Two Movies on One Screen: TAU

Scott Adams has frequently written on the phenomenon of “two movies on one screen”: where people observe the same objective events and interpret them in two (or more) entirely different ways.  I recently encountered an example of this which was based on a movie.

On 2018-06-29, Netflix released a production entitled TAU.  Here is the official trailer for the movie.

This, taken at face value (what I call Movie 1), is a thriller in which a young woman is abducted and imprisoned in a house run by an artificial intelligence which she must defeat in order to escape with her life.  This is so clearly evident from the trailer that I don’t consider it a spoiler.

I watched this movie last Saturday, and my immediate reaction was, “Meh: the special effects were reasonably well done (albeit dark to save money on rendering backgrounds), but it was pretty much what I expected.”  By no means awful, but nothing memorable.  I had seen what was on the screen and watched Movie 1.

It was only after sleeping on it that I woke up with the startling realisation that at the same time, a different part of my brain had been watching Movie 2, and after digesting it and cross-correlating it and a bunch of other stuff, twigged to the fact that this may be one of the most clever and profound film treatments of artificial intelligence ever.  And here’s the thing: I’m not at all sure that the authors of the scenario and screenplay or filmmakers were even aware of Movie 2.  There is no evidence of it in any of the promotional material for the film.  If they were, it is a superb example of burying the subplot for a subset of the audience primed to appreciate it to discover.

I shall not spoil the plot nor disclose the content of Movie 2.  None of the reviews I’ve read so far have twigged to Movie 2, but that may be because I’ve missed those that did.  Instead, I’ll invite you to view the film (why are we still saying that?) yourself and draw your own conclusions.  If, after viewing it, you don’t see Movie 2, here is a cryptic hint.

Here is my synopsis of Movie 2, replete with plot spoilers and a perspective on the movie you can’t un-hear.

If you don’t have access to Netflix, I can’t help you.  I deplore the balkanisation of intellectual property we presently endure and long for the day when you’ll be able to view anything, anywhere, by transparently paying a fee to the creator.  But we have not yet landed on that happy shore, so we must endure “This content is not available in your market” and  content locked into a silo which costs far more to subscribe to than the content is worth.


Author: John Walker

Founder of, Autodesk, Inc., and Marinchip Systems. Author of The Hacker's Diet. Creator of

2 thoughts on “Two Movies on One Screen: TAU

  1. I didn’t look at the spoiler but I was wondering what OS the AI was running on? I think the lesson is in the future “The end user will be the end usee.”


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