So I finally saw “Her.” This was my initial response:
The concept creeped me out a little, and made me feel extremely uncomfortable, I think because I could totally see this happening in the future. I would say I am “against” what they proposed, but they frame it in a way that makes you feel like a heartless, close-minded person for thinking this. But, I did have a favorite part – when Samantha is trying to explain feelings and experiences that are beyond human capacity. And also, the way the movie raised questions about cultural issues we might encounter in the future and depicted these scenarios is exactly what design fiction aims to do! But I guess I would say, overall I did not like it…
To this, my friend responded:
To me, this “positive” vision of AI-human relationships is just a thought experiment. Not that it would or should occur, but that if it did, this could be a way it would play out. What is it about it that you don’t agree with in principle?
So here is my more thought-out (but still rambling) response:
The first thing I disagreed with was the role that technology plays in this future they imagined. Something I wonder is, are we just developing tech to make our lives more convenient or are we developing new tech to enrich our lives? In the movie, it seems to be the former. Of course it was a parody of what we value in tech now, and warning us what “going down this path” could lead to. There is this notion that as our tech is getting “smarter,” we are becoming “dumber.” For example, a lot of people now can’t get anywhere without a gps, even if they have gone a certain route many times before. Another example, people who cannot remember meetings, events, appointments, birthdays, anything without their phone reminding them. I think we should be making stuff that allows us to engage through interesting new interactions, but doesn’t make us so dependent on technology we can’t function without it.
The other thing I didn’t agree with was how the movie devalued human relationships in general. In the movie relationships that people had with the OS’s were stronger than any of the human-human relationships portrayed. All of the relationships between humans were either superficial (i.e. outsourcing your letter writing), awkward (i.e. his blind date’s reaction when he said we should probably call it a night, which I thought was the right thing to do), or full of unresolvable conflict (i.e. the divorces).
Of course, the movie was more a commentary on what our relationships are beginning to look like now and a projection of what they might become. However, they also portrayed Samantha’s love for Theodore as unconditional and unchanging, which is not human. And it’s weird to think about because love is such a human thing. Theodore felt that Samantha really understood him, had this excitement for life, etc etc (I forget what his wording was). But the OS’s are programmed to be perfect for you, so I feel like it’s not as special as if you found another person who you resonated with. Things that are rare and things that don’t happen as often, are more valuable and meaningful right? Well they threw in the “human-OS relationships are statistically rare” bit, but we don’t really see other human-AI relationships, so we couldn’t compare his and Samantha’s to anything else.
So yes, I do agree that the movie raised many interesting questions. However, I love movies because you can become immersed in this whole other world (also why I love books), and I didn’t enjoy “Her” because it wasn’t a world I would ever want to be a part of.