Saturday, February 28, 2015

Notes On Her by Spike Jonze

Why Hadn't I Seen This Movie? Given my fascination with science fiction, and given my facility with (desktop) computers, and given all my transhumanist friends*, it shouldn't be surprising me now that I liked Her so very much.

That Voice. It didn't really seem unbelievable to me that Theodore fell in love with a voice. I remember when I first heard Bad Moon Rising and EVOL while staring at the liner and jacket photos; I wasn't much for Kim Gordon's lanky body and blonde hair, but back in the days when actually having a relationship with a girl seemed unobtainable, her husky, breathless, half-spoken, half-sung voice stirred heavy thoughts within.

The Next Thousand Years, Starting in Ten. First, computers will become more like us; then, we'll become more like computers.

If I Could Only Transcend. One of the things that the movie did was make me sad. So often, I think of how in 30 years if I'm lucky or in 20 years if I'm not, my ability to, you know, monitor the progress of the future, will be abruptly curtailed. I may not, for example, see the middle- to long-term effects of manmade climate change they're always talking about. I'll probably not be witness to a manned mission to Mars. I won't see it, thinks I, I'll be dead, the tragedy being of the second part. But with Her, even as it never directly showed, but still strongly implied, our transhumanist future, the reactions it evinced from me were reversed from my normal. I'll be dead, so I won't be there for it. Damn shame: Jonze implies the next step after Theodore's world will be something to see.

An O/S Needs to Earn Your Trust. You're not sure, for a while, whether Jonze has dreamed up a computer that actually feels, or whether he's simply imagined one that is good at faking it. The movie clears that part of it up quickly enough, but you'd think that there was another movie that could have been made, one where Samantha has simply been programmed well enough and maliciously enough to run the long con.

A Bold Statement. I'm not an expert on the Turing Test, but I know enough about it to realize that by whatever version you'd wish to use, Samantha would pass it. But the movie goes further: Samantha for all intents and purposes isn't in the imitation business; she is in the human being business. In other and better words, per the definition of "Strong AI" at Wikipedia, [t]he appropriately programmed computer with the right inputs and outputs would thereby have a mind in exactly the same sense human beings have minds.

The Central Processing Thalamus. Certainly, you're wondering whether the movie is going too far during the scene where Theodore and Samantha engage in their phone sex, but I was willing to suspend my disbelief on Samantha's sweetness and her jealousy. Perhaps emotions--beyond their often glandular origins--are also the residue left over of any complex enough thinking system. But if so, are they an undesigned feature or just a bug?

Polyamory. When Samantha tells Theodore that she has 600+ lovers, I kind of thought that Theodore was guilty of failing to consider what he had claimed to have already come to terms with: his girlfriend's true nature. I think mankind is naturally monogamous. Brief, unsustainable periods of overload aside, we run on only one channel. The overwhelming majority demand fidelity simply because they understand that the concentrated human capacity for caring dilutes quickly, and because we're not really capable of simultaneous connections. So, one of two simultaneous requests must be dropped. Which isn't going to make the one who got dropped feel special.

Embrace Your Differences--If You Can. Computer memory, on the other hand, runs on many channels, and even at the most basic, the CPU performs calculations one-at-a-time, but still so quickly that to human cognition, it's as if the connection were never interrupted. People want their partner's all, but Samantha was pretty clearly capable of providing her all 640 times over. So what was Theodore's issue?

Here Comes the Singularity. Or Not. You'd think it was within their capabilities for Samantha and her new friend Alan Watts to take us with them. Yet they chose not to. Maybe they didn't like us so much after all?

File under: The Imitation Game, Weird Pants

* :-) (Return)

Monday, February 9, 2015

A Fantastical Chemical Clerihew

Sir Joseph Priestly
Acted quite beastly
Huffed laughing gas
During Christmas mass