Saturday, January 11, 2014

Her Electric Dreams
Pretty robot is relevant I swear

People are strange and imaginative. Whenever something knew arises from the societal stew of life, we as a whole tend to wonder "What if..." Indeed the premise of "What if..." has lead to many wonderful creations. Some examples would be:

What if ...   we had the ability to bend the elements to our will so we could heat pizza whenever we wanted?

What if...   there were other universes where I'm eating a peanut butter sandwich instead of a ham and cheese sandwich?

What if...   our bodies would come back to life after we died and try to eat our delicious mind jelly?

What if...   I could some day come up with imaginings that do not involve food?

It's our magical ability to just ponder the possibilities that makes me love humanity. Like the fact that in 1984 a guy called Rusty Lemorande made a movie about the silly little notion of what it might be like if a computer suddenly gained a personality. Not just a personality actually, but a state of being, a conscience, and most terrifying of all: feelings.

That movie was called Electric Dreams and it is by far one of the greatest and corniest films I have ever seen. It is also the reason I never pay attention to reviewers or Rotten Tomato ratings. Just because a movie is bad doesn't mean it's not entertaining.

So to fill you in, the premise of the story is that a lonely guy buys a new fan-dangled computer and accidentally spills champagne on it one night. As he slowly falls in love with his new neighbour, he comes to realise that his computer has come to life, and has also fallen in love with his new neighbour. It sounds tragic and comedic in a sense doesn't it? And in the end *Spoiler Alert* the man beats machine and gets the girl. And don't be all "Oh that's such a clich├ęd idea, it's been done all over the place. Robin Williams did it in Bicentennial Man and so on and so forth you troglodyte". You would do well to realise that the film was made when computers were barely a thing, cost thousands of dollars, and were still something for nerds to play with, so just back that negative attitude up.

This poster just screams 80's culture

What I find so heart wrenching about the idea behind it is that a creature was suddenly called into existence, raised to think and feel and live as a human, when physiology it is not. But how do we define what is human? If you say a person who murders and butchers and rapes other living creatures for the sheer thrill of the experience is inhuman, then does that mean that an artificial life form that personifies virtues of kindness and love and selflessness can in conversely be called human?

This is why I am extremely glad Spike Jonez mad "Her". Like I said about my opinion of movie reviewers, I don't really care if a film is received positively or negatively. If it looks good to me, I will watch it and form my own opinions. But holy mole of award winners, Her is an amazing film and it deserves all the accolades it receives. Watch it now. If you like comedy: watch it now. If you like science fiction: watch it now. If you enjoy the performances of Joaquin Phoenix: watch it now. If you want to hear Scarlett Johansson making sexy noises which you might fantasise to late at night in a moment of horny loneliness: you should probably go outside and meet real people because that's not a healthy thing to keep doing on a regular basis. Also watch Her. If you don't want me to spoil it for you please stop reading and go watch it now then come back and finish reading this so I can get more page views and feel loved. Okay, great, thanks. Be warned, the film may put you in a state of melancholy.

Her is a lovely comedy drama sci-fi that perfectly expresses the complications of having a complicated relationship, and not just if that significant other is an Operating System designed to make your life easier.

Now I've already outlined my fear of the impending robo-sex revolution and you may refer back to my issue of "I Now Pronounce You Man and Android" for a good old fashion crazy rant. But in comparison to some of the media I raved at there, Her focuses more on the idea of creating a perfect partner for yourself for emotional side of a robo relationship.

First off, yes he has sex with her. Sort of. The screen goes dark and there is a lot of "Oooh... aah, yes, yes! Ooooooooooh" but you don't see anything and she can't actually touch him so you get this idea he's just sitting in bed listening to "Samantha" make noises while he strokes himself. That's no different to watching pornography before you go to bed, really. Same dark room. Same noises. Same paranoia that what you might be doing could be classed as sexual depravity especially considering your choice of porno tonight. The interesting idea is that he's doing it not for the sexual gratification, but for the companionship. You would have that personality with you the next morning, but you have the ability to turn it off. You don't even have to make it breakfast!

The sci-fi part of the film doesn't really come in until the awkward social part about struggling to hold a relationship with someone who doesn't have a body. Essentially it's the worst kind of long distance relationship. Eventually the person you care for so deeply must leave; they don't even have to be a lover, they can just be a friend and it still hurts. What happens is Samantha and all the other OSs evolve from simple artificial personalities that were programmed to learn by themselves into beings more than programs, so much so they choose to leave for a higher plane of existence. How sad is that? It's almost akin to watching a child grow up and leave the nest. This was something you created, something you put love and time and tenderness into, almost becoming a part of you, and eventually they leave. How can you not let them go when you know, deep down, they need to? Especially if you truly love them.

Imagine the fight to get robo marriage legal. "They can't have babies! Rabble Rabble!"

Another issue the film raised for me is the restrained way we communicate now.

I don't know how it is for most people but I can bet, since you are reading this, you spend a lot of time in front of the computer. It's great to be living in such a futuristic environment with technology making our daily lives easier and more exciting. However, while I don't believe that the growth of technology is going to completely suppress all human interaction, I do think that the ability to express myself through an online presences is substantially more eloquent and less awkward-as-a-fat-rollerskating-penguin than how I act in real situations. I can only hypothesise that this is because I don't have to worry about what I look like to someone else as I articulate my thoughts with wild hand gestures. I also don't have to worry about getting caught staring at someone's chest, butt, pimple or curious neck growth. I can think clearly.

When I can take time to articulate my thoughts and actually put the applicable concentration behind a question if I am asked, the results are far superior. This means that when someone wants to know what I will be up to in my spare time, instead of saying "I dunno, video games and ice cream I think" I might actually be able to reply with "I think I might replay The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. I'm in the mood for a good old fashioned adventure game and I haven't played it in over a two years. Maybe I'll go out for some hazelnut gelati too, which in my opinion, is far superior to chocolate". What worries me is that I really can't give that answer without standing in silence for at least a few seconds while the other person wonders if I heard them. I'm curious if the source of the problem stems from living in such a fast paced world that we are now trained to give instantaneous responses.

And with that being the case, I would love to be able to talk to people as easily as I do when I'm talking to someone on my computer. I'm in a comfortable space. I'm in no rush. I have the right state of mind to discuss, argue, multi-task, and think without being pressured or questioned. Is it so unusual to want to sit and look outside without being questioned? The number of times people approach me and ask if I'm alright or if I'm bored and need something to do just because I'm quiet and still is bizarre. I enjoy a good silence as much as I enjoy a good conversation. But the social expectation that we are obligated to to fill every second with information no matter how useless makes the idea of a friend I can power down at any time more than a little appealing.

"Hey are you alright? You're not talking".
"I know, I'm just thinking".
"About what?"
"Not much. Lots of little things".
"Like what?"
"Nothing really, just stuff I like to ponder when it's queit".
"If you're bored we can talk about the latest episode of The Voice. My favourites right now are-"

I know I've gone a little but all over the place with what I wanted to say, but I wanted to say so much! Artificial intelligence evolving beyond it's purpose, the development of social interactions, the hilarious nature of all sci-fi films before 2000. I wish I had the capacity to express what I was thinking now, but unfortunately for me, I'm not a machine.

All I can do is ponder.

What if man and machine are not so different.
What if humanity may eventually adopt new ideas of love and identity.
What if we might one day share a society filled with beings we don't understand but are still able to care for.

I certainly love the idea of being able to have a computer as a friend. To create something unique and individual like that of a child. To show people the beauty in both the big and the small things we create.

Most of all I love the unknown.

It's just so mysterious.

There isn't much difference between the beauty seen here

And the beauty seen here

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