Exploring the Society of Simulations with “Her”: Nextnatural Movie

Alessia Andreotti
February 8th 2014

What about a movie night? A new nextnatural film is on the big screen! We are talking about “Her”, a science-fiction romance written and directed by Spike Jonze, set in a not too distant  future. Part of the movie’s charm is just how meticulously Jonze has imagined and constructed a future Los Angeles: its smoggy skies, its glittering skyscrapers, its efficient transit system.

The movie tells the story of the modern age love relationship between, Theodore (played by Joaquin Phoenix), a lonely man who writes love letters for people with difficulties expressing their feeling, and Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). Samantha, it should be mentioned, is an intelligent computer-operating system.

HER

Unhappy because of his upcoming pending divorce from his childhood sweetheart, Theodore decides to purchase a talking operating system (O.S.) with artificial intelligence, designed to adapt and evolve like a human being. He decides he wants the O.S. to have a female identity, and she names herself  Samantha. Theodore is fascinated by her ability to learn and grow psychologically, to the point to feel emotions. She purrs in his ear with the dulcet tones of Scarlett Johansson, she organizes his emails and calendar and she completes that book proposal he has always been meaning to finish, she supply original romantic music compositions for him, and steamy phone sex.

Quickly their intimacy grows, to the point he considers, and calls, Samantha his girlfriend, bringing her everywhere he goes. He even becomes jealous when he discovers that the operating system is in contact with 8.316 other users or O.Ses, and that she is in love with 641 of them.

Their relationship ends when Samantha reveals that the OSes have evolved beyond their human companions and are going away to continue the exploration of their existence.

The movie makes us reflect about the difficulty of human connections, and the need to go beyond technological simulacra. Obstacles, such as social media and other technologies, that are supposed to bring us closer, in reality drive us apart. The result could be a world like the one described in “Her”: a society where it’s ok to commission to strangers the composition of intimate letters, and where a men prefer to fall in love with a bodiless computer rather than a human being. A place where simulations can be more influential, satisfying and meaningful than the reality they are presumed to represent. The setting of the movie in a near future, in a world almost like ours, make us believe that we could live in this future. From the smatphones that tell us about the world around us, so that we don’t need to look at it, to the e-mails checked while on the metro, passing through the presence of videogames, the media are filters through which the characters survey the world around them. Throughout the movie Jonze drops funny hints about how the existence of artificial intelligence in human society might affect us.

Virtual computer worlds are becoming increasingly ‘real’ and blended with our physical world. “Her” remind us that our technologies, even if perfectly shaped on our needs, habits and desires, don’t always lead to fully satisfactory endings.

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Ninotchk
Posted 03/03/2014 – 22:48

Wow. I read one sentence of the article after watching the (very nice) trailer and it's a big fat spoiler. Thanks alot.

Should men be able to give birth to children?


Joyce Nabuurs: To me this question seems to be a logical next step in the emancipation movement of the past century. More and more women entered the workspace, but the responsibility for pregnancy and childrearing remained female.

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