Look around you. People appear to be permanently glued to their electronic devices. Heads bowed and eyes transfixed, our society has been hijacked by these dominating technologies. In less than the span of a single lifetime, we have advanced from rustic computers the size of buildings to extremely capable mobile devices that fit in the palms of our hands. We haven't even stopped to catch our breath. That's precisely was Stare Into the Lights My Pretties aims to do. This engrossing and ambitious feature-length documentary outlines the progression of our computerized world, and examines its consequences to this and future generations.
We've become fully enveloped in a screen culture. The average person spends more time staring at a screen on any given day than they do sleeping. This has drastically altered the way we interact with others, conduct our personal and business affairs, and experience the world in general. These stimuli are all about shallow sensation, distraction and instant gratification. What they often fail to provide is context, metaphor or meaning. They are changing the way we learn, and the lessons they're teaching don't incite critical thought or require a prolonged attention span.
In the film's view, screen culture has also empowered corporate and government interests with the ideal narcotic with which to control us. Your Google searches offer these structures an unprecedented glimpse into your thoughts, desires, political leanings and other defining characteristics. Everyone from advertisers to politicians have used this data to modify our behaviors and make us subservient to their cause. Online surveillance constitutes a major threat to our basic right of privacy. Yet many users have accepted this intrusion as a necessary evil. Once we willingly relinquish our rights, and allow our lives to become fully immersed in the fantasy fulfillment of our machines, then we have lost our capacity for empathy and autonomy.
On a technical level, Stare Into the Lights My Pretties is top-notch; its ambient scoring and inventive editing style give the film a mesmerizing pull. The filmmakers pose moral and ethical questions that couldn't be more timely or profound. What kind of world do we want to live in, and do we have the willpower to change it?