I suppose the zombies couldn’t have the film industry all to themselves for ever, and here it is: Qualia, the movie (via). I wondered at first whether this was something to do with Sony and their Qualia man Ken Mogi, but in fact it seems it is a small independent venture. I said ‘here it is’, but actually all we have for the moment is a trailer: it seems that the funds required (amounts which I expect wouldn’t cover one day’s catering budget on a Hollywood blockbuster) have been difficult to get together.
How do you make a film about qualia? (Ken Mogi would probably ask how you could make one without them.) I can’t quite decide whether getting ineffable qualities into a film is an amusingly quixotic endeavour or an admirable ambition. It seems all too likely that you would end up with either the talkiest, chin-strokingest film ever made; or an exciting dramatisation of the life of Mary the Colour Scientist. (Susan Blackmore suggested that students should act out this famous gedankenexperiment, after all, though how that would help still rather eludes me.) Actually there’s no reason why a film can’t at least raise genuine philosophical issues. I’ll always remember the Captain’s advice on how to deal with the malfunctioning bomb in Dark Star (“Teach it phenomenology”), and The Matrix is often credited with asking interesting questions – though sadly the red and blue pills were soon put aside so that the film could become a kung fu movie performed by people dressed as a Eurythmics tribute band (The Revenge Tourists?).
I haven’t found much information about the actual plot of Qualia, but it seems it has something to do with research which triggers or examines ghostly occurrences and disturbs someone’s complacent monist materialism. Nothing wrong with disturbing our dogmatic slumbers, of course. I like to think that at some stage a grave scientist will say “Sir! We’re detecting… phenomena.”
But the association with ghosts is not particularly welcome. I wonder whether this is another sign, like the use of qualia to buttress the theist case, that the hard problem potentially appeals to those who would like the world to be less scientific and more magical. I hope not: I’d hate to see New Age shops selling qualia-enhancing crystals. Perhaps that’s just snobbery? After all It’s legitimate to claim qualia as evidence for some kind of dualism, and some kind of dualism is what you might well be looking for if you wanted to provide ghosts with some respectable ontological underpinnings. Still, I can only look forward to the film with qualified enthusiasm .