Documentary chronicles a 10-year quest to simulate the entire human brain

With major funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the film IN SILICO is bringing the opportunities and challenges of "big data" neuroscience to virtual screens across North America on April 30th.

The independent documentary chronicles an audacious 10-year quest to simulate the entire human brain. IN SILICO will show through May 29th in select theaters, debuting at the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Massachusetts.

The film follows neuroscientist Henry Markram who, frustrated with his field's status quo, sets out on a 10-year project to simulate the human brain on supercomputers.

Film director Noah Hutton documents his quest for 10 years, taking viewers behind the scenes of the Blue Brain project, and later the $1B Euro Human Brain Project, exposing a controversy-filled space where the scientific process meets ego and where the lines between objectivity and ambition blur.

The film includes interviews and perspectives from dozens of leading scientists, including Anne Churchland (UCLA), Christof Koch (Allen Institute for Brain Science, Seattle), and Sebastian Seung (Princeton University), Zach Mainen (Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, Lisbon), among others.

The film comes at a time in which a Silicon Valley ethos is creeping into academic neuroscience, luring scarce funding with the promise of a better brain future. IN SILICO challenges audiences to cut through the seductive brain imagery and flashy presentations to more critically evaluate brain research and technology.

We're proud to have supported the production of Noah Hutton's insightful 10-year chronicle IN SILICO, which examines the enormous promise and daunting challenges of big neuroscience and big personalities. By partnering with the Sloan-supported Science on Screen program, run by our wonderful partners at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, IN SILICO will reach a wider public, encouraging discussions about what a successful simulation of the human brain might mean for our technology and for our humanity."

Doron Weber, Vice President and Program Director, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

Following the film's release, the film's director and writer Hutton (LAPSIS, DEEP TIME, CRUDE INDEPENDENCE), along with filmmaker Werner Herzog, will participate in a virtual discussion made available through the Coolidge Corner Theatre. The virtual launch will kick off community screenings and panel discussions worldwide.

The film was made possible by an early grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, as well as financing from Sandbox Films, in addition to being part of the Sloan Foundation's Science on Screen grant program. It was Executive Produced by Greg Boustead and Jessica Harrop and produced by Kellen Quinn, Taylor Hess, and Jesse Miller.

"IN SILICO cuts to the heart of current debates over 'big science' while also revealing the very human and personal side of scientific exploration," says Greg Boustead at Sandbox Films. "In telling the story of one 10-year project, it reveals the fascinating ways in which ambition, ego, and showmanship can shape a scientific endeavor."

"All too often, science is portrayed as a monolithic, objective truth, rather than as a human endeavor subject to the same biases and controversies that can define anything we do, which is all the more reason we need a critical approach to cycles of hype and salesmanship," says Hutton. "The film is a call for continued research in neuroscience with an acknowledgement that there are ongoing debates about the best methods and the established truths."



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