For some reason, when the internet tells me how good a movie is, I refuse to believe it–even though there has not ever been a time when I ended up disagreeing. For example, I kept hearing how awesome and sob-worthy “The Notebook” was. Really? I’ll be the judge of that, Internet! I told myself I would not cry even though that is the most insanely stupidest thing for me to say because I cry with cartoons and Hallmark commercials. Let’s just say that two hours and four minutes later, I was crying so hard I was practically dry-heaving. You win again, Internet.
Still, when “Her” won an Oscar award in 2014 for Best Original Screenplay, and nominated for a few more including Best Picture, I refused to believe that it was as thought-provoking as the Internet said it was. Once again, I was proven wrong: after I watched the movie the first time, it was so far up inside my brain that it took me days to stop thinking about it.
Basically, the movie begs the question: What is a relationship? The main character is a sweet, lonely man who befriends an OS (Operating System). That’s right, People. And the movies is awesome.
It really made me think about what constitutes a relationship. How do we know we’re in a relationship with someone? By physical touch? Or bonding emotionally? I think most of us know that we need the feel of another human being to feel intimate: a mother cradles her baby, sisters hold hands, lovers embrace. But strictly touching is not enough, either. To feel intimate with someone, we need to have an emotional connection. In Her, our main character cannot touch the OS physically therefore their attachment is strictly one of mental and emotional bonding.
The first time I watched this, I was experiencing a heavy depression from loneliness and lack of self-worth. I remember thinking, “Yeah–I would totally do that. I would have a relationship with an OS. I just want someone to talk to”. I don’t think the idea is as far-fetched as it would initially seem. For instance, we have an Alexa device. We ask her to tell us jokes and give us facts about the world. I wanted to be funny by calling her a potty word, but she chided me and I immediately felt remorseful. The fact that Alexa is an adaptive AI means she learns about us. It can feel like she’s becoming our friend.
When a large part of the world is behind a phone or computer screen, it’s easy to see how we can befriend our computer systems. If you don’t think you’re attached to the computer, I challenge you to go digital free for even one day. Take note of how often you think about your phone or looking something up!
Movies like Her really give me something to ponder. The birth of this sort of technology has already taken place. The toddler stage we’re in will soon give way to full grown technologies that once seemed impossible. If this sort of thing interests you, you might want to check out Humans as well. Our children or grandchildren may have to redefine what our society is going to look like. I find the prospect exciting and provocative.
Writer: CJ Heath