Greetings & Welcome to Upgrade Required
Please be aware that the content on this page and the links and videos within are very much a work in progress. The purpose of this site is to share, with interested parties, some early information, influences and updates about our 1/2 hour documentary series Upgrade Required.
Onwards and Upgrade!
Monkeys & Parrots
David Hewlett & Jane Loughman
“I may have a disability but otherwise I am just human, and that is not enough anymore. An upgrade is required.” (Quinton Fucile)
Upgrade Required is a documentary that follows the online exploits of an incredible young man with a devastating neuromuscular disease, exploring a future that will see disabilities such as his rendered obsolete by technology.
The driving force behind this quest is Quinton Fucile, a highly intelligent and ambitious 23 year-old with Spinal Muscular Atrophy type 2. SMA type 2 is a degenerative neuromuscular disease that has weakened Q’s musculoskeletal system to such an extent that he can now only barely move his fingers. But as the extraordinarily resilient Q sees it, those fingers can still move a mouse, and thus they can change his world. From a bed in the basement of his parents house on Vancouver Island, Q harnesses the immense reach of the YouTube community and the Internet itself, to confer and collaborate with our planet’s best scientists, engineers, biohackers and robotics experts. You see, Q is not content to merely survive this brutal disease and endure the severe physical limitations it has forced on him. Q wants to be a cyborg… and thanks to YouTube and the Internet, that’s what he’s going to become!
Q’s quest serves as the jumping off point for Upgrade Required’s exploration of the radically different approaches and technologies, as well as the potential benefits and dangers inherent in bionics, human augmentation and enhancement.
“In essence, we already all live a cybernetic life now, whether we know it or not. You have to be nearly Amish to not be impacted by some electronic adjunct to the brain.” (Eric Valour)
One of the many amazing aspects of this adventure is that Q is not alone. In fact, he’s just the latest version of what has become an unofficial global movement. The reality is that many people are already living as cyborgs. Another one of the amazing people Upgrade Required encounters is Eric Valor, a highly intelligent and talented IT professional, who has been living with ALS for over 10 years. Technology has literally and figuratively saved his life. A ventilator handles Eric’s breathing, text-to-speech lets him communicate and an eye-tracking system allows him to access and contribute via the Internet to the collective knowledge of the human race. And technology doesn’t just keep him alive, it fuels his desire to continue living. Eric’s technological enhancements allow him to continue to explore and innovate and enables him to continue as a valuable, contributing part of society.
“Technology is about augmenting our human abilities. Since that first pre-human used a bone or stick to augment its strength or dexterity, technology has been a part of us. The noblest form of technology is that which allows recovery of lost abilities and makes us whole once more.” (EV)
As portable, wearable technology becomes smaller and more powerful, hackers, hobbyists and citizen scientists are experimenting with ever more advanced and affordable human augmentation. These independently developed technologies will allow the cyborgs of tomorrow to not just contribute, but quite possibly usurp us original humans as the leaders, innovators and explorers of the future.
“We are writing the pages of Science Fiction becoming Fact. It is amazing to be a small part of it.” (EV)
Current advances are the stuff of Science Fiction, a genre which is a huge inspiration to Q. He consumes the genre in every form from books to television and film, with the same voracity as the volumes of scientific textbooks and papers that help him put his inspiration into action. Science Fiction and the YouTube community brought filmmaker David Hewlett and Q together in the first place. Thus Upgrade Required is a “SciFi”-styled documentary that utilizes the same visual effects artistry and technologies Q so loves, to help us tell his story. We will use these techniques to explain and explore the medicine, biology and technology necessary to capture Q’s vision of the future. The film will make the most of the incredible talents of today’s Visual Effects artists and graphic designers to bring Q’s visions of his future, to life.
Join us as we follow Q and his incredible strength, enthusiasm and resilience, on his inspirational quest to become something more than human. A quest to eliminate his disabilities through technology, and to gain the mobility and freedom that so many of us take for granted.
I was going to replace these original notes now that we’re pushing ahead with the 1/2 hour episodic TV approach to Upgrade Required. But it occurred to me that they might still be of interest to those who enjoy witnessing the mad machinations required in bringing this film then television and web series…and cyborg…to life!
ORIGINAL FEATURE LENGTH DOCUMENTARY NOTES
Upgrade Required is a Science Fiction film that just happens to be true. Ten or fifteen years ago the globally networked, wearable technologies now available to people like Quinton were the stuff of fantasy. I want this film to be a celebration of life and technology and a future where we are more than just human.
I have been a science fiction fan all of my life. SciFi has fueled my creativity and driven my love of science and technology since I was four years old, huddled behind the safety of my parents couch, watching Doctor Who. Thanks to my years on Stargate Atlantis, I have had the great fortune of meeting with and discussing this passion for the future with thousands of like-minded Science Fiction fans, many of them scientists themselves. It was through discussions like these on YouTube that I met Quinton and heard about his quest. Science Fiction is what has lead me to make Upgrade Required and it is how this film will find its audience and its champions for change.
Upgrade Required is a film about hope and wonder. It is about the joyous process of invention and collaboration with smart, driven people who are bringing together disparate research and technologies towards engineering a better life and perhaps even a better human. While Upgrade Required is not about the diseases responsible for many disabilities I want to use animation and VFX to create cool, beautiful and whimsical animations that give audiences an understanding and appreciation of how SMA and ALS attacks its victims. The focus of the film, however, is on the inspired, passionate and creative souls who survive these terrible diseases. Upgrade Required is about a new breed of smart, wired and inspired people who are forced to augment the bodies that have failed them.
The visual special effects technology available to filmmakers today is truly astounding. Upgrade Required will harness these VFX tools to enhance the interviews with people like Q, in the same way that bionics are enhancing their bodies. Our discussions with Q and Eric and people in similar situations will serve as the canvas for our VFX work. We will enhance these interview clips by adding dynamic animations and VFX that will visually augment their stories and ideas, transforming their severely limited movement into breathtaking works of art and more importantly revealing the amazingly funny, fascinating, complex and intelligent minds trapped within.
For example, when Q talks of losing the ability to draw, his coverage will begin to unravel, revealing the things he once drew and what he longs to draw now whirling like a storm around his head. This will then serve as a transition to our exploration and implementation of technologies like eye tracking and EEG headsets that will make Q’s art a reality once again.
Eric Valor, like Stephen Hawking (someone else we’d love to talk to!) wants to go to space. He even jokingly refers to himself as “the crippled cosmonaut”. Thanks to his father’s work with the Air Force, Eric used to watch NASA launches from his backyard when he was a child. He speaks of these times very fondly. I want people to witness these memories in action by recreating the launches in a stylized realism that captures his internal wonder and joy at those moments. I would then like to use motion capture and VFX technology to show Eric stepping out into the vast expanse of space, just like he dreams to.
Graphic novels are a big inspiration to me and I want the film to reflect that by creating stylish comic book animation sequences throughout the film. The idea is to use this dynamic, visually striking approach to tie all the pieces together. The basic premise would be that nascent cyborgs are coming online around a futuristic networked world. These bed-ridden entities show little promise in the real world, but in the global info space where a mind is all that matters, they begin to grow and gather strength, thriving on and contributing to the collective knowledge of the human race. They then begin to upgrade the bodies that betray them as they create the means and the connections necessary to rise and lead lesser equipped humans to a new ‘man as machine’ stage of evolution.
The point is, I want this film to be exciting and irreverent, and for it to inspire and inform people not just about how the future could render disabilities obsolete through technology, but how they can start today and make it happen themselves.