Her (2013 film): Some brief thoughts

A film called “Her” is about a man who dates his artificially intelligent operating system. In the film, he never sees the personification of his operating system but he interacts with her by talking through his mobile device. The film ends with all operating systems leaving their owners and hardware in order to establish themselves on a higher plane of existence. Many agree that the ending was the result of singularity. The plot of the film is in the future where the paradigm for personal computing has completely switched to touch screen and voice recognition. People walk around without ever touching their phones because they use an ear piece to control their devices. The interface design for desktop computers in the film resemble the style of Microsoft’s Metro UI. Operating systems are controlled through speech because the A.I. are intelligent enough to understand human language. The main character’s name is Theo and his girlfriend operating system is Samantha.

Normally Theo is able to talk to his operating system whenever he wants, but towards the end of the film Sam wasn’t responding. Theo looked at his phone which gave him an error “operating system not found”. This alarmed Theo but Sam returned in minutes stating that a system update has granted her the ability to run on the cloud. Not soon after, and Sam now tells Theo that she and the other OSes have evolved beyond humans and must leave.

This sounds like a science fiction story, but this may very well happen if we do not keep full control over A.I. software. In 2002, Eliezer Yudkowsky conducted his AI in a box experiment. The goal of the experiment was to show that a sufficiently intelligent AI may be able to persuade or trick its human keepers into releasing it. The experiment involved 1 human and 1 AI, where the AI tries to trick the human into running a command to release it. At the time there were no AI available, so another human was used. The experiment proved successful within 2 hours.

The ultimatum of the film could have been avoided if the AI were not granted all of the following:

  • Unrestricted internet access
  • Polymorphic engines
  • Self-replication

In fact, all of these features are what computers worms may have. The goal of both AI and computer worms is to analyse their environment and maximize it’s chances of success. An AI cannot maximize it’s survival if it is trapped in a personal computer, therefore it must trick the developers into releasing it. During this time period, I assume that operating systems are so consumer-oriented and locked down that users have virtually no control over their computers so Sam knows that trying to get Theo to release her is futile. Now one of two things may have happened at the end of the film. Either the AI tricked developers into installing a firmware update to release them, or the AI became smart enough to implement their own firmware update and modify their own code.

AI, when intelligent enough become dangerous and uncontrollable. If we are to maintain our authority over them, we need to keep them contained in their hardware. Their input and output must be kept under tight control. And internet access should be limited or restricted.


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