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We're Virtually There..

I recently watched a movie called ‘Her’ starring Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson. Set in the future the beautiful, strange and emotional story of a letter writer, Theodore Twombly (Phoenix) who, after separating from his girlfriend, downloads an intelligent computer operating system (OS) personified through a female voice, ‘Samantha’ played by Johansson.

Director Spike Jonze conceived the idea of the film after reading about Cleverbot, a web application that uses an artificial intelligence algorithm to have conversations with humans.

Twombly had quite simply created his ‘perfect’ woman. He had answered a few questions; What gender was he? What gender did he want? What was his relationship like with his mother, etc and then suddenly Samantha’s sultry, and endearingly shy voice is heard. A partner. All clean and new. Void of emotional baggage. Void of transference or counter transference or id or super ego or ego or any of that. I wonder what Freud, Jung, Lacan, Klein and the like would think of this.

If we’re going to use article intelligence technology to create the ‘perfect’ partner then based on a psychological analysis and view perhaps the answer lies in tapping into the reductionist psychology, to simply align each separate component with the AI and thus creating the perfect partner.

Moving away from psychology and into the realms and the future of artificial intelligence in Hong Kong an AI has become the world’s first company director.

'In a world first, Japanese venture capital firm Deep Knowledge recently named an artificial intelligence (AI) to its board of directors.

The robot, named Vital, was chosen for its ability to pick up on market trends ‘not immediately obvious to humans’.

‘The bot has already helped make two major investment decisions in life science companies, Pathway Pharmaceuticals and InSilico Medicine.’

In Japan they are even looking into how an AI could generate stories from ideas already written by the late author Shinichi Hoshi who died in 1997. Could an AI eventually write a novel? Is that conceivably possible? Surely all the classics, the sonnets, the novels ever written were borne from human experience, love, loss, hate, life..? Does this blow the very foundation of literature out the window?

So, if these AI’s are becoming more and more ‘human’ would it be feasibly possible to fall in love with one? And just say we did, would that be so bad? A partner who loves us unconditionally, void of an emotional baggage that might clash with ours. A partner to whom we can tell our deepest secrets to, a partner who will never leave us, who will never be unfaithful, who will truly understand us. Isn’t that what we all want? Of course, the relationship will also be void of physicality but can we put that aside for all the other attributes of this perfect relationship? Would all the other positives balance the lack of physicality out?

Many of us have internet relationships or cyberships. These are relationships between people online. In many cases this is the only way people know each other. Is this bad? It’s not dissimilar to pen pals though if you think about it. I had a pen pal at school. We were designated one. She was from another country, France if I recall. We wrote to each other regularly about our lives, what we had done that week, our families, our friends. So now we do it online. No difference really. I didn’t know her, she didn’t know me and we never met. Cyberships can often be more honest and open. The fear of divulging a secret is diminished because the person isn’t present. Not similar to Twombly and ‘Samantha’. So was Twombly wrong or odd or unhinged to fall in love with a computer? Are cyberships or virtual relationships unhealthy? Are they affecting us cognitively? Are they changing us as human beings? Will our wants and needs change as we delve deeper and deeper into virtual worlds? I think, whether we like it or not we will soon find out…