The movie industry has always been frenetic about anticipating the future. The Star Wars and Star Trek series are still popular in film geek’s fandom and theatre, and even RoboCop was revived and hit the theatre last year. However, the industry has never been so obsessed with Artificial Intelligence (AI ) as it has been in the last two to three years. Filmmakers, not just scientists, are also trying to explore the question of whether computers could be as smart as, or even smarter than, human beings in the near future.
‘What happens on the silver screen stays on the silver screen’—this idea is not quite legitimate anymore because some scholars argue that the AI portrayed in movies could be real in the near future. Her constructs a bizarre world that situates itself in between the present and the future. Samantha is the fictional representation of the already existing Siri in Apple devices, but what makes Samantha different from Siri is her variety of capability. Samantha can read email, proofread Theodore’s writing, engage in sensual or humorous conversations with his friends, and even compose music. Despite her lack of physical body, the many hats Samantha wears makes her feel as though she is a human living right beside Theodore. Speaking of feeling, the romance Samantha and Theodore develop makes her “real” in that the ability to form an emotional bond with someone is one of humanity’s defining characteristics.
Stephen Wolfram, a British computer scientist who invented Wolfram Alpha, suspects that it will not be hard to build a computer system like Samantha in his recent interview with Speakeasy.
But what about humans falling in love with computers like Theodore does with Samantha? Philosophers and engineers do not have a firm answer yet because the question forces them to think about intelligence and emotion in AI.
If Her is a fantastical portrayal of the human-AI relationship, Ex-Machina (directed by Alex Garland) captures humanity’s intense fear of the emergence of highly intelligent computers. The movie plot follows young computer coder Caleb, who wins the chance to participate in his boss’s experiment on artificial intelligence by evaluating the human quality of Ava, a female robot. The thriller explores the possibility of consciousness and self-awareness in AI, which seems unsettling and threatening because the non-sentient could cause unimaginable damage to humanity. In his recent Channel 4 interview, Garland makes a point that he acknowledges the trepidation AI raises in people, but the movie is pro-AI in the sense that having AI is “terrific”.
Perhaps Garland is a visionary; he assumes that AI could continue the legacy of humanity on earth or on other planets if human beings got wiped out. What most people are concerned with about AI is whether the machine could turn its back on its creator. Right now, AI experts all over the world have signed an open letter published by MIT-affiliated The Future of Life Institute, promising to find a solution to regulate AI Highly personalized AI.
AI like Samantha could be a fantastic personal assistant, but there is no guarantee that she would not share personal data with the Internet. The fear is real, and it is shared amongst all kinds of people.
“We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us”. This phrase by Marshal McLuhan perfectly sums up the paradox we are facing with the rise of AI—we are creating something meaningful, yet we are also creating problems for ourselves. Perhaps AI will perfect our lives, or maybe it will turn our world upside down.
-contributed by Michelle Luk