27 de diciembre de 2018

Sofía Estévez

Please, let them stay in fiction

Sofía Estévez

Please, let them stay in fiction

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Please, let them stay in fiction

He lay alone on his double bed at night without falling asleep. The bedside light comes on and the headset is put on to answer. There have been few nights that we have interrupted the dream for a message or notification. The scene has little science fiction, if the call was not from an operating system that he had begun to have a relationship with, it would have been normal. I felt fear and sadness when I watched the movie Her.

When I saw her leave a body in the movie it reminded me of a similar scene I imagined after some chapters of the Black mirror… I hope it’s just fiction because I see it becoming a reality. It is a tone that has become common in many of the science fiction productions of recent years, in which what is presented are not very distant or catastrophic scenarios. There are no mass exoduses due to climate crises, epidemics or food shortages. They are not biochemical wars or nations that come together to defend themselves from extraterrestrials. They are personal and intimate crises related to the use of technology. Bearing in mind that artificial intelligence in our daily life is becoming a reality, it seems logical to speculate on the emotional impact this could cause in our minds. This is not a speculation about the progress related to more efficient production, the automation of productive processes, or the liberation of man from work. It presents a whole range of hypotheses about emotional development, the evolution of what we understand as intimacy and individuality.

In Her, the fact that a human being has a romantic relationship or deep friendship with his operating system is normalized. This is something that is first kept behind closed doors but ends up being known to the public, it is never seen as madness even after it’s revealed. What is happening in a society where artificial intelligence becomes an option to relate with, share experiences and even fall in love?

The movie opens with a close-up of Theodore, the protagonist, saying some tremendously romantic and emotional words. But all the thrill that surrounded his words breaks when he says «print». Theodore is dedicated to writing letters for other people. Although it sounds like a romantic profession that adds poetic to the subject. It seems more like a purely professional relationship; while he dictates the letters she dedicates herself to writing them. He has his schedule, his desk and his coworkers; write letters in a cubicle just like an accountant or an office worker. These letters are printed to look like they were handwritten and sent in envelopes in a way that you would not suspect that they are the product of a company.

His work requires creativity and emotional capacity, his mission is to transfer that emotional dimension, which probably (so far) no operating system or artificial intelligence, has been able to contribute. That is, turn into business an intimate relationship, words of love or gratitude to your loved ones, but simulating, yes, they are real and personal.

A common denominator in these technologies that are proposed for the future, is the human component. In a hyper-tech world, it seems that what we still want to consume the emotional contact in the background, we want to make more bearable the loneliness that could never be covered by an application or operating system. All this, we desire from a simulated human interface Technology is becoming more intuitive and we are little by little, assimilating it to our daily lives. Interfaces now have a more human organic and less digital appearance, hiding more and more the base of its operation. While this occurs humans are turning themselves to robots, we have become profiles, hashtags, classifiable and orderly labels, trying to make ourselves an attractive product for others to follow and consume, being ourselves products and marketers.

Here lies the profound sadness of these stories: in the process in which we dehumanize ourselves as an object of consumption, the need to return to real physical contact becomes more pressing. Maybe it’s too late: first we dedicate ourselves to cognitive works, serving love and affection, until an operating system arrives that even substitutes us in that.

So as much as I wonder to see these science fiction stories on screen, please let them stay in fiction.

CAT —

Que es quedi en ficció, si us plau

Ell està sol al seu llit de matrimoni, és de nit, no pot dormir. S’encén la llum de la tauleta i es posa l’auricular per respondre. No han estat poques les nits que hem interromput el somni per un missatge o alguna notificació que esperàvem. L’escena poc té de ciència ficció, si no fos perquè era una trucada del sistema operatiu amb la qual començava a tenir una relació. D’aquí la por-tristesa que em va despertar Her (2014).

Em va semblar que en veure-la em deixava desinflada, tant de bo sigui només ficció! És quelcom comú en moltes de les produccions de ciència ficció dels últims anys. Pel.lícules on no es plantegen èxodes massius per crisis climàtiques, epidèmies o escassetat d’aliment; ni guerres bioquímiques; ni nacions que s’uneixen per defensar-se dels extraterrestres. Són crisis personals i íntimes relacionades amb l’ús de la Intel.ligència Artificial. Aquesta no és una especulació sobre el progrés relacionat amb una producció més eficient, l’automatització de processos productius, ni amb l’alliberament de l’home respecte a la feina. Presenta tot un ventall d’hipòtesis sobre el desenvolupament emocional, de l’evolució del que entenem per intimitat i com aquesta es transforma en una mercaderia.

Theodore, el protagonista, es dedica a escriure cartes romàntiques d’altres persones, gent que no coneix, clients de l’empresa per la qual treballa. Té el seu horari, el seu escriptori i els seus companys de treball; escriu cartes en un context igual que un comptable o un oficinista qualsevol. Dicta les cartes al seu ordinador, les imprimeix simulant estar fetes a mà, i les envia en sobres dels quals no sospitaries que són producte d’una empresa. La seva missió és la d’aportar aquesta dimensió emocional, que probablement (fins al moment) cap sistema operatiu, ha pogut aportar. És a dir, converteixen en negoci unes paraules d’amor o agraïment als teus éssers estimats, sempre acompanyat d’un estil handmade artificial.

El que sembla un denominador comú en aquestes tecnologies que es plantegen com futures, és el component humà. En un món híper-tecnificat, sembla que el que encara volem consumir en el fons, és el contacte emocional. Tot això, sempre amb una interfície simuladament humana i propera Quan l’essencial per viure ja ho fa un robot, ens convertim en perfils, hashtags, etiquetes classificables i ordenables, intentant fer de nosaltres mateixos un producte atractiu perquè altres el segueixin i consumeixin, essent nosaltres mateixos producte i directors de màrqueting. Aquí rau per a mi la tristesa tan profunda d’aquestes històries: en aquest procés en què ens deshumanitzem convertint-nos en objecte de consum, s’aguditza la necessitat de tornar a contactes reals, però potser ja és massa tard: primer ens dediquem a treballs cognitius servint amor i afecte, fins que arriba un sistema operatiu que fins i tot ens substitueix en això.

Així que per més que em meravelli veure aquestes històries de ciència ficció en pantalla, per favor, que es quedin en ficcions.