The second week of the Film Festival involved a selection of films that helped highlight my perception of Artificial Intelligence. I watched some links before the session and spent time with my pupils discussing the importance of technology and our relationship with our androids, tablets, and smartphones. The pupils agreed that their device was personal, not due to purchase but down to the phone case colours, wallpapers, ringtones and the many apps downloaded used to distinguish their phone from an identical model. Like our selection of cars with installed navigation systems, we connect through ubiquitous technology; some may even go as far as naming the individual device like a pet. However, it came up in conversation that it was down to preference and an extension of our personality. We choose the voice gender of our sat navs and how much our smartphone or device can support and achieve through our knowledge and ability to use the apps. However, films selected looked at the interaction between AI and humans, where a connection can evolve not on just a physical but also an emotional level. In advanced cases, the relationship may form and encounter understanding, emotion, negotiation and in some cases manipulation.
When looking at the different perspectives, the creation of the machine has importance and when the appearance is one that is both friendly and unthreatening our judgment and opinion seem to alter. Miller (2011) highlights that the body has significant and symbolic value. Through social contexts the identity is created but the tone of voice can have an affect regarding the personal connection between human and machine. Sterne (2006) notes that the auditory dimension is almost always left out but goes on to explain that sound can provide more information than the visual element. If the sound of Artificial Intelligence is almost human, there is less fear as the information is brought in a familiar connection. Thus, the dialogue and relationship between human and machine become a grey area. Emotions and boundaries are crossed and even romanticised. A monotonous voice generates a clear distinction between human and machine. The aesthetic look and purpose of the machine also come into play. If the machine is made to look human then is it to live amongst us or to serve us? Would they have rights and the freedom of choice? Can the machine feel emotion and physical joy or pain? If not, then what gives humans permission to abuse or play out roles which would be deemed inappropriate, degrading or abusive towards another human. The fact that the machine only replicates the body and mannerisms of a human does not entitle behaviour that is inhuman. Miller states that manipulating the basic building blocks of life creates concerns of ‘playing God’, replicating human life through machine brings questions of ethics, equality and grey areas in regard to legal legislations.
We need to understand the purpose of technology and how we can live in equilibrium; A place that technology and machine may be used to help better lives or entertain, but we do not lose sight of humanism. In a world where cyber culture takes us closer to AI, we need to keep boundaries. Like all things we grow attached to, we should understand their part and remind ourselves how to function and survive without technology. Then maybe AI would live among us like Gumdrop rather than try and outsmart or control us…….
Haraway, Donna (2007) A cyborg manifesto from Bell, David; Kennedy, Barbara M (eds), The cybercultures reader pp.34-65, London: Routledge. (e-reserve, pdf)
Miller, V. (2011) Chapter 9: The Body and Information Technology, in Understanding Digital Culture. London: Sage. (e-reserve, pdf)
Sterne, J (2006) The historiography of cyberculture, chapter 1 of Critical cyberculture studies. New York University Press. pp.17-28. (ebook)