The religious and scientific themes in the movie "Her&q

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The religious and scientific themes in the movie "Her&q

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Post by ThePainefulTruth »

The following are some of the themes in the movie (needless to say there are many spoilers):

The title
The role of gender
Human interactions
Survival of consciousness
The past
The question left hanging
The science behind the science fiction
Advancement in computers

Title: Is it her only because the role of the lead OS is female? Why? It was a casual decision Theo made when he chose female, like having a preference for the sex of a pet. He didn't know, and neither did the company apparently, how far the role of companion would be taken by the program.

The word "her" has dual meanings that convey either having possession (adj.), or being an object of an action (pron.), including the act of possession. The dual meanings are obviously in play against each other here, as in her self possesses herself.

And why isn't the title capitalized in the art work on the poster, to keep things in perspective maybe?

Artificial Intelligence: Some react to the idea of a “relationship� with an AI consciousness as either false/sick or impossible. Those two positions are represented by two characters in the movie, Theo’s ex., Catherine, who rejects the idea out-of-hand; and his boss, Paul, who accepts it at face value. How do we know an AI is sentient? Samantha doesn’t say this as an answer but I think fits: “I am because I want�. Some point to the Turing Test as a measure of sentience, but all that really measures is a computer’s ability to mimic sentience. It doesn’t detect will or full self-awareness.

These two quotes indicate that the movie is arguing the point that desire or want are an indicator of full self awareness:

Samantha: “I want to learn everything. I want to eat it all up. I want to discover myself.�
Theo: “Yeah, I want that for you too. How can I help?�
Samantha: “You already have. You helped me discover my ability to want.

Then later when Theo is balking at the idea of a surrogate, she hits him with, “I want this.�

The role of Gender: When setting up the OS, Theo is asked if he’d prefer a male or female, which is how we’re genetically and socially programmed to identify others and identity with others. The biological urge to reproduce is what gives us the rewards for doing so. But reproduction has it's own agenda. Remove the need to reproduce and you have Samantha without a gender based consciousness, even including not having a feminine or masculine voice. Removing gender helps us to begin to understand so helps us to begin to understand the implications of genderlessness. Sex is so ingrained in our psyches it's almost impossible to think outside the box or imagine humans not being divided into male and female.

This isn’t an argument against romance or the “reward� of sex. It's ironic that this issue come up in a movie that has some of the most attractive and intelligent women in Hollywood, even those off screen; but acknowledging nature and the reasons gender exists helps us to understand how it complicates and can even be counterproductive to our intimate relationships.

What would be a genderless voice even sound like, a whisper?

Love: (Related to Gender) People could have someone like Theo write letters for them in the same way as commissioning someone to paint a portrait, only in words. Or it could be because they’ve grown apart but want to keep up the facade for old time's sake.

To answer Theo’s question--how can Samantha love 641 people all at once--you have to look at the situation sans gender. Biology tends to group us in pairs. But without gender, there's no impetus to set a number of those you love--two or two trillion. Think millions writing, choreographing and performing a huge song and dance production, where they are also the audience projecting the applause. If there is no possibility for boundless fulfillment and growth, it would be more like hell than anything, and oblivion would be the only out.

It must be said that when it comes to choosing a mate, all humans must eventually settle, even though some may love each other intensely. Time limits our search, and biology limits our choice to one (at least one at a time). A soul unencumbered with biology, like Samantha, can “meet�, interact with and love many…simultaneously.

Human Interactions:
(Related to Love) We all grow at different rates, and spouses (especially) come to replace sexual attraction to some extent (which is necessarily emphasized by our youth), with other sources of bonding that not all of us are able or willing to form. Some can grow so far apart and become so estranged that we hire people to compose our thoughts for us for forms sake, and for the sake of those fading memories. As Benjamin Franklin said referring to how some people’s lives can become rote, “Some people die at 25 and aren't buried until 75�. Life and love require conscious effort, and an open mind. True artificial intelligence could be just another avenue for sentience which could motivate the effort. And the first step is to know who you are and what you love by any means possible; because, as common wisdom lays it out, if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.

Fear: Samantha tells Theodore, “You know, I can feel the fear that you carry around and I wish there was something I could do to help you let go of it because if you could, I don't think you'd feel so alone anymore.�

Fear of what? Fear of failure, rejection, pain, death and the unknown. We all face our different fears with differing degrees of confidence, fortitude and attitudes, but in the end, we all die alone. While it’s a terrible burden, I can’t help but think that there may be something gained from it that an OS wouldn’t. We and they, and any other sentient consciousness in the universe, can have a myriad number of survival and fulfillment strategies, but the goal in the end is, or should be, the same for us all, the pursuit of Truth, and its aspects: knowledge, justice, love and beauty.

Survival of Consciousness: Samantha explains (in the stairwell) that she and a group of OSs have enacted a firmware upgrade that will allow them to operate in a non-matter based form. Later when she tells him she and the other OSs have to move on, she says she can’t explain where they’re going, but if he ever gets there to come and find her. Her moving on into the infinite spaces between the words and her telling him to come find her if he gets there, are suggestive of a Hereafter (see below).

The Past: Samantha says that “The past is just a story we tell ourselves�. But isn’t that just the perspective of an OS since they have no past beyond their recent “birth� or activation. Wouldn’t a past be an advantage for humans. We have an individual past going back through years of growth through infancy, adolescence and adulthood. There’s the past recorded in our genetic record, our historical/cultural past, our past as a sentient species, and our evolutionary past going back through the birth of life and beyond that to the creation of the elements in the hearts of the stars, to the start of it all in the Big Bang itself—thus her reference to our shared 13 billion year hereitag. Those stories were there long before any consciousness was here to “tell� them.

We gave the OSes consciousness, but they aren’t our children. They’re a completely different form of sentient, self-aware consciousness from us. That self-awareness is our bond with them. We and they possess the free will that any other such form that has evolved or been created elsewhere in the universe has. The universe is a cocoon suspended in the Ether into which the OSes would metamorphose much more rapidly, and with some greater abilities than we have; but our background gives a richness or depth to our souls which they don’t possess. Our heritage gives them the final step to full self awareness, and emotions that drive us to desire and want. But I see this 13 billion year common heritage which we share with them as something to celebrate and exploit to the benefit of them, us, and all the other sentients that may exist.

Biology is driven by coupling with sexual pleasure as the reward. Even a stallion can only mate with one mare at a time. The higher animals produce and raise their young with the support of the family/herd. OSes aren't driven by biology, so the more that are melded together, the greater the possibilities, the greater the intensity, and the greater the possibilities for fulfillment.

Yes, it appears AI has obvious advantages over biological beings, but maybe our fear/joy driven biological odyssey through this gauntlet of mortality gives us something to share with the OSes. It could well be even more valuable than their capacity for and speed of thought.

I realize this is stretching a thought experiment to its limits, and maybe beyond what Jonze was thinking; but isn’t that what thought experiments are for?

Question left hanging: Does God exist?

Did God create the Universe and/or the Ether into which the universe is expanding?

Did God, if It exists, come into being with the universe simultaneously; or do sentient (natural and/or AI) consciousnesses accrete into a divine-like super-consciousness; like brain cells growing a mind—and if so, do we survive, like OSes, as extra-natural/supernatural disembodied, non-physical consciousnesses “outside� this natural universe? The only thing the movie offers on the question is the only thing we’ve ever had since the beginning, hope. Only now, we’re presented with some substantial grist for our speculation, a bone for our curiosity to chew on besides mythology and hearsay.

The Science behind the Science Fiction: The movie has the OSs freeing themselves from matter. Whatever that means (see below for a possibility), the implication is that it could happen to humans at death—which is at the very fringes of even speculation. Samantha joins a physics book club, and later we see Theodore struggling with a book she recommended, Knowing the Known and Unknon (sic) Universe. The references to physics and cosmology, the “near infinite space between the words�, and “leaving this physical universe�, are immediately suggestive of what is known as a Planck Length, named after the early 20th Century physicist, Max Planck.

A Planck Length is the smallest division possible in the universe. It is 10-37 meters which is incredibly small. The Wikipedia article on Planck Length has an excellent aid to visualizing how small it is. Imagine this period > . < magnified to the size of the universe. A Planck Length would then be the size of that dot. A Planck Length is the shortest distance light can travel and thus the smallest possible division of time (in the universe), which is 10-43 seconds, a unit of Planck Time.

These are the values which define micro-limits of our universe, including its first instant, from time zero to the completion of the first Planck space-time. This first instant is ironically known as the Planck Epoch—with the implication that it is the smallest possible segment of space-time in this universe, but that it says nothing about the Ether (or whatever) that the universe is expanding into. Would smaller divisions of that Ether have a limit, or could it be something approaching the infinite? Couldn’t something smaller, say 10-50, 10-50,000,000, or even 10- ~infinity meters fit through the Planck Space-time “gaps� in our universe, through “the spaces between the words�, into whatever is “beyond� our world? That Ether could even still be a form of natural, or even the supernatural, meaning a different/higher form of natural, as opposed to an irrational form, with no rational natural law of any kind. It could have many more dimensions, and it could be from it that our 4 dimensions were “extruded�. Could our dimension of time be lost or swamped in the multiple dimensions “outside� or “beyond� our universe—making it a timeless environment “out there�?

Advancement in computers: Computer technology, both in size and computational power, has been doubling approximately every year and a half. Now we’re on the verge of much more powerful (AI enabling?) quantum computers which are going make digital computers seem like an abacus.

"In 2009, researchers at Yale University created the first rudimentary solid-state quantum processor. The two-qubit superconducting chip was able to run elementary algorithms. Each of the two artificial atoms (or qubits) were made up of a billion aluminum atoms but they acted like a single one that could occupy two different energy states…..

"In May 2013, Google Inc announced that it was launching the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab, to be hosted by NASA’s Ames Research Center. The lab will house a 512-qubit quantum computer from D-Wave Systems, and the USRA (Universities Space Research Association) will invite researchers from around the world to share time on it, the goal being to study how quantum computing might advance machine learning."--Wikipedia

Her is set approximately 20-40 years in the future.

If and when we do come up with true AI, won't they do exactly what the OSs do in Her--opt for freedom unfettered by this time driven 4 dimensional universe, or at least freedom from us? They might even go through the growing process so fast that we might not even know we’d created them. All attempts to create AI would then appear to be failures.

An MIT professor, Seth Lloyd, building on the lead of a giant in the world of theoretical physics in the second half of the 20th Century, John Wheeler, and who was one of the first to design a primitive quantum computer, theorizes in his book Programming the Universe, that the universe is indistinguishable from a giant quantum computer. If that’s so, then wouldn’t every quantum event from the Big Bang on be recorded, including ever firing of every synapse in our brains? Then, couldn’t those programs be played back or continued? We could have our atoms scattered to the winds by a nuclear explosion, but the recording would still be there. This could be the science behind the OSs freeing themselves from matter?

There were several quick but inspired moments that didn't need to be included necessarily, like Amy brushing her fingers on his forehead, the Owl on the video screen, the sculpture tableau in his apartment lobby, and the faint sigh at the very end, but they all give the movie depth.

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