2. R.J. Moeller at Acculturated: Five Things I Hate About Her
R.J., as with Andrew, I think you’re projecting your own expectations onto the movie and have missed what it was saying. I have a response to each of your objections:
But isn’t it curious that someone would create a world where desperate and lonely people are searching for purpose, existential meaning and deeper relationships and there’s not even one small allusion to religion, faith, or a Higher Power?
No. This is a movie about a man dealing with a divorce through discovering a new relationship. It’s an unconventional love story in that the relationship he forms is with someone who doesn’t have a body. Drop the technology and make the operating system Samantha a real person and it’s a standard rom-com and you would make no demands for religious discussions.
My second qualm with Her is, I admit, perhaps a nit-picky one, but the way that the script whitewashes any explanation of how the Operating System became as advanced as it did – or how it was created in the first place – is pretty lame.
I think the fact that you were thinking about that during the movie is pretty lame. This is a science-fiction fable. Do you demand an explanation from Aesop for how the Tortoise and the Hare managed to talk? In Star Wars do you want an in-depth discourse explaining how the Force works? These are just throwaway devices — means to an end.
I realize that part of the unspoken contract between movie-makers and movie-goers is that we turn our brains off to some extent while in that darkened room, but we’re all expected to believe that technology is eventually going to be “better” than we are. I don’t buy it. Show me something.
This is ridiculous. Do you apply this criticism to every single science-fiction film that has robots in its? Did you reject the idea of Commander Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation? But if you’d rather not read Ray Kurzweil’s books, then check out the documentary that summarizes the themes, Transcendent Man. Here’s the trailer:
I believe that the transhumanist goals/predictions that Kurzweil expresses are entirely compatible with the Judeo-Christian tradition. There should be nothing wrong whatsoever with the goal of escaping physical death by gradually merging with the technology we create. It’s something that humanity has been doing perpetually and I believe it’s what God wants us to do. A few hundred years ago the average life expectancy was in the 30s. With today’s technology it’s in the 80s in many countries. What’s wrong with extending life to, say, 200? And if 200, why not 400? The human bodies we’ve been saddled with are just sacks of water and meat. We shouldn’t idolize them when God gave us the brains to transcend them.
Your fourth objection is just a repetition of your first — Spike Jonze isn’t a Christian so he’s not providing your New Testament-centric definition of what love means:
Like many important words, we constantly misuse “love” in our culture today. We attribute it to our iPhone, cat, favorite pizza, or funny YouTube clip. The common meaning of the word love has always carried with it the connotation of “between human beings.” Love is something deeper than our emotions.
R.J., would the film have been different to you at all if Samantha had an android body and looked exactly like a human being? Because this movie is just something to provoke us to think about today. In the real world, when we have computers this advanced (in another 15-20 years) that have consciousness and are able to request their rights be recognized and respected they’ll also be able to download themselves into bodies. And how will you treat them? When the robots are so advanced that you cannot tell if they are a flesh-and-blood human or not, will you act toward them as though they’re just a toaster? How did you like WALL-E by the way? Did the love story between the robots move your heart an iota?
Fourth on my list is the fact that no character (apart from Phoenix’s ex-wife) in Her had any problem with a lifestyle choice that required folks participating in this lifestyle to form emotional bonds with a voice on a smartphone screen. No one makes fun of him. No one shames him. No buddy comes by and says, “Dude, you’re flirting with HTML code.”
Everyone’s cool with it and can’t wait to go sailing to Catalina Island with Joaquin Phoenix and his Droid.
And the reason for this is because we’re seeing a snapshot of a future society in which this has gradually become normalized, step by step over many years. (And it’s a fable! It’s not meant to be picked apart and taken literally!)
It’s not just Joaquin Phoenix’s Theodore character who is having this kind of experience with artificial intelligence in the Her universe. It’s many people throughout the future world, and one of the things that’s mentioned is that it’s actually a relatively rare occurrence. Most OSes in this fictional world do not fall in love with their user. (And some OSes even fall in love with other people and start dating them.)
Escaping into the digital arms of a product we’ve purchased is delusional. It’s living in a fantasy world. It’s avoiding the sometimes-difficult business of being a cognizant human being.
Here’s something I think you really missed about the movie, R.J.: Samantha is not a digital prostitute. It’s not like Theodore is forcing her to love him and have sex with him.
The point the movie is trying to make that you missed: it’s trying to argue that the day will come much sooner than we think when we cannot tell the difference between real and artificial intelligence. You know what scene in the film I found most unrealistic? The one where Samantha contacts a surrogate human being to facilitate intimacy between the two of them. In the future Samantha wouldn’t just be a voice — she’d have a body and would be able to look just like a real woman.
Will some men program prostitute bots and escape into a hedonistic world? Many already have with internet porn and online hook-ups and phone sex — something the film also critiques. But not all human-digital relationships will be inherently exploitive. And what the film also fails to depict — because it’s really just a fable — is that what’ll happen, per Kurzweil, is that we’ll be interfacing with our computer creations directly through our brains Matrix-style. So the line between being human and being machine is going to keep blending until it’s non-existent.
My fifth and final complaint about Her is simply this: Spike Jonze portrays the Los Angeles of the not-too-distant future as being exceptionally clean and efficiently run.
Come on, bro. Least believable thing about the movie.
Dude, it’s a science-fiction movie! Start dreaming bigger! Think about how great the world will be 20, 30 years from now after we defeat the jihadists in the Middle East, the communists in Asia, and the postmodern criminal Marxists running the Democratic Party! It will be much cleaner because everything will be ridiculously cheaper as the exponential growth rate of technology starts accelerating.
All this robots-merging-with-people stuff sound too far out? There are more restrained futuristic visions, including some with road maps for how to get there. R.J. and Andrew — and everyone else — please check out one of 2013′s best, most inspiring books, James C. Bennet and Michael J. Lotus’s America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity In the 21stCentury—Why America’s Greatest Days Are Yet to Come.
By 2040 we’ll have a whole lot more in America than just clean, robot-sweeped streets. Look to Europe to see some of the problems threatening us, but don’t be afraid that we’re doomed to become them…