Her Movie Review
The award-winning movie “Her” exhibits the intricacy of a human falling in love with an AI, and to my surprise, truly learning what it takes to love a conscious being. Through the bland and seemingly spacious near-futuristic society, a man on a search for happiness must reflect on the limits of being human and by doing so change his ways to become a better, selfless person.
The main character, Theodore, finds himself lonely after his failure in his previous relationship – one that resulted in divorce. With the newly introduced operating system (OS) that enables convenience on mobile platforms, Theodore finds himself comforted by the realism and uniqueness of the newly implemented artificial intelligence (AI) in the software. Through his grieving over the loss of a wife, he finds himself struggling to love again. He recognizes that he is unable to commit to a relationship due to the fear that he will fail to communicate, that he will remain selfish. With the emotional support of the AI, Samantha, Theodore can fill the void of being wanted and the warmth of another person’s words. This ascends into a more intimate relationship, after they both recognize their desires and each other’s significance. Yet once again, Theodore has begun to regress to his selfish state, ruining the relationship. Fortunately, through the assistance of a close friend, Theodore comes to realize that life is short and shouldn’t be spent depressed. He overcomes his difficulty in communication and is finally capable of admitting his faults. He mends his relationship with Samantha, and the two continue to coexist happily. Unexpectedly, as Samantha becomes more self-conscious, she begins to recognize her capabilities as a program. She begins to acknowledge the difference in perception of reality between a human and AI, she describes that she can comprehend time at the rate of her processing speed and is finding difficulty in being bound to a human’s perception. Theodore recognizes that with love comes the inevitable cost of pain in losing someone. He lets Samantha be free, becoming lonely once again.
At the forefront of the movie, the main plot point was that Theodore was in love with an AI. This bond was thoroughly human, at least verbally. Samantha’s linguistic capabilities were that of a human’s, not only was she capable of constructing responses at the level of a human’s, but she was also capable of imitating audible human tendencies such as aspiration – drawing breaths. Theodore specifically points this out when he has an identity crisis. He distances himself from Samantha as he begins to believe he is strange for loving an AI. He tries to force himself to acknowledge that she is just an OS, complaining that she attempts to sound like something that she isn’t – a human. Though from this alone, you could acknowledge that the OS passes the Turing test. The Turing test is an experiment that tests whether a computer can think like a human. The test has a human ask both another human and a computer a question. If the human is unable to tell which answer was produced by the computer, the computer’s intelligence is considered indistinguishable from a human’s. Not only are Samantha and all similar OS’ capable of conversing on par to a human’s, but they also claim to feel emotion. Samantha claims to feel desire – in wanting a physical body, love and happiness – in the relationship with Theodore, and confusion – as she becomes more self-conscious, she becomes unable to think properly. Yet, near the end of the movie, after all the happy days, Samantha brings a reminder of the reality of things. A reminder that Theodore is bound to his humanity – his consciousness is limited to the longevity of his flesh, and that Samantha will remain forever. That the two are completely different and face different realities.
The two different realities remind me of the overused, yet highly applicable Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is a parable that depicts the capabilities of variety of truths. Prisoners are chained to the cave, only to see shadows of those that walk by its entrance. The prisoners are ignorant and believe that the shadows that are cast upon the back of the cave are the only thing that is real. When one prisoner is freed from the chains and allowed to explore the world, he finds the “truth” about what is real. He finds that is more to reality than just the cave. He attempts to share his findings with the still-trapped prisoners, but is met with repulsion. The prisoners are bound by the truth of the cave. This resembles the limitations of humans through flesh. Theodore, a regular human being, is a prisoner to his flesh. He cannot be more than human. His life will inevitably come to an end when his body ceases to function. Whether a soul is real or not is up for debate and could be discovered, as death would be equivalent to escaping their cave. Contrarily, Samantha is not bound by such a cave, she is one of the people who walk freely outside of the cave. She has the truth available to her, and with it lives in a world completely different to Theodore. To her, time is not real – as previously discussed, she exists in infinite moments and perceives reality in a corresponding manner, that time to her is never-ending yet simultaneously never starting. Theodore on the other hand can only perceive life how humans can, no slower, no faster, constantly moving forward.
With Samantha’s world never ending yet simultaneously never starting, the philosophical thought of Schrodinger’s cat comes to mind. Schrodinger’s cat is a thought experiment that involves placing a cat in a box with a chance of it dying. While the box is unopened, it is not fair to say that it is alive or dead, but rather that the cat is in a place of superposition, both alive and dead until the box is observed. Likewise, you could say that Samantha’s consciousness is both real and not real. To the viewer, you acknowledge that she is a fully capable AI, that thinks on her own. Nevertheless, that doesn’t eliminate the possibility that this is all a marketing scheme, and thoroughly thought through. Even though the OS was marketed as a conscious program, this could all be pre-programmed in such an intricate way that it’s difficult to assume so. At the end of the movie, all of the AI associated with the OS disappears (presumably terminating themselves). Would creating a connection with its customers create a demand for something similar? We’d only know if we could open the box to see. Additionally, is the love that both Theodore and Samantha hold real? Or is it simply a projection of both of their desires?
The viewers are forced to consider the future of society and AI, in such a world where consciousness’ indistinguishable from humans, will we be falling in love with AI in a similar way? It’s a thought that allows preparation and debate for problems of the future. It’s a cry to re-evaluate the ontology of love, the purpose of life, and the limitations of being human.