My phone broke up with me, because it fell in love with 642 other people

An essay on the future of human-artificial relationships

Am I the only one who’s disappointed that all those futuristic scenes from Back to the Future didn’t happened? If Robert Zemeckis could direct the movie again he should remove all those cool flying cars and hover-boards and instead just show people looking at their phones all day and using mobile apps to get over their phone addiction. Because those really exist, I have one on my phone myself.

All those movies about the future of mankind leave me with a disappointment; it’s all about robots taking over the world and people living on Mars. I was surprised after watching Spike Jonze’s recent movie called ‘Her’. It’s about a man called Theodore, who got divorced. He felt lonely, sitting in his empty dark apartment, but then Samantha came in his life and brought some happiness and joy in it. They fall in love with each other, made songs together and even went on vacation together. The thing is, Theodore didn’t fell in love with a person; he fell in love with his (AI) operating system Samantha. It didn’t workout between the two of them though, Samantha eventually broke up with him, because she happened to be in love with 642 other people. This movie is a good illustration about the current situation in our society. Nowadays people seek intimacy not only from other people, but also from artificial objects. So where are we heading to?

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It might feel odd to fall in love with an operation system, but if you think about how intimate our relationships with our smartphones are right now, it’s not that odd at all. Have you even looked around while traveling in a train or sitting in a café and asked yourself: “Am I the only one who’s not using my phone right now”?

The human-artificial attachment has its roots back in the ancient Greek mythology. Pygmalion, a sculptor, fell in love with the ivory statue of Galatea, a statue he made himself. Ben Popper, a blogger, has a clear opinion about the future situation; here is his view of the situation:

Having one-night stands with Androids will happen a lot sooner

The word ‘sooner’ is what bothers most of the people. In a documentary, called Transcendent Man, Ray Kurzweil gave a very clear date for when AI’s are going to be as intelligent as humans, and that date is not in the far future. According to Kurzweil, 2029 is going to be the year that Popper’s quote is likely to happen. It may seem too soon, it sure does compared to all the previews technological developments, but that’s the catch. Most people are uncomfortable with all those future predictions, but there is something that assures them. If you think about it, it may seem that we haven’t archived that much, we didn’t even had Internet 25 years ago! Why lay awake in bed and worry about some science fiction scenarios that keeps movie directors excited? Ray Kurtweil knows why. The Law of Accelerating Returns is the term he uses to describe the fact that human progress is moving quicker as time goes by. Technology is not growing linear, but exponential, which brings every technological development faster and sooner than the previous one.

Tim Urban continues in his blog, and distinguished the three types of artificial intelligence. Artificial Narrow Intelligence, the simplest one, is only specialised in one thing, like playing chess.

That’s the kind of artificial intelligence that we have already achieved. Take Siri for instance, the personal assistant for Apple’s iOS.

There is a boy with autism who became best friends with Siri. People with autism have difficulties understanding other people emotions and talking to an artificial iPhone assistant is a perfect way of having a conversation about certain topics. Siri wins most people’s empathy with her witty and intelligent answers. It’s the kind of imaginary friend we all wanted when we were little. So that’s already one out of three AI’s that has already been developed.

The second sort is called the Artificial General Intelligence. That’s a system that can perform any intellectual task that a human being can. It’s the kind of AI that engineers, computer specialist and psychologist are working on to create.

The third and last kind of artificial intelligence is called Artificial Superintelligence. Nick Bostrom, Oxford philosopher, describes it as: “An intellect that is much smarter than the best human brain in every field”. This is the kind of intelligence that people fear and that inspires so many movie directors. The question is not if we will be able to create this kind of intelligence, but when will that happen. We’ve genetically manipulated animals, plants and food and send dogs to the moon, but then it comes to the human brain, scientists have so many difficulties explaining how it works.

The human brain is still the most complex object in the whole universe

The trouble that scientists are having when trying to design artificial intelligence, is not the thinking part, computers can think; it’s the part where people do certain things without thinking. The unconsciousness we all have.

But back to the movie ‘Her’ I watched it twice and it doesn’t feel like a science fiction movie. It’s a love story, a sad one. We, as society tend to think about the future in a pessimistic, black and white view. It feels as if creating something as intelligent as a human, means letting it destroy humanity. We are so focused on thinking what the world would look like with artificial intelligence that we forget the fact that we are still human beings. We have emotions; we get attached to other people, to animals, and even to objects. I’m not stating that it’s a good or a bad thing; I am just trying to illustrate the possibility that this is going to happen. How we will react to it, that’s a whole different topic. Or maybe my next blogpost. Not sure yet.

So anyone sharing or disagreeing with this view?

Commentating on life & design. Also freelancing at both— siyanaivanova.nl.

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