Between ‘Her‘ and Ex Machina

In a time when we keep asking ourselves, “what is artificial intelligence?” and how can we creat it? I often ask, “what is human? What is human in a world dominated by technology and digital white noises? In a world where we are continually outsourcing our desitions to algorithms? In a world where our constructs are anchored in silicon? What is human when technology is observing us more then we are watching it?

While we can argue that the storyline of ‘Her’ and Ex Machina is different, (some will look at Samantha as an all heart movie and Ava as a brain). The fundamental struggle of both is the same. What does it mean to be artificial intelligence in a world dominated by humans? It’s the struggle of understanding existence through relationships, language, and through moral and ethical codes. Ones that are forced on characters by a life different from their own – a life that feels it has the right to dictate the rules.

We passed to the point of asking, “can we create artificial intelligence?” it’s more a question of when we can create one. We keep focusing on the how’s of technologies and ignoring the potential byproducts of the day after. A question I pose when I give keynotes is about the relationships I have with my wife. What if during one of my travels, I visit a brothel that offers sex robots services. Can my wife sue me because I cheated on her? Did I cheat on her? What if the robot had intelligence? Did the robot cheat on her partner by being with me?

Our emotional and logical infrastructure was designed to place us on top of the food chain. We build our society around narratives that we could contain within our rational and irrational understanding. Now comes the time where the fundamentals of existence evolve beyond us. Are we ready? Are we asking the right questions? Are we capable of having someone else above us in the food chain? Free will was always an illusion (I can probably write another post on that) but are we ready to face that fact in the open?

Both movies are brilliantly directed. They look at artificial intelligence differently; one takes the emotional approach and one the logical. The story of the characters is different; the special effects are different, so is the environment. There is one commonality between the movies, and that is the placement of the human in a world where a superior intelligence is on top of the food chain. That is something we do not have the mental tools to understand or cope with. Perhaps the questions we should ask is not about how we build intelligence, but how do we maintain relationships, language, morals, and ethics with an intelligence that is continuously evolving and distancing itself from our definition of humanity.