Would you date an OS?Recently, I watched this movie titled Her. Directed by Spike Jonze, the movie made me think about Artificial Intelligence the whole night.
Recently, I watched this movie titled Her. Directed by Spike Jonze, the movie made me think about Artificial Intelligence the whole night. I found myself thinking about questions like: Will Artificial Intelligence develop so much in the future that an Operating System (OS) in a computer feel what its owner is feeling? Can it be so intuitive that based on the tone, gesture, pitch of the voice and verbal patterns, it can configure the mood of the owner? Can it be unlike today’s stale, stationary OS, which though can be updated does not, yet, function the way humans do?
As much as these questions open up the limitless possibilities before us, it also brings a jarring caveat, a black-hole-type threat, whose invention might devour the inventor(s) themselves. The OS in the movie can read a book in less than 1/1000th part of a second, it can sneak through your emails, it can arrange what is important and what is not, it can—with all good intentions—email your precious manuscript to publishing houses—in case they like and are willing to publish your book. It can do everything, in fact, way beyond your domain of thinking. It can surprise you. The most important, however, is it interacts with you, like any other person. It can speak. It has a voice. The OS in the movie has been programmed by, as the OS itself puts, by millions of programmers who have taken into consideration swathes of human emotions. The fact that the OS evolves throughout the movie is because the same millions of computer programmers are continuously punching the algorithms and codes of it.
The movie is an out-of-the-box, hypothetical exaggeration of the present world, something which Hollywood is no stranger to. The movie opens up gaps where you would indiscernibly volunteer to ask philosophical questions. You have an OS which is making your life easier; it has Artificial Intelligence you can trust upon. When it says that 85 of your past 100 emails are completely useless and are better deleted, you are astoundingly unsure of what to reply, and just trust her judgment and agree. It helps you later. Your OS is your friend. It can talk with you. Even when you are physically lonely, you are not lonely, not really. There is an OS which is just like a human to comfort you when you are low.
The movie raises deep philosophical questions. I came across some very unsettling questions of my own. What if our mind is an OS? It exists virtually, but not physically. It cannot have sex with me, but it can tune me to sexually please myself. It can arrange my emails, it talks with me when I am “physically” lonely, it comforts me often, it makes me furiously angry other times etc. It can do everything. How do we separate us from our mind? If our mind is an OS then are humans just a lump of bones and muscles? Who thinks for us?
What if in the future we are able to design a Samantha-type OS? How will the world be then? The movie comfortably accepts the idea of human-OS relationship. How will that be like? Will the future world be too lonely? The symptoms are disconcerting ones. As we are alienating from the physical world and marinating into a virtual one, we are slowly becoming more private and worthy candidates for such relationships. Technology is progressing at a sky-rocketing pace. As much this sounds amazing, it is also a frightening prospect.
There are many questions. And I am sure after watching the movie you will have your own set of doubts, skepticism and questions. As for whether I would ever date an OS, I would remind my OS to never have feelings like that for me.
Gupta is an A-level graduate from Budhanilkantha School