Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Smart People

We are all work in progress and everyone has his or her own demons to go through. One of the popular essay topics at school was: What  do you want to be when you grow up?I could not visualize how my life would turn out to be although I knew that I would like to see the world and be in possession of some knowledge about the world. So I read and try to absorb  as much information as I can. Sometimes there are so much to know that I find myself having information overloads. Very often there were stuff I used to know and since forgotten. It was as if I had to toss them out to make room for new sets of information.

I therefore tell myself that I cannot possibly learn about everything that has happened around the world and it is quite impossible to keep up with all the news around the globe. We were taught the virtues and values about how to be good and honest  people but as we grow older, we have to try to prevent ourselves from becoming cynics and bores. We have to find out for ourselves who we are and who we  shall be .

The world is evolving at such a great speed that it is exciting and yet it can be daunting. I feel that as we become more techno savvy, we become more and more  dependent on our electronic devices. Perhaps competence and efficiency are our priorities so much so that all we care  about  is being functional and in working order. However we must know how frustrating it is to speak to an automated answering machine that makes you work through the menu before you finally get to speak to a real person who may or may not be able to answer your queries. 

When my colleague at work showed me how Siri in iPhone worked, I joked and asked if the name Siri could be changed. My colleague typed, “ Can I change your name Siri?” Siri replied , “ No … I am Siri, Siri I shall remain.” My colleague typed, “ I want to change your name.” Again Siri replied, “ No. But really. I can’t imagine why you’d want to.”  Siri is indeed an intelligent personal assistant.
Tate Modern
When I first read about the new movie “Her”, I thought of Siri and the movie “ Robot and Frank” that I saw several months ago. Both “Her” and “Robot and Frank” are set in the near future. In Robot and Frank, Frank Weld lives alone and his children worry about his failing memory. His son buys him a walking and talking humanoid robot programmed to improve his physical and mental health. Frank was  a jewel thief and though he resents the robot initially, he warms up  to it when he can train the robot  to  restart his cat burglary career. It is a heart warming story with strong casts who deliver great performance. Theodore Twombly in “Her” writes beautiful letters for people who have difficulties expressing their feelings. He is going through a divorce and decides to purchase a new operating system that is designed to have the ability to learn and evolve like a human. Theodore soon begins a quirky romantic relationship with the artificial intelligence system that names itself ‘Samantha’.

Have we carried too far the concept of  being autonomous? “Her” has won the Golden Globe award for best screenplay, motion picture. It tells a tale about how  humans could resort to having a robot as a confidante  if the robot could adapt to your needs and available at any hour of the day. Are humans such emotionally challenged people that we prefer to communicate with artificial intelligence that can be switched on and off at our disposal? Perhaps I would welcome a robot that provides cleaning services and even a butler service. However the idea of communicating with a robot seems to suggest that we are only interested in conducting monologues because the robot is only a device where we channel our thoughts when they are said out aloud. As I write, the song ‘Lonely People'  by America comes to mind. 
Covent Garden

This is for all the lonely people
Thinking that life has passed them by
Don't give up until you drink from the silver cup
And ride that highway in the sky………” (lyrics from the song' Lonely People')

Interesting enough, I just read in the newspaper about how research has shown that texting could affect your posture and send you off track as you walk. When people are  wrapped up in texting on their mobile devices, their eyes are fixated on the phone and their heads in turn lock in with the rest of the body as it moves, they apparently walk a "robot walk". Perhaps soon humanoids will become more like humans as humans become more and more robotic. That is a scary thought.

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