her

Where is the line between human and non-human? What sets us apart? As technology advances—in particular in the areas of artificial intelligence and emotional recognition/ simulation software—that line will become increasingly harder to discern. In "her", starring Joachim Phoenix as 'Theodore' and Scarlett Johansson's voice as 'Samantha', a lonely, recently-separated man falls in love with his advanced operating system (OS1 or 'Samantha')—and it, or rather 'she', falls in love with him. The movie explores the beginnings of a post-human world, where we are still just as wired as ever for relationship, but where sufficiently-advanced machines may sometimes prove better companions for us, in some ways, than our own kind. This reminded me of Sarah Connor's reflection in Terminator 2: "Watching John with the machine, it was suddenly so clear. The Terminator, would never stop. It would never leave him, and it would never hurt him, never shout at him, or get drunk and hit him, or say it was too busy to spend time with him. It would always be there. And it would die, to protect him. Of all the would-be fathers who came and went over the years, this thing, this machine, was the only one who measured up. In an insane world, it was the sanest choice". In a similar way, 'Samantha', programmed to adapt and learn as she interacted with Theodore, her 'owner' (although the word no longer accurately reflects their reality), became a perfect helpmate, confidant, friend—and eventually, lover.

The end of the movie, which I shall not reveal here, is perhaps the saddest and most poignant portrayal of the coming technological Singularity; as t.s. Eliot stated, "this is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper".

Two additional reflections: we are indeed wired for relationship, and we will find increasingly intimate ways to relate to our creations—shades of Pygmalion and even of the necessary relationship between Tom Hanks's castaway and 'Wilson'. And secondly, the next generation easily absorbs and integrates what we find excruciatingly difficult to learn; in one scene of the movie, 'Samantha' interacts via Theodore's cellphone with his four-yearbook old niece, who concludes that some people have bodies and some people live inside the computer. . .

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