I saw AI today when the question "What 1994 Academy Award winning movie did Haley Joel Osment have a minor role in, and what was his character's name?" was asked in a contest at work. The first 50 correct answers would get a free ticket to the matinee at Cinerama, the largest and best sounding screen in Seattle. With the swift help of imdb.com, I had the answer in no time flat, and then there I was, snug in my extra springy chair, turning down popcorn buckets of all sizes from all neighbors, anxious to see this new film, but even more anxious to be freed from the chains of work at this early hour on a nice Friday afternoon, when I could get no work done anyway.
I have a couple gripes with the genre of Science Fiction. First, it is ruled by nerds. Second, there is too much of a nostalgic flavor to old science fiction, the kind that new science fiction has to address, or else fail to live up to, by either mimicking old ideas, or trying to outdo. But Science Fiction makers of the work will never be able to outdo the collective nostalgence of the nerd world. That's a small gripe, and not clearly articulated. Moving on.
Gripe #2: Our vision of the future is getting horribly old. One cannot even think of the future without conjuring up memories and echoes of Mad Max, Terminator, the post-apocalyptic world of Blade Runner, rusty pipes, flames spewing from oil pits, perhaps the ocean has welled up and taken over the cities, perhaps the people live underground due to the pollution, perhaps robots have taken over because us human weeds have outdone even ourselves in our own cleverness by creating beings that are more interesting and more cunning than even ourselves, perhaps the cars look like bubbles, perhaps everyone is in identical uniforms, perhaps the food comes in pills, get over it, this vision is boring boring boring, let's think of something other than unpainted metal structures and crumbling statues, and imagine just for once that we'll be able to sustain this horrible present moment of politics, oppression, the rich the poor, a wide variety of life experiences, etc. Imagine that we still have paint to paint our buildings, still have the energy and will to wake up in the morning without having to talk to a hologram or swallow a few pills as our breakfast. That's all I'm saying. I'm no expert in the future, but we've had 20+ years to think of something new, or at least different, and why is it that we just can't.
Gripe #3: What's the big deal with robots gaining emotions? Do we really think that the one thing that is most animalistic in us, our emotions, is the most valuable and difficult code to crack? Why are we so prejudiced against robots with no emotions, why do we uphold this wonderful superior vision of ourselves over anything that isn't clouded by the daily rise and fall of chemical balances and selfish desires? We are so sick. We have serious problems. Haven't advertisers and marketers turned our emotions into our weakness, effecting us with color and sound and the transposition of different elements, forcing us to feel like we're friends with their product, forcing us to feel admiration towards those who sport their apparrel, wave their flag? Don't babies come first and foremost with the desire to have, and the anger the necessarily accompanies their disappointment? Isn't love more often than not merely a feeling of softness for something that gives you what you want it to give you, and who seems to enjoy giving that to you? Isn't hate merely the hard and cold feeling for something that does not give you what you want it to give you, and seems to enjoy not giving it to you? If anything, emotions should be easy to mimic. There's got to be a simple algorithm, at least much simpler than intellegence itself.
I hate how much humans love their humanity. They love the fact that we can control anything, that we're masterpieces of our own making, that we are so amazing we can't even conceive it. Am I just a cynic?
Despite these gripes, I still liked the film. All the reviews that you will read about it are true. It's not an easy movie to like, I might even argue that it's not a movie designed to be likeable. It's a cold movie, pretty sterile, pretty slow moving, and you'll leave it with a heavy bladder and a headache. And the light of day will be sort of unpleasant and the walk home will make you feel more tired than you've felt in a while. But I liked it just because it was so difficult. The story doesn't quite work, ends too many times, has bits and pieces that are seemingly unfinished, but when you're off of work early, you're willing to give even this movie the benefit of the doubt, mostly because you just want to die anyway and there's no harm in liking something like this. Keep moving.