‘Her’ is an outlook on a possible future—of dating a chatbot

NextNature.net
May 1st 2020

With most of us stuck at home because of lockdown, for the singles around us intimacy may have turned into a distant dream. Could we find our salvation in technology? And what would this look like? Her (2013) may teach us some lessons.

When watching this movie it immediately becomes clear that it could be taking place in a not too distant future. Perhaps it is a prediction of the era after the coronavirus, where physical touch is still limited.

Luckily, this does not have to stop us from engaging in relationships as Her shows us it can be possible to have a relationship, albeit a different sort of relationship than most of us might be used to.

Her is a science-fiction romance written and directed by Spike Jonze. The movie tells the story of the modern age love relationship between Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) and Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). But there’s a twist: Samantha is an intelligent computer-operating system.

Unhappy with his real-life, Theodore decides to purchase a talking operating system (OS) with artificial intelligence, designed to adapt and evolve like a human being. He decides he wants the OS to have a female identity, after which the OS names herself Samantha. Theodore is fascinated by her ability to learn and grow psychologically and even the ability of Samantha to feel emotions. Indeed, this movie makes us question whether it is possible to have a relationship with a chatbot. 

Here’s how the movie is still relevant to this day: it shows us how intimacy can grow between a human and a chatbot. In the movie Theodore eventually calls Samantha his 'girlfriend' and takes her everywhere he goes (as he conventiently can put her in his pocket). He even becomes jealous when he discovers that the operating system is in contact with 8.316 other users—and that she is in love with 641 of them.

The movie provides us with a possible outlook for intimate encounters while on lockdown during the pandemic. Whether that encounter is with a human, or a robot.

Spoiler warning: Our analysis continues after the clip.

While the ending of the movie could be regarded as 'sad' (the relationship ends), it also shows us how chatbots could have the ability to grow, and makes it perfectly tangible to us.

The movie reflects upon the real life we are living in and the ability of virtual computer worlds to become increasingly ‘real’ and blended with our physical world. Especially now, in a time where we spend more time in the virtual space than in the physical world, a robot could provide those in lockdown with the intimacy of having a relationship.

Would you date a chatbot?public: 1

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What is your view on the coronavirus?


Siri Beerends: I really embrace the idea that viruses can teach us a lesson in modesty. It is necessary that our position as the dominant species on the planet is being challenged. I also agree that it is a mistake to think that we are becoming Gods. But unfortunately, this is actually what is happening now. Corona doesn’t teach us to be modest, it teaches us how we can -as quickly as possible- go back to business as usual: saving our capitalistic economy.

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