Our relationship with the natural world.

What We Shouldn’t Learn from the Movie HER

Is it possible for people to have loving relations with operating systems? Read More

We have people in love with operating systems now

The concept of being in love with an operating system, or people who are acting like an operating system, isn't new.

Many marriages were based on the same concept. Since men held/hold much of the money and much of the power, it was often in the best interest of some women to marry a man that she may not actually love, respect or even like.(genders can be reversed here as well)

Anyone can tell people what they want to hear, and carry on a conversation where one's discussion partner feels loved, cherished and commiserated. But that doesn't mean people aren't lying and crafting conversations that will ultimately result in their gaining status, money, power, control or whatever they wish.

The difference between the movie, HER, and common occurrences in society is that in HER it's an operating system and in the real world its real human beings doing the same thing.

For example, I know a man that has a wife and family. This man is abrasive, egotistical and a narcissist. He constantly talk about his family, his family values and how important his children are to him. But in reality, he spends almost no time with his family at all. The man earns a great deal of money, and his wife enjoys not working and spending his money. During the rare times this man spends at home his wife and children will agree with the man and build up the man's already over-sized opinion of himself, but they consider this just the cost of doing business to keep the household running smoothly.

I love this comment

With an operating system you know what you are dealing with.

In marriage with two people the sadism often never ends for some people.

It is easy to fake it for decades to keep status quo.

Many people act to keep the façade of the marriage going.

I don't see a downside to the future of operating system relationships - the concept has been part and parcel of the human experience forever - less the technical operating system.

I think you underestimate the talents of programmers

Being an electrical engineer/computer guy, I see a few problems with your argument. First with the Chinese characters-in-a-room analogy, I don't expect the "computer", be it carbon or silicon-based, to ever know or be "conscious" of what the Chinese characters it's arranging "mean". Not anymore than I'd expect some random chunk of living brain tissue to be conscious. It's the program that runs on the computer that can *simulate* consciousness and self-awareness. But like the famous Touring test, once you get to the point where no human can be sure if he/she is conversing with a computer or another human being, it really doesn't matter at all if the computer is "truly conscious". It's as good as a human for all matters, be it playing Jeopardy or love.

Second is don't misunderestimate the power of geeks in large numbers with gobs of money behind them. Ten years ago the educated industry consensus is we were 30 years or more from practical machine language recognition or self-driving cars. They both arrived much faster than expected when new techniques of big-data bypassed the "let me teach you this one painfully detailed step at a time" programming method with "Watch these billion videos & you figure out how it's done". I see no reason that a similar approach couldn't have Scarlett/Samantha whispering in my ear within another ten years.

Thanks for being interesting enough to merit a response!

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Peter H. Kahn, Jr. is Professor of Psychology at the University of Washington and the author of Technological Nature: Adaptation and the Future of Human Life.


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