I was listening to Science Friday yesterday as I drove through towns that seemed to have been paused in the 1930s. They were discussing the movie Her, which I have not yet seen. In this movie, a man falls in love with an OS. There were guests with a variety of viewpoints to express:

  • That people are relying more on technology, because human relationships are more demanding.
  • That it would be disheartening if we finally accomplish something that real in the way of AI and it’s wasted as a surrogate girlfriend.
  • That the OS’s decison to leave her owner is a major bug and he deserves a full refund.

AI, Michio Kaku says, is like people deciding to build a tower to the moon and getting all excited about how tall the tower is getting while ignoring the fact that the task itsef is impossible. The premise of the movie appears to be that the OS is capable of loving and being loved because it is so advanced in its emotional intelligence, even though it’s not human.

But people get attached. Not just to other people, but to teddy bears and cell phones and pets. Dax is spending the weekend with us and is sitting on my lap right now, making typing difficult but also making me happy. I can pet his silky ears and feel attachment even though I am just a handy lap to him and I know it. We love our babies when they can’t talk at all, and their lack of emotional intelligence is no barrier to a depth of love beyond description.

Richard Dawkins claims that our worship of God is just the same mechanism of attachment, pinning itself onto something that doesn’t even exist. If people can fall in love with something that is essentially a more advanced version of Siri, it says more about the human capacity for and need for love than it does about technology.

I should go see the movie.