Human beings are becoming increasingly intertwined with the technology they create. And we seem to be granting our technology with our own human qualities more and more; soon, we may create things that speak to us, that learn from us, that resonate with us on an intimate level.
In the unique romance movie “Her,” our main character is seen undergoing separation from his long-loved wife. It is obvious that he has fallen into a gloomy place in his life where happiness and pleasure have died out in his heart; he has become a hollow, jaded shadow of himself. But with the introduction of Samantha, a voice output computer AI capable of thought, emotion, and reason, he bounces back into his lost state of happiness.
As impossible now as it may seem, in a few decades it will possibly become normal. Our technology still undergoing exponential growth, at rate where scientists predict that computers will be on level with the human brain by 2050. And as the power of technology grows, the line between what is artificial and what is real may blur until the two are inseparable. We will create things that imitate nature so well that eventually it becomes nature. Similarly, to how the movie shows our main character moving from a real, meaningful relationship with an actual person to a computer, we are moving increasingly away from what is real.
But it also raises the question of the possible dangers of self-aware AI. In the movie, the computer Samantha has the entire internet at her disposal to learn and adapt. But even though she is virtually omniscient, she still shows the same basic human emotions that everyone feels. Though one would think that a being built on knowledge would forgo emotion, Samantha yearns for it. It is terrifying to imagine an unlimited power over humanity that also wields volatile feelings such as jealously and rage.
What is most interesting about the film, however, is the way the AIs are presented to the public. In the movie, a scientific company essentially crosses the taboo and creates consciousness, then accommodates it to the public as a product. To the society, beings that love, learn, and feel like we do are packaged and sold like new applications. Though the movie doesn’t touch on it, this type of scenario would raise a lot of questions concerning morality, the definition of humanity, and captivity. And to think that these are issues that we may one day face!
Would our society be able to adjust to this new type of world? I believe that it would. But my greatest nightmare would be if we do one day create something beyond our control, and would replace human beings as the masters of this world. And even more terrifying, if that which replaces us carries with it none of our emotion, none of our sorrow, our joy, our pride; where all the human race’s meaning would be replaced be calculation and rationality.