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How “Devs” Creator Alex Garland Fuses Tech, Tension and Apprehension Like Nobody Else

“It’s very clearly the case that technology and technological advances are happening at a rate that we are not able to keep up with.”

Listen: Devs: Alex Garland Finds the Poetic and Surreal in Science

Created, written and directed by Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Annihilation), the FX series Devs follows a young software engineer, Lily Chan, as she investigates the secretive development division of her employer, a cutting-edge tech company based in Silicon Valley, that she believes is behind the murder of her boyfriend.

“[The idea for Devs] started with two things,” Garland explains in an article by Ben Travers. “One was getting my head around this principle of determinism, which basically says everything that happens in the world is based on cause and effect…

“That has all kinds of implications for us: It takes away free will. And if you had a computer powerful enough, you could predict the future and understand the past.” To read the full article, click here.

Read more: Inside Devs, a Dreamy Silicon Valley Quantum Thriller

Devs is about parallel universes, a little bit, and it also contains at least two,” explains Adam Rogers. “In one, Devs is a 1970s-style sci-fi tech thriller, in which a woman goes looking for her missing boyfriend inside a sinister corporation. In the other, it’s a story of capitalism, free will versus determinism, and the Big Data that controls us all. Which is good, because those are all stories about the kind of people who like Alex Garland movies. (Well, the second timeline anyway.)” To read the full article, click here.

“Alex Garland’s particular breed of futuristic paranoia gets a fitting small-screen transfer in an FX/Hulu limited series about technology and its dehumanizing and humanizing effects,” writes Daniel Fienberg.

“Most of our collective paranoia, when it comes to technology usurping our free will and threatening to conquer us all, focuses on the all-too-concrete: The robotics firm training its machines to do parkour, the latest data breach handing our most sensitive information to a foreign power, the glowing orb in our living room listening to every word we say.

“Alex Garland likes to couch his own fears in broader terms,” Fienberg continues. “The gizmos and doodads probably scare him, but he’s more worried about the people behind them, the so-called geniuses and innovators grasping to steal more than mere fire from the Gods.

“It’s the difference between viewing technology as an existential threat literally (as in: we’ll be obliterated by that which we create) and an existential threat philosophically (as in: technology will usurp our sense of humanity and divinity, leaving us purposeless).” To read the full article, click here.

“Garland said he’d been interested and studying quantum mechanics—a pivotal part of the show, related to free will—for a long time before he even started developing Devs,” reports Jacob Oller. “It was only after he felt increasingly comfortable with the difficult subjects that he started to write about it—and even then he was constantly checking the science to make sure he hadn’t strayed too far from reality.

Read more: Alex Garland May Be Too Good for This World

“He was also candid about his love of television, especially its ‘breadth,” Oller continues. “Where movies have an intense economical aspect, TV gives the story and characters a chance to breathe. So far, however, Devs is the only TV project Garland has yet to be associated with—but that could change. ‘I’ve written the first two episodes of another eight-episode project,’ the creator divulged, saying that the series ‘isn’t sci-fi.’” To read the full article, click here.

“Along with reflecting Garland’s own interests, Devs tackles many of the same questions as peers like Westworld and Black Mirror: How should we think about death when data is eternal—and when it’s likely we live in one of infinite possible worlds?” asks Judy Berman. “What role can free will play in events anticipated by predictive algorithms? Is it conceivable that we’re living in a computer simulation, a theory that has only gained pop-culture credence since Oxford physicist Nick Bostrom popularized it in 2003?” To read the full article, click here.

Read more: Making Sense of the Science and Philosophy of Devs

“Already having addressed the breakthroughs in artificial intelligence with Ex Machina, and blown minds with the abstract propensities towards human self-destruction in the sci-fi surrealism of Annihilation, Garland kills it once again with Devs, a dramatic thriller, that returns to the ideas of A.I., only now developed to quantum proportions,” says Rodrigo Perez. “It’s an engrossing series, using Garland’s trademark affinities for blending cerebral cautionary tales with emotional beliefs about empathy and, in this case, the intellectually flawed designs behind trying to play god.” To read the full article, click here.

“I’m worried about the future,” Garland said in an interview with Deadline. “I’m not a pessimist, but an optimist. I do think it’s very clearly the case that technology and technological advances are happening at a rate that we are not able to keep up with.

“Technology doesn’t have checks and balances; it’s not a good thing,” he added. To read the full article, click here.

Read more: From Upload to Westworld: The Cautionary Tales of Technology-Driven Series

“One of the things I aim for is actually to do with the relationship between the story and the viewer,” Garland tells Josh Wigler. “Part of the training I’d had previously allowed me to push that quite far I think in this particular series in as much as that it has an enormous amount of space in the audience and the viewer’s willingness to step forward into the narrative as opposed to just having it fed to them.

“Personally, I think that the tension… is probably substantially 50/50 provided by you, actually, in terms of your willingness to access the story,” he continues. “I think if you are going to sit back then I think the story might feel quite cold and empty, but if you step into it, then suddenly it will get stranger and richer and a good deal more tense.

“On some level, drama is often about tension. It’s about tension between characters and it’s about tension about their predicament and the fierceness of that tension being the thing that then makes us inspect ourselves because on its most simple level. In Devs it’s to do with discovering the strange parallels in the lives of these characters that you as the viewer might have yourselves, and some of the strange thoughts that are presented in the narrative that might lead one to question stuff.” To read the complete interview, click here.

Read more: Scary Monsters: Alex Garland on Mutation and Annihilation

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