Here, for completeness, is the last in this group about the BBC series

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

A series of films exploring the idea that we have been colonised by the machines that we have built, seeing everything in the world today through the eyes of computers.


The Monkey in the Machine and the Machine in the Monkey

This episode looks at why we humans find this machine vision so beguiling. The film argues it is because all political dreams of changing the world for the better seem to have failed - so we have retreated into machine-fantasies that say we have no control over our actions because they excuse our failure.

At the heart of the film is one of the most famous scientists in the world - Bill Hamilton. He argued that human behaviour is really guided by codes buried deep within us. It was later popularised by Richard Dawkins as 'the selfish gene'. It said that individual human beings are really just machines whose only job is to make sure the codes are passed on for eternity.

The film begins in 2000 in the jungles of the Congo and Rwanda. Hamilton is there to help prove his dark theories. But all around him the Congo is being torn apart by 'Africa's First World War'. The film then interweaves the two stories - the strange roots of Hamilton's theories, and the history of the West's tortured relationship with the Congo over the past 100 years.

Many things interesting in this episode.  One is seeing the geneticists Bill  Hamilton (1936–2000) and George R. Price (1922–1975).  About the former we have had much discussion on Science 2.0, and I don’t need to add any more.  Price’s remarkable and tragic life story is also brought in.  We also meet John von Neumann(1903 – 1957), with hints about how the science of computing and biology started to overlap.

But an overwhelming effect is brought by the thread of African politics. One particular historical thread is particularly grisly.  In the mid 1930s, the Belgian film-maker Armand Denis (1896 – 1971) produced a documentary about Rwanda, portraying the Tutsi as a noble, superior people who had migrated from Egypt, as opposed to the majority Hutu, who were portrayed as an inferior autochthonous people.  How significant this was in regard to the Belgian colonial policy of getting the Tutsi to rule the Hutu for them, I don’t know, although the programme credits it as the driving myth.

Then in 1959, at independence, Belgian liberals forced a reversal of the policy, leading to massive bloodshed, a forerunner of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Into the picture enters Dian Fossey, with the gorillas of the Congo and Rwanda.  In the Congo, she becomes the victim of reprisals against Europeans following brutal mercenary activity, but in Rwanda she comes across as riding roughshod over the local people.

A really shocking film, if you can get to see it.  For those in Blighty, the link is