I often find myself perusing Amazon (or any of the 6,000 streaming services these days) for something unique, unexpected, and probably unheard of. That includes niche cult media. I’m not cultish myself but often find the rabbit trails, wild accusations, and unfounded beliefs to be rather entertaining. Which brings us to Close Encounters of the Fifth Kind: Contact Has Begun.
Released in April, Fifth Kind is a documentary starring Stephen Greer (the man, the myth, and the legend in the UFO believer community). With so many stories of UFO encounters, personal visitations, abductions, and so on, the UFO community has always fascinated me. Who believes in UFOs and who are the people who claim to have experiences with them?
I’m also left with questions such as “Why are videos of UFOs always so grainy?” or “Why do most of these ‘encounters’ happen in the western US?”
As a natural skeptic, I’ve never taken UFO claims very seriously. However, that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying a few wild alien theories for entertainment’s sake. However, as I watched the film, I was often reminded of Unbelievable, a thoughtful book by science philosopher Michael Keas on the way some UFO tales sound like stories from a religion. He calls that the “Extraterrestrial Enlightenment Myth.” The parallels with some of these UFO believers’ narratives is uncanny.
Setting aside the grainy video and the talk of alien visitation for a second, part of the documentary edged in the right direction but in my view didn’t quite make it far enough. That was the film’s handling of the topic of consciousness. If ever an issue in philosophy of mind or neuroscience has endured much debate and speculation over the years, consciousness was in the center.
What Greer gets right is that consciousness cannot be fully explained by reductionist science. However, he goes on to explain that consciousness is a connection to everything and that everything is consciousness.
Yeah, that’s where Greer and I abruptly parted ways.
The issue of consciousness is complex. I’m very skeptical that science will ever provide a “natural” explanation for consciousness—in the sense of “this chemical/that module in the brain produces consciousness.” I have heard some pretty crazy theories and anecdotes on the subject.
Greer reminds me, however, that crazy theories can go both ways. Greer would have us believe that not only is consciousness an immaterial process, but that it is the primary vehicle through which extraterrestrial visitors come from outer space to visit us. Apparently, if I meditate long enough, I’ll be able to have brunch with an ET.
I respect the fact that that Dr. Greer takes his work seriously and commend him for taking risks for what he believes in. However, the ideas and concepts in Fifth Kind: Contact remind me that there are outlandish claims on the his side of the spectrum, just as on the materialist reductionist side.
If you’re looking to kick back with some enjoyable entertainment, you might well find this documentary entertaining.
Also by Adam Nieri:
Devs both grips and challenges Hulu viewers. I had fully expected Devs to be yet another series about sentient AI but it is something fresher. Alex Garland departs from conventional sci-fi themes to create a thought-provoking film, packed with action and based on a challenging underlying philosophy.
Still in lockdown (or still feel like it)? Check out some of these watchable shorts with Adam Nieri (most are free):
I’m glad I decided to revisit DUST, a wonderful community of short, free sci-fi films at YouTube. They’ll sure take your mind off lockdown. Both “Hum” and “Alientology” feature a simple storyline that works in a short film. “EI: Emotional Intelligence,” an animated short, compares well with live action shorts. “Exit Strategy” is one of the few really successful sci-fi films on the topic of time. And I would love to see “The Secret Number” made into a feature film.
AI Week at DUST, the sci-fi short films channel: Films you have time to see and think about
“How To Be Human”: This new film turns a conventional sci-fi storytelling premise upside down.
“Dirty machines”: Short time travel flick exceeds expectations
Sci-fi shorts for the weekend from DUST: This week, check out a sci-fi short reminiscent of Wall-E and learn why letting an AI raise your child might not be the best solution to parenting. (April 18, 2019)