Based on Ronald Wright's bestselling book A Short History of Progress, this documentary provides a subversive diagnosis of mankind's unique abilities and the danger they've brought to the world. The film opens with a suggestive scene of primates performing elementary human tasks for a simple reward of fruit, and directors Mathieu Roy and Harold Crooks focus on the crucial differences and similarities between our genetic forebears and us. Unlike them, we have, as a behavioural scientist puts it, the ability to probe for unobservable phenomenon to explain the observable. This is the key to science, philosophy, mechanics, industrialization and the rest of our progress. But like the apes, we are defined by primeval impulses that, when married to our unique intelligence, can produce disastrous results. Climate change, brutal depletion of natural resources, economic inequality and an alienation from the natural world--is the price of our native intelligence too high
Roy and Crooks' work takes a hard look at the consequences of humanity's uncontrolled intelligence. The evidence is not just in the array of brilliant commentators but in the global reach of the inquiry, which takes in modernized China; strife-ridden Brazil, with its denuded Amazon rainforest; the Congo, with its crippling legacy of debt and exploitation; and much more. This is a provocative film, one which gets to the fundamental nature and effects of the human condition with disturbing precision.