Spike Jonzes Her, a scary vision of the future?

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Dating has never been more complicated. How the heck are you supposed to read signals in a world where everything is more varied than ever, let alone over mediums like Facebook or Snapchat? If relationships manage to start, there seems to be an overwhelmingly pessimistic feeling of “How long will they last?”, so it’s no surprise that alternate hook-ups are being explored- as shown by the film Her, directed by Spike Jones.

Her looks at a futuristic Earth where Operating Systems can be customised to human-like levels of personality. One man falls in love with his system, and attempts to pursue a relationship with her. The film itself is very interesting and worth watching: but the resulting discussions are even more so, as some have suggested that relationships where a humans engage in romance with a machine that can adapt to his or her needs is closer than you may think.

Already, the idea of unconventional romances exists. Never mind the arguments surrounding homosexuality- people have fallen in love with inanimate objects such as garden fences, pillows with anime girls drawn on them (called Dakimakura), and even sections of the Berlin Wall! Less comically, so called “Three parent babies”- a proposed expansion to IVF treatments that could first be legalised in the UK- will allow parents to use an egg from a third woman to support an embryo, whilst using DNA from both the original parents. This could help avoid diseases which prevent IVF from being an option at the moment. The process is still currently in genetic testing, with scientists calling for patience until they can verify the work- but this could change how relationships work a lot.

But love with a robot? Well, according to Google’s Director of Engineering Ray Kurzwell in a review of Her, “I would place some of the elements in Jonze’s depiction at around 2020…[While] other elements seem more like 2014. Samantha, voiced by Scarlett Johansson, [the AI]herself I would place at 2029, when the leap to human-level AI would be reasonably believable.”The concept may seem far out- but consider many modern dating methods. The facelessness of internet dating has been commented on many times by reports, and the concept of a blind date isn’t new- Cilla Black introduced it in the 80’s! And what about Sex chat lines- hardly a preferred method of dating, but the continued existence of these dubious numbers shows that we can be aroused by what is essentially just a voice. Not to mention the new plans for Google’s voice activated search bot Siri to become Cortana from the Halo series (though she will be represented by a little blue circle, and not the actual character- indeed, it is uncertain whether she will actually be called Cortana, just that she will be voiced by her actress.)

The idea of AI companions may seem a scary one- and of course, may never happen. But is it really so strange to consider love with a program, in our modern world of permissiveness?

Alex Davies

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