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Streaming review: Upload

Streaming review: Upload

Streaming review: Upload

15 June 2020

Upload is an American science-fiction comedy web television series that follows the life of Nathan Brown (played by Robbie Amell), a 27-year-old computer engineering grad and newly deceased computer programmer who is uploaded to a digital afterlife.

By Mark Hadley

Upload is brought to Amazon Prime by Greg Daniels, known for his work on Parks and Recreation and the American version of The Office. He envisages a world just a few decades from now where everything and nothing is the same as our own.

Human beings are benefiting from amazing advances in mobile technology, but still using it to watch videos on crowded commuter trains. Self-driving cars have arrived, but our freeways are as clogged as ever. And food can be created in moments by 3D printers, but dinner is still driven by celebrity chefs.

The series centres on Nathan Brown, a vacuous computer programmer in his 20s whose chief concerns are his good looks, his groundbreaking project and his equally vacuous girlfriend – in that order. However, his life literally takes a turn for the worse when his self-driving car ploughs into a truck. What would normally have been a fatal accident, though, now comes with a high-tech option. People on the verge of death can pay to have their personalities uploaded to a digital construct fashioned to be their perfect ever-after.

Once there, the lame can walk, the hungry dine on sumptuous meals and the poor live in luxury. As you might imagine, a television show about human-designed heavens comes with a necessary warning about language and nudity.

Yet it’s still worthy of consideration by a world where audiences are already convinced your afterlife is dependent on your own beliefs. And, true to popular culture, Nathan finds his ‘digital construct’ is a heaven that offends no one.

Upload is ostensibly a comedy, but there’s a moral component that quickly comes into sharp focus. Nathan discovers in a profit-driven afterlife that there are many hidden costs. And freedom itself is limited. His pleasures are bounded by his girlfriend’s wishes, since her card pays the bills. Friendship is also in short supply. Most people come with the same attitude as those arriving at an expensive resort. They’ve paid a lot to be there and have little time to spend on anyone but themselves. Which means, as luxurious as his final destination is, Nathan’s heaven is awash with sin. Just imagine that for a moment: an eternity tainted by selfishness. Wouldn’t that actually be a definition for hell?

Upload aims to reveal that a human-designed eternity would be far from perfect, and even includes cast members who’d rather rest their hearts in a more spiritual heaven. So, we learn that whatever utopia man can conceive is only a reflection of what he’s been given and includes all his faults besides. And one built solely on pleasure wears thin over time. Our hearts yearn for something infinitely more substantial, the Giver behind the gifts.

The Bible records the thinking of the wisest man in the world on this in the book of Ecclesiastes. He writes that this longing is a human design feature. God placed it in each of us, so that we might realise our limitations.

When we finally learn how little we can hold on to, and how poorly we understand ourselves, we’ll be ready to humble ourselves before our greatest need: “He has set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end ... I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him” (Ecclesiastes 3:11,14).

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