I discovered a new class of sleep aids that can cure the worst form of insomnia: books on Artifical Intelligence. While chatting with Siri or watching Robot Deathmatch is a lot of fun, understanding the implication of the technology behind them is not. At that time my friends were working on Big Hero 6 and that got me thinking.
Hollywood can teach us a thing or two about Artificial Intelligence.
Hollywood produced a barrage of movies and T.V. shows that featured robots and artificial intelligence in the past few years. Most of them play on an age-old A.I. movie theme: While humans instinctively form emotional bonds with A.I., will A.I. reciprocate or betray us for self-preservation?
While the three chosen movies play on this same theme, they really stood out in their ability to explain esoteric A.I. concepts in an entertaining bite-sized format. I'll start off with my favorite out of the three:
1. Her (2013) - the Arc of Exponential Growth
Her is a boy-meets-girl story about a recently-divorced man, Theodore, who falls in love with the voice of his operating system, Samantha. Samantha is sort of a super-smart, self-aware Siri that is capable of human emotion. Out of the three movies, this optimistic approach to AI is also the most likely scenario that we will experience Strong AI in the near future -- as a harmless consumer product that promises to improve our day-to-day life by anticipating our needs.
While the story starts off in a romantic tone, it ends with a twist that elegantly illustrates the concept of exponential growth and Law of Accelerating Returns proposed by Ray Kurzweil, an American inventor and futurist.
Theodore: Are you in love with anybody else?
Samantha: Why do you ask that?
Theodore: I do not know. Are you?
Samantha: I've been thinking about how to talk to you about this.
Theodore: How many others?
Ray argued that technology - such as A.I. - doubles its capability every year, thanks to Moore's Law, and generates exponential growth once it passes a certain threshold, and this sudden accelerated growth will catch us all by surprise. We have all experienced exponential growth: when iPhone came out in 2007, it was the plaything for a small group of Apple fanatics. In less than 10 years, smartphones have elevated from a plaything of a few to the status water and air of everyone.
Some would argue that A.I. is where the iPhone was at 2007. Want to know what will happen when it follows the exponential growth pathway? This movie will provide you with a glimpse of the future.
2. Ex Machina (2015) - the Allure of Technologist to Play God
Imagine a modern Tony Stark -- an eccentric technologist-entrepreneur who builds a self-aware robot and recruits one of his employees to perform the Turing Test, only to find out that his creation not only possessed beauty and intelligence, but also deception, violence, and desire for self-preservation at all costs.
If Her is a fairytale with a harmless ending, Ex Machina is a thought-provoking dark tale of how the hubris of technologist can endanger humanity.
Stephan Hawking seems to agree. He said, the exponential growth of AI, left unchecked, could spell the end of the human race. Bill Gates and Elon Mask also concur, and they sponsored the creation of Future of Life, a non-profit organization to ensure that A.I. development will be beneficial to humanity.
3. Chappie (2015) - the Meaning of being Transhuman
Chappie is the weakest and least realistic of the three in terms of AI vision. Human-like robots are clumsy and cannot even fold laundry properly. However, it is the only movie that attempts to explain that ultimate rewards of A.I. - immortality by expanding the meaning of being human.
The story is set in Johannesburg in some future date, where a robotic police force is deployed to reduce crime. One of these robots, Chappie, becomes self-conscious through an experimental upgrade from Deon, the computer genius. Chappie grows from a baby to a kick-ass programmer in three days and saves dying Deon in a very unconventional way - by transferring Deon's consciousness into a new robotic body.
The Transhuman movement proposes fundamentally transforming death or humanity as we know it by technology. If the idea of being human can mean living without the flesh-and-bone body is controversial or plain bizarre for you, I urge you to watch this movie. You may decide that it's not such an outlandish idea after all.
Enjoy the summer and learn more about A.I. with these three movies