. But as Mind vs. Machine illustrates, AI has been a long time coming, tenaciously developed by pioneering inventors over the past 70 years. Even these leading scientific minds didn’t predict the sheer power of their invention – now at the center of a global arms race – and many hold diametrically opposing views for how to safely forge a path forward.
Blending interviews and archival footage with dramatic recreations, AI visualizations, and cutting-edge special effects, the five-part series will offer unparalleled access to key inventors, scientists, futurists, and thinkers at the center of AI’s story including Geoffrey Hinton, Yann LeCun, Ray Kurzweil, Deborah Raji, and Meghan O’Gieblyn. Ahead of production, the team optioned two of the most vital books on the subject – New York Times technology correspondent Cade Metz’s Genius Makers and Meghan O’Gieblyn’s God, Human, Animal, Machine – and is working closely with the authors, with Metz serving as an executive producer.
The show will also offer unprecedented access to the never-before-seen provocative writings of notorious anti-technologist Ted Kaczynski, courtesy of the University of Michigan Library, grappling with AI’s implications for the future by exploring the personal journeys of those who brought us to this critical inflection point and by following key players in the field who are pushing forward the technology that will transform life as we know it.
“We want to tell the history of AI through the personal lenses of people who have impacted it greatly, and those who are thinking deeply about where humanity is headed,” said James in a statement. “This is the most ambitious project I’ve ever directed and the team and I are thrilled to be working with Closer Media and Anonymous Content. I have never felt a more urgent need to make a film than right now on this issue.”
Added Gibney: “This is a critical story to tell at a vital moment. I’m delighted to join forces with my friend Steve James, to tell the story of AI in a way that is dramatically propulsive, thematically provocative and centered around a few of the central characters in AI. We’re going to bring a level of visual innovation that befits the subject. T-Zero. We’re launching.”
In addition to Metz, EPs on Mind vs. Machine include Closer Media’s Zhang Xin, William Horberg and Joey Marra, as well as Anonymous Content’s Nick Shumaker, Jessica Grimshaw and David Levine. Closer Media and Anonymous Content are selling rights alongside UTA, which reps Gibney and Jigsaw.
A Chicago-based filmmaker best known for his Oscar-nominated docs Hoop Dreams and Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, James has also been behind titles including Stevie, The Interrupters and Life Itself, as well as the acclaimed docuseries America to Me, City So Real, and The Luckiest Guy in the World. His most recent film, A Compassionate Spy, was released in theaters by Magnolia after world premiering in Venice.
Notable past credits for Gibney include the Oscar-winning Taxi to the Dark Side, Oscar-nominated Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, triple Emmy and Peabody-winning Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, and The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley.
James is repped by Seven Summits Pictures & Management.
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