HER: In love with an OS

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Evolutionary biologists tend to think of human feelings as a complex and evolved elaboration of animal instincts. Our powerful brains would have given us the possibility of developing cognitive nuances for specific physical and neurological activations shot by hormones; we just create a cultural narrative for those feelings, the same way we do with art, literature, religion…The romantic view of the human being as a semi-god of supernatural inspiration and genius, same as our capacity to love, is erased by neurologists who claim that almost everything in the brain is programmed in our genes somehow well before birth in order to survive to be able procreate. That includes feeling the way we do, even if we believe to be voluntarily in control of our behavior and destiny (see Gazzaniga 1998).

Spike Jonze’s film Her, recently released in Brazil as Ela, deals with a near future when computers’ and cell-phones’ Operative Systems are able to have understand feelings and learn from experience, adopting a specific personality and interacting in a natural way with human beings. His view is an aseptic dystopia where people stop having direct relationships with one another to find in digital mechanisms the solution to their emotional needs. A world with an ubiquitous presence of technology make up for an extremely individualistic society with everybody only interested in talking and not listening, egocentric personality traits recognizable nowadays and often strengthened due to social network websites, etc.

Other films such as Simone (2002) and Splice (2009) had already treated the theme of Pygmalion from a futuristic point of view, but they hadn’t gone so far as Her to go and dig into our deepest and most personal emotions related to loneliness and wish. Samantha, the OS bought by personal-letter writer Theodore, gets adapted to him in no time, creating strong bonds between themselves. An initially unbalanced relationship –she fulfilling all her needs, whether professional, intellectual, emotional or sexual- follows the pattern of a more ordinary one, with both of them alternatively suffering from jealousy and low self-esteem. The OS system wonders what is like to have a physical body, being mortal, grow, fall in love…and tries to compensate it finding another person who will become a corporeal intermediary between her and Theodore, starting a creative mute menage à trois mediated by earpieces controlled by the OS.

In one of the most thoughtful dialogues in the movie, which recalls Kubrick’s 2001, Samantha discusses with Theodore what’s the difference between her feelings and his, since she has been programmed for that the same way nature programmed him. The conversation goes even beyond when she states that every 2 seconds human beings as well as OSs become different entities, emerging the idea of the unstable identity of an individual along time.

Many philosophical and scientific issues to reflect about present in this “romantic” SF film (in the line of Mr. Nobody), with an impeccable and unrecognizable Joaquin Phoenix in the leading role and Scarlett Johansson’s voice as intelligent OS Samantha.

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