Werner Herzog asks a selection of scientific minds whether the internet can dream of itself.
It is significant that, unlike the Netflix release of Into the Inferno later this month, Herzog has chosen to exhibit Lo and Behold in movie theatres. Structuring Lo and Behold in chronological chapters, Herzog starts us off with the discovery of the internet. He talks to Leonard Kleinrock, a scientist who managed the first server to server contact between UCLA and Stanford in 1969. They wanted to type ‘log in’ but only managed ‘lo’ before the ‘g’ crashed the system. Herzog constructs this genesis as something of a biblical event: lo and behold there was internet.
The internet’s simplicity was laughable; its nascence is illustrated through archive footage of newspaper editors programming chronicle reports in the early naughties. There is a particularly endearing moment when a computer scientist produces the directory of everyone who was then on the internet (comprised mostly of his computer science mates), before giving us the statistic of how many times the list of internet users today would stretch to Mars and back.
Herzog is far more interested in the human than the machine. He casts a unique assemblage of eccentric characters; we meet the ‘internet pioneers’ who muse on the interconnectedness of everything, and help us imagine the machinery of the online with moments of the ripples on the surface of a body of water. Spontaneous interjections come from behind the camera, a favourite is during a scene with a scientist developing a team of robot footballers set to defeat the human Fifa world champions in 2050: ‘Do you love them?’ Werner asks, to which the scientist coyly admits he does.
The film draws our attention to the ever more fraught race between man and machine for intelligence; however, in the safe grasp of this septuagenarian’s filmmaking, I am still to be convinced there is much of a threat.