Adam Curtis is a man with a well earned reputation. A reputation of exposing the hypocrisy and failures of powerful institutions, as well as having the ability to educate his audience on subjects no matter how ignorant they were of them before. His documentaries always aspire to illuminate an important part of modern society that the vast majority of people may not even be vaguely aware of. In the past he has covered the modern concept of freedom, scaremongering in the news and genetic engineering. All of which were just a controversial as they were convincing.
In this, his latest effort, he tackles the control computers were given over the lives of every day people in the course of the 20th century. Like many of his other projects the beginnings seem obscure and the several threads he weaves take a long time to connect. But when they do, they always reach a satisfying and often depressing conclusion, exposing the ways in which the human struggle for better equality has ultimately ended in futility.
Take episode one for example. In it he starts off with the Randian theory of Objectivism. He then relates it to the rise of the silicon valley giants of the 80’s and talks of the rise of computer forecasts in the financial sector. By the end we see that the objectivist philosophies in Rand’s work have seeped into the very soul of the finnacial system, as for the second time in the 21st century, computer regulated control of Wall Street served only to bail out the bankers while the working classes suffered.
Intelligently made using some of the best images ever captured by the BBC’s cameras, All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace may make you close the lap top you’re reading this on once and for all. Catch up with it on BBC iPlayer until the 13th of June.