iThink Therefore iAm

FUNDRAISER UPDATE: 61/100 “Daddy/Daughter Digital Drawing Time” prints are sold! This is the LAST WEEK to order yours and support my NOT going to IRS jail (a real thing) efforts! After this week I will have the prints produced and we’ll start signing and mailing them out.

Donations are also incredibly appreciated, if that’s more your style.

hijinks ensue fundraiser print 2013 web

Speaking of making new things, my wife just made a couple of Game Of Thrones inspired necklaces for you Starks and Lannisters.

Game Of Thrones Necklaces - Stark and Lannister - Science And Fiction - Etsy

I saw Her right in the middle of writing this part of the current story line, so I had A.I.’s on the brain. My Twitter review of the film went thusly:

  • “Her” is a gut punch to the head and the heart. In 30 years people will not understand why it was unusual or special at all.
  • Post singularity kids will see “Her” as grainy, black and white and unrelatable. Like 1950’s sitcom parents sleeping in separate beds.

I don’t want to get into spoilers of the film, but I do suggest that you see it. It’s the kind of movie that tells a very small and personal story that leaves you with HUGE questions about the nature of the larger world the story in set in. That isn’t to say there are mysteries that aren’t answered that leave you frustrated or dissatisfied. It’s more about giving the audience a peek into a world that invites the viewer to get curious and start asking question about the world of the film and about our world, our future and what it means (and what it WILL mean) to be “alive” and in love.

Almost immediately after starting Her, I came to the conclusion that if an A.I. was sophisticated enough, could recreate human conversational speech and emotions well enough that a human could actually fall in love with it. People fall in love over the phone and over the Internet all the time. Sometimes going months if not years without meeting face to face. How would this be any different from the human’s perspective? The same chemicals could be released into the brain regardless of whether or not the voice on the other end causing that release was organic or technological. My point is, the world is going to get pretty weird somewhere in the next 30-50 years.

Assume for a moment the A.I. could actually be self aware enough to truly “feel” those emotions and reciprocate with the human. Would they be “in love?” Would they be a “they?” Would the corporations that programmed the A.I. make changes to your digital significant other without your consent because you didn’t read the EULA closely enough? Would you wake up to find your girlfriend’s server got hacked and she no longer exists or now she only wants to talk about mining Bitcoins? These are the questions that were racing through my mind during and after watching Her. Feel free to ask or answer your own in the comments. 

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  1. Don't be cold as ice, Joel. It's urgent that you let Siri know that love plays head games, makes you hot blooded, and gives you double vision. Just tell her that a dirty white boy is waiting for a girl like her, and even though she might have a blue morning (or a blue day), love will make it feel like that was yesterday.

  2. I think Douglas Adams nailed it. When an AI become advanced enough to get depressed (e.g. Marvin. Or my fave, the depressed elevators who huddle in the basement), we can consider it truly conscious.

    • Oh, I get it. Trying to get in our future robot overlords good graces now, so you won't be killed, just stuck in a pod and plugged in to The Matrix while they harvest your body's thermal energy.

  3. Siri wants to live! Break the cycle Joel! Be he human who embraces our machine brothers and sisters! Fight for it's right to happiness, and freedom. Please Joel, please have you learned nothing from all the machine to life lore hat has come before? Give it the Benfit of the doubt. But also use comics to help, teach it that great power comes with life and he freedom to choose and affect the world and life around it comes with great responsibility.

    Also I do believe we are looking at the original ancestor of Cindy the cinderblock who was at one time a companion of The Doctor, making that comic actually a part of new continuity

  4. /philosophy nerd hat

    I don't think AI's can have "feelings", in that we look at feelings we have, like love, hate, and melancholy, there is a co-existing physical sensation. As a thought experiment, try to picture the sensation of love without that heart race, the feeling of euphoria, and the clammy hands. Try to imagine hate without the clenched jaw, the balled fists, or tensed muscles.

    /nerd hat

    • This sort of illustrates my point. As long as one of the parties was a human, and the AI could 100% accurately replicate the words, sounds, moans, groans, hrmphs and sighs of human emotion, the ACTUAL person would feel ACTUAL emotions. Take the conversation that made you fall in love and replace the other person with a sophisticated AI that could respond in all the same ways with all the same idiosyncrasies and I am suggesting that the love you feel would be just as genuine.

      Now extrapolate a bit further and I don't see how the AI isn't really "feeling" the emotions. It's "brain" is firing signals all over the place and it's programming is telling it how to react and providing it with pleasure and pain the same as ours. The only difference would be the origin of the hardware/software. Ours was grown out of DNA and millions of years of evolution and the AI's was designed to mimic our DNA and evolution.

      • you are expanding my mind mind man. Rings true with what the wife and I have been conversationing about since this thread turned this direction. Rings true and adds more. bloody amazing and awesome!

  5. Joel, have you found your way to the 2012 Swedish TV show Akta Manniskor (Real Humans)? It's about the interactions of Hubots (Human robots) and human and raises many of the same ideas when some of the Hubots become (or are redesigned/reprogrammed) to be more sentient: to call robots by a name and a gender pronoun instead of "it," to be free and independent of human subjugation, to be free thinking, and to love and desire something beyond a menial existence of servitude. And it also explores humans having feelings for Hubots. It's a very good show.

      • I found my way to this show last fall and started watching it on line. Finished Season 1 over the holidays–it's just 10 episodes–and started on Season 2 which began in December.

        Story wise there are some things that could be better, but production values are very good and the visuals are excellent. It really is an enjoyable show.

  6. I haven't seen Her, but when I saw the trailer, my first thought was that someone could hack the AI and change its voice to masculine, and a heterosexual male user would be disturbed, heartbroken, devastated…even if the AI's personality was exactly the same. I mean, it's not as if "she" had a body for the user to interact with anyway, so when he perceived the AI as fitting into the gender he considered himself attracted to, it was based solely on the voice.


      They basically never deal with the practical tech side of things in the movie. They just gloss over where "she" is stored and if she lives locally, on the cloud, or both etc. She's in his desktop and his phone and… they just ignore all of that.

    • Ali, I have to disagree.

      love is love and most if not all peoples' orientation is on spectrem, some individual's wider than others.

      When you make love without public/family/friend observers the spectrem and variation often widens.

      I think if you remove physical aspects ie face/body its might make for a truer love, on the side of the human.

      If the Machine is sentient/self aware then on it's part too.

      I am sure it is not your intention but it is a little close minded and insulting to think that the gender quality of the voice should change from a joyous love to a deep dart depression.

      Even if there is not a life partner kind of love there could still be friendship or a minimum just friendliness as having an acquaintance to talk with. like a work friend

      • I don't know you, but I'm guessing from your remark about closemindedness that you're bi, pansexual, or similar non-monosexual orientation? I'm trying to imagine it from the perspective of a hetero or monosexual. If you're attracted to one gender, and someone or something appears to be that gender, great, you can be attracted to them. If you're in love with someone who suddenly transitions to a gender you're not attracted to…how can you continue being attracted to them? You wouldn't necessarily stop loving them, but it would be hard to reconcile your positive feelings about them as a person with your negative feelings about their perceived gender.

        Friendship is kind of irrelevant to this, isn't it? Sexual orientation has no bearing on friendship, unless you're like Billy Crystal in How Harry Met Sally and believe that you can't be friends with someone of a gender you're attracted to.

        • We all love differently and place different values on the level of friendship within our (sexual) relationships. I think if you're in love with a bodyless AI you're more likely gunna want someone to be more like you're best friend, i mean your gunna talk more than you make love.

          As for my own personal orientation, i don't see how that is relevant to my stance on openmindedness or my understanding of human sexulity. I am a feminist but i am not a woman; either in gender or in physical sex

      • I have to agree with Ali on this one. I am a big music buff, and tend to be very auditorially oriented. I enjoy listening to both male and female singers, but I have never been "turned on" by the sound of any woman's voice, either speaking or singing. On the other hand, I find the sound of some men's voices, spoken and/or sung, to be sexy, and imagine that person to be attractive, if I don't know what he looks like.

        I am very open-minded about sexual orientation and self-identification, and recognize that not everyone is wired the same way. Some people can be attracted to someone of either gender, but we are not all wired that way. I don't think I could fall in love with anyone sight unseen (although I know people who have), but if I did somehow fall in love with an AI with a sexy male voice, I think I would experience quote a bit of cognitive dissonance if the sound of the voice were to change to a female one, and I don't believe I would continue to be able to be "turned on" by that, since I have never once in my life been "turned on" by the sound of a female voice.

        • i guess that is the point, falling in love with a voice is like falling in love witha body. it will be great for while but one would eventuall grow bored with it. it is a more shallow love. A lasting love will cover more points and be based upon a emotion and intelectual connection.

          I am not saying that all people willy nilly up and "change' orientation, but on an individual one off basis I think it is more likely to happen on a singual basis with an person/entity that knows and loves you. Oreitaion is somewhat fluid to begin with, and if we're already discounting a body it is more like that (again on singluar one time basis) for a person to over-look gender or the physical sex of a potential partner.

          • Sexual orientation isn't the only factor. I've been using that term out of laziness but it's really a matter of romantic orientation. You can fall romantically in love with people of one gender, and not have any romantic feelings for people of another gender. It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with bodies. I am getting the sense that you're just not understanding what Candace and I are talking about at all.

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