By Stefanie Sybens (Belgium)
her-21

 

Artificial intelligence in Her: a prediction for the future?

This new high-tech movie contains a very unusual plot. Theodore Twombly, a professional writer who is constrained by his loneliness, purchases a talking operating system. Moreover, he is able to select some characteristics for his OS such as its gender. This operating system calls herself Samantha and although she isn’t present in the material world, she surely is able to change Theodore’s passivity towards life.

As the movie progresses, we see how Theodore and Samantha become intertwined and perform a great influence on each other. Theodore evolves from a ‘flat’ to a ’round’ character which means he is no longer sitting in the audience viewing the movie of his life but he reclaims the main lead. Samantha’s strength is to be found in her knowledge. She makes use of algorithms that scan the net by giving them a certain input. This is not very innovating since Google does the same job for us. However, Samantha’s character is extraordinary due to her human characteristics that eagerly seem to grow.

At first, she functions as a sort of employee to clean up his computer and make useful selections of his files. It is when she becomes his confidant, things become very interesting. If we take a look at their deep conversations, you must have had some experience in love and life which now an Operating System seems to have. Theodore does what many people do in this world and that is getting more and more consumed by a virtual (hyper) reality because people anthropomorphize! Theodore is slowly becoming a victim of his own optimism. He relies on Samantha’s wise words but on whose words is Samantha relying on? The answer to that question is: A database filled with knowledge that is extracted from the World Wide Web.

Will we someday be able to talk to an intelligent Operating System? Yes! Will they sort out our digital files? Definitely! Will some of us fall in love with their new online friend? Probably! But the most important question is: Will an OS ever be able to replace physical contact between people? I hope not! If we all start to live in a digital world made up of algorithms, we are being placed in a hyper reality which distinguishes any real life contact. As Fredric Jameson notes: “Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being, or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal… It is no longer a question of imitation, nor duplication, nor even parody. It is a question of substituting the signs of the real for the real.” (1-2)

To conclude, this movie brings us out of our comfort zone and zooms in on the bare necessity of human contact. It provides us with examples of the increasing influence of digitalization yet if we look close enough, we notice their limitations. It is a story which makes us fall in love with love, even if love is taking place in a common third space.

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