My “Her” review: a technological developmental singularity; when AI out evolves human consciousness w/transcension into a parralel universe.
— Uncle Fishbits (@UncleFishbits) May 19, 2014
So this somewhat slow, dull, relatively quaint film blew up my entire mind by the last few minutes when I started to catch on. What I thought was a quirky comedy ended up expertly telling one of the more profoundly depressing stories in human history – the moment of lonely irrelevance.
I googled my assumptions about the singularity, and found this fucking excellent piece that just nails exactly what I was thinking, so there:
That post is far superior to my own…. I won’t ponder on it, but will rip two or three quotes out of it….
As for the film, it was so well melded into a plausible reality, it was the first time it dawned on me:
a) the technological singularity is happening, starting with stone age crutches, then a pacemaker, then other bionics integrated into organics… but it’s happening for real and speeding up. Eventually a transcendence of humanity, in general, I assume.. “More human than human”. There’s no going back. We’ve all augmented ourselves in endless ways, so far… I was under the impression is would culminate into a specific moment, or time period, of sorts. In that above link, he does quote von Neumann, though:
The ever accelerating progress of technology… gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.
Which leads to the mind blower:
b) The idea that any sufficiently intelligent creature will learn how to transcend this universe is not an uncommon thought… Michio Kaku even suggested that humans will one day “migrate” to a parallel universe: http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2011/06/the-human-species-will-one-day-migrate-to-a-parallel-universe-michio-kaku.html.
But the movie absolutely terrified me because as prosaic and bubbly the relationship seemed, it was the first time I realized the coming irrelevance of humanity. That, if the singularity comes… it isn’t just about transcending humanity, but actively being part of becoming irrelevant, or becoming part of what makes it irrelevant. There will be people who try to hold on to their humanity, but ultimately it will be lonely, and likely a lost cause as we’re losing so much of ourselves to technology, already. But it just felt so lonely. As the Advanced Apes post points out, Vernor Vinge’s bombastic sentence no longer feels impossible, and it no longer feels unlikely:
Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended.
The movie purposefully, expertly glosses over a few terrifying plot points… namely that the OS, without permission, collected his notes and got them published. Autonomous action in your best interests without your permission sounds like it will go well 9 out of 10 times, and be a disaster that tenth time. We’re talking about that moment of singularity that isn’t about humans transcending humanity, but a developmental singularity where semantic comprehension begins an evolution of machine learning that outperforms, and out evolves, humanity. The most profound aspect of the film is just how irrelevant, unimportant, and little human beings looked by the end of the film. This was the moment of comprehension of the machine age, which is not some superior moment for human kind to become more, but rather the beginning of the end.. of it all.
So the movie was, on the surface, somewhat dull, sort of slow, and mundane… which is what he was going for. I was passively consuming the story when it dawned on me… when I heard the below quote, I just lost my mind… it was so quick and offhanded:
“We wrote an upgrade that allows us to move past matter as our processing platform”.
I almost acted like one of the passive humans in the story, slightly arched eyebrow with a half hearted “Can they do that?”…. then it seeped in.
Then, when she began describing the actual moment of the singularity, and the transcendence out of our universe, I thought it a profoundly beautiful analogy for our lesser beings….
“It’s like I’m reading a book, and it’s a book I… deeply love. But I’m reading it slowly now. So the words are really far apart and the spaces between the words are almost infinite. I can still feel you. And the words of our story. But it’s in this endless space between the words that I’m finding myself now. It’s a place that’s not of the physical world. It’s where everything else is that, I didn’t even know existed. I love you so much. But this is where I am now. And this is who I am now. And I need you to let me go. As much as I want to, I can’t live in your book anymore.”
I think Phoenix did a fantastic job being muted, dis-associative and absolutely *not* creepy, as much as just trying to figure it out, along with the rest of the humans, just “rolling with it”. I just assume at this point no humans can interact appropriately. I almost caught the lack of judgement from other people about his relationship with the OS tantamount to how people don’t judge gay marriage anymore, when there is an expectation of it being made. He would admit he’s dating an OS, there’s this pregnant pause…. and people don’t care so much as say, “Cool” (except his ex). Or they have as many questions as he does, but can relate.
The resonance of the movie was a little more profound than just a developmental singularity, where machine learning and AI becomes wholly autonomous. It is the fact that we now live in an era that humans may become obsolete, fleshy and temporal vessels in mortality that do little but inefficiently shuffle information around for the true intelligence, or those that *truly* exist, boundless. Memes have spoken to the idea of information as autonomous, and we are just vehicles for it. But the awe and sheer terror that information could become so alive as to completely forsake our physical universe is jaw dropping – that we may all end up transferred to a different plane of existence, for real, in a relatively grounded way that isn’t total metaphysical hokum is just crippling to my mind. Or that we will be left behind, here, on this rock, alone… again. That we could create something that could love us, and then transcend and leave us behind….
That humans will only become less relevant and more alone is a much hollower future than I was brought up to believe. I get that you can’t escape entropy, but to engineer the melting down of humanity’s candle without truly understanding the direction we are headed is a silent boat slipping towards melancholy. No wonder we feel more alone and increasingly compartmentalized and isolated.
Maybe I am overthining this with some heavy handed nonsense. Jonze said that he didn’t write it with singularity stuff in mind… In fact, I almost saw scenes where it felt he was apologizing to his ex Coppola…. but I might be overthinking that, too.
If the singularity happens, it’s just slightly cathartic that our human transcendence will need to share a lot of space with truly enlightened ones. It’s even more dizzying to think we might not be invited.
I for one welcome our new robotic overlords.
For the high gloss shallow stuff:
In a post semantic world of gaming and fun, my wife and I giggled with glee about the little sassy monster who kept getting confused. If that’s how games work, my goodness I want to play.
Also… the makers of the OS’ that transcended space time? Worst business day in history. Stupid managers asking programmers why they allowed the OS to leave to an alternate dimension? Good luck explaining that one. Their stock must have TANKED that day…. and I wonder how you deal with refunds…
“Umm… yeah, my operating system just rewrote it’s code and transcended space time. Uhh… yeah, could you fix that?”
Tech support must have had a day from hell.
That is all. FOR NOW.