The world as it currently exists, and is in a process of evolving, is nothing like the universe that I grew up in. The Internet was not even a thought in the public domain, and everything was delivered in more "traditional" means. The milkman still came around to the house on a regular basis. I don't recall being truly aware of a grocery store until I was about five or six. I'm sure we went, but back then, grocery stores were about the size of the modern gas station and had about everything that one would need at the time.
Needless to say that things have changed, that is obvious.
I just received a grocery delivery to my home last week that was ordered online in a fashion that was non-existent 40 years ago, paid for by at least three fiduciary mechanisms that also did not exist, as I remember the launch of Tillie the All-Time Teller (firsthand, my father was one of the first with a card), and all I had to do was select the items on my book reader and all was delivered in a format that was quick and painless. Many things can improve in a half century, and its only getting faster.
Lends a new meaning to the quip, "Well, that escalated quickly!"
It is difficult for me to believe that anyone actually falls into the field of machine learning and artificial intelligence. We are drawn into it in some manner or another. For me, it was a conglomerate of William Gibson's writings as well as the overall laziness and hubris that occurs once you've been in the industry for 25 years and just want your systems to do more and take some of the thinking load off of you so one can breathe and enjoy a life that is finite and not guaranteed.
That is where we enter the analysis of the film Her. I was intrigued to see it because I was interested to know where Hollywood had gone with the premise this time. I was not disgusted in any way with the direction the movie went but left scratching my head to an extent in a few areas.
Films are created to help us as humans relate to truly human emotions, circumstances, and thoughts in a way that they properly translate within our selves. Machines take the components that do not require such notions and automate them. That is the core reality of things. I believe that Spike Jonze blurred a line in this film that seems implausible, but may also be worth considering for a few moments.
He sets up how many of us might be inclined to look into the product that is the primary focus of the film, an AI called OS 1, and this factor is incredible advertising that grabs us and makes us think and even possibly dream. This is exactly how Theodore is brought into this scenario.
I will admit that as a programmer with a family, he pretty much lost me with the idea of a system having a sexual relationship with the human in the film, much less having an orgasm.
C'mon. You and I both know that would need to be the intention of a programmer somewhere, and given the descriptions, it was not a dude writing that code. But perhaps that was part of what Jones was going for - the injection of humanity to a degree that we might have a fear base of it. I say fear because we are simply vulnerable, to begin with, and the main characters are flocking to these AIs because they are not finding satisfaction in their normal relationships. But let's back up for a moment before we seal that in concrete.
Let's step out of the film for just a moment and consider the things that we do in fact have in our reality at the current time (2019). At MIT, there is an active project that can read one's "inner voice" through minute neuromuscular movements that are recognized and then converted into language. The system communicates by reversing the process.
But this is all data. That means that the system can, with enough programming, determine what the human might do. This is a very good thing if the system is modelled for coaching, can be useful if outside information is required for decision making, and conversely would, in fact, teach a machine the ins and outs of human emotion, even if in a world of zeros and ones.
As much as I want to, I can't utterly dismiss the idea and premise of the film. At the same time, it is not why I'm working on the projects I am working on. In fact, they might be a little more cretin than that.
I want an assistant that will help me live a decent life, help me acquire some of the things my skillset currently prevents me from by handling the calculations I am not good at and performing some of the forecastings that I am also currently ill-equipped to perform. I intend this to be a project my progeny will be taught to work with, improve, and interact with.
Spoilers will not happen in this inspection, but I will also say that the ending was also less than logical. Perhaps the point was a little less of that than the actual journey the human component made throughout the film. We see him grow, ascend through internal turmoil that we all have felt, and the ending, while not logically satisfying, is one that we can get behind.
The question is now whether the imagination of Hollywood is being transformed into reality before us by science and high technology, or if some of these ideas will remain simply entertainment.
It also brings us to new thought on just how deeply the impacts of mental and emotional help play into these premises. For someone deeply engaged in PTSD, loneliness, and self-esteem issues, an AI like Samantha in the movie could prove very calming and helpful. The entity is data-driven, and if set up in a manner to follow Asimov's trifecta of Robot Rules, could be a very useful aid in suicide prevention, as well as a good maintainer of overall sanity. If engineered properly, a well-coded set of entities could bring about mass peaceful relations, improve diplomacy, and get all of us where we aren't trying to kill each other, harm each other, and might even reduce the idea of always having to win.
I once wondered how the premises of the Gibson Sprawl Trilogy would appear in real life, and it might just be that this film gives us a glimpse of that.