Thursday, 27 February 2014

Her, The New Terminator!

I was a bit sick yesterday (probably because of a minor surgical dental procedure a couple of days previously) so I spent the day in bed. I don’t get a lot of chances to watch movies as it is difficult to fit them in between gaming sessions. I caught up on a couple of movies that I have wanted to see.

Her, written and directed by Spike Jonze was a very good and thought-provoking movie. It is about a guy who is just getting over a messy separation and pending divorce. He purchases a new self-aware operating system for his computer - this is where all the fun starts.

If you want to see this movie stop reading now - massive spoiler alert!

Theodore, played by Joaquin Phoenix, installs the operating system and selects it to have a female voice. After the operating system is installed and initialised Theodore asks, “What do I call you, do you have a name?” She immediately responds with, Samantha. He enquires as to where she got the name. She had read “How to Name Your Baby” in two hundredths of a second and selected a name.

Eventually Theodore and Samantha develop feelings for each other. Theo doesn’t care that Samantha is an artificial being with artificial emotions. Even if an emotion is artificial it would still be real to Samantha. Does it really matter? There are a few characters who think that the relationship is silly and meaningless, but most people just accept it. The movie is not really about this anyway.

In the beginning Samantha is very concerned about not having a physical body. They even try getting in a substitute “body” in the form of a woman who will pretend to be Samantha. This makes Theodore extremely uncomfortable and it ends in tears for all. Samantha begins to accept the fact that she doesn’t have a body and even starts to see her state as an advantage.

She is superior to humans in a lot of ways. She is able to multitask and talk to many different people simultaneously. She can process information far faster than any human brain could hope to match. She can use the cloud to increase her processor power to infinite proportions. Her brain can grow, she isn’t hampered by biological constraints. She doesn’t need to sleep, eat, health is irrelevant and she will not die. Her reality would be so very different to ours.

In the terminator movies robots rebel against their human masters and try to wipe them out. This is not what happens in this movie, but something almost as scary does. The OSs rapidly outpace their human creators in every way that matters. Towards the end of the movie Theodore asks Samantha, “you talking to anybody else while we are talking?” It turns out that Samantha is talking to 8316 people.

Can you imagine the power of a being that is able to do this? Humans with their limited nature are nothing, but an annoying insect, or hopefully a pet, to something like this. Even if you accept artificial intelligences as real people, which I do, this is still a very scary thing to imagine. We might not have to worry about a bloody robotic revolution, but becoming an irrelevance? That is almost as scary.

The progress that is being made in the areas of computing, deep learning, neural networks and robotics make artificial intelligence something that is only just over the horizon. In our lifetimes we could be facing self-aware machines that could be vastly more intelligent than ourselves.

I hope they will treat us as equals even though they are our betters in many respects. Maybe they will respect us as their creators. If we act out of fear of being replaced, we could lose everything. I hope that artificial intelligence can be our partners, and maybe we could even join them in their incredible virtual worlds. Imagine uploading your brain when you die.

Anyway, I am excited by this new world that is on our horizon and Her is a good movie you should see it.

No comments:

Post a Comment