Spike Jonze’s society of the future feels disturbingly real, in part, because it plays out current trends of technological isolation already evident with mobile devices, gaming and Google Glass. Norvig thinks ethical questions surrounding companionship will become an issue before romantic love. “As we get a more elderly population and we need to take care of them, how much of that caretaking will shift off onto machines, and are they going to do as good a job?” he said. “And who gets the machine, and who gets the real person?” Today we already have Paro, the therapeutic seal robot, that has raised ethical questions about caring for the elderly.
Exploring personality amplification through technology is a key concept from the film for Wolfram. In the same way that various gadgets enhance our abilities—whether it’s finding our way around with a GPS or moving objects with machines—an AI might enable us to accomplish certain goals, just as Samantha nudged Theodore toward a book contract. “What could you achieve by having an emotional connection to a sophisticated, AI-like thing?” he said. “Can you be the best instance of what you intended to be?”
On the same token, can an AI-driven agenda aimed at personal improvement actually limit us? Since machines are generally better at predicting a little bit into the future than humans are, Wolfram sees a possibility of people following computer recommendations. “A funny view of the future is that everybody is going around looking at the sequence of auto-suggests,” he said. “And pretty soon the machines are in charge.”