Just watched the movie "Her" on the plane. I was a bit reluctant to watch it at first because, as I expected, it makes me go in full philosophy mode within 15 minutes of the movie. Which is fine, but it's kind of a "been there, done that" thing.
This post contains light spoilers of the movie, though with some background in AI philosophy none of it will surprise you.
Anyways, the movie is about a future society where some company invents true hard AI and sells it as an OS, or more like a personal assistant.
First of all, I kind of love that small gadget that he carries throughout the movie. It's nice and slender, seems very simplistic but most of that is possible due to being voice controlled. I wonder how long the hinges last though, but that's a different story. I just liked the aesthetic of the device.
The movie displays a number of "future" technologies that feel spot on yet not that far away from now, except for the AI thing of course. And somebody has just GOT to build that bad mouthing kid ;) Ok, back to the point.
It's interesting to speculate, or philosophize, about what would happen to society when such a PA would spawn. On various levels obviously, so let me take a look at a few;
It's the center topic of the movie, but they don't really touch on what would happen to the number of inter-human relationships. Being able to chat with an intellectual and stop doing that at will is probably something that will appeal to many people. The movie demonstrates this brilliantly with the first "call-girl" scene (though that ended kind of weird? Meh, future :)). They don't really go deep into this with the AI but the power to turn off and ignore the AI at will is surely something that will appeal to many people, even if they won't immediately admit it.
Or what a "Groundhog day" cross-over? And in case you've never seen that classic or get the reference; what about being able to start over with a new AI when your current AI goes bad, haywire, or for whatever reason no longer pleases you? Just wipe and restart. Or even better, the movie doesn't touch this either, but what about making a copy of the AI before a hard choice. Go either way and save the copy that responded best to the choice.
And while many will not admit to it, some probably truthfully, the lack of physical affection may be something that can be overcome by the benefits of the relationship, or related opportunities. The "proxy body" (I forgot what they called it in the movie) is also very interesting. And before you think this is every mans dream, I'll be the first to say I'm absolutely in "his" camp and wouldn't easily say yes to it. But it's an interesting concept to completely give up control of your body to an AI to "be it". Sex with such an AI would at first be nothing short of regular phone sex. Obviously the sex industry would immediately dive into the market by building a whole range of AI-operable sex toys (let alone things with tactile feedback for the AI etc).
The AI itself has some interesting cases too. Many cases actually. Some important areas have been touched on by the movie. How the AI evolves rather rapidly. Being bored and wandering off when the owner is not communicating. Transcending human relationships because they're capable of doing many more things at the same time. Simply not understanding human relationships because they don't "get" the difference between monogamy and polygamy. Being super curious, of course. But there's also the ethic of "owning" an AI. Or erasing/destroying an AI. And once you think you've got the boundaries clear on AI's and accept that they are "like humans but without a body", how do these ideas relate to human beings that do have a body. And why is it any different? Owning an AI quickly becomes slavery, turning it off (temporarily) becomes gagging, not charging it is starving, etc. In the long run, not ethically accepted. Very long run. Oh and I'm not even going to touch on the Terminator angle when these AI's do get to transfer out :)
Public acceptance of relationships with AI's would take a while and depends on the availability of the AI. In the movie it seems instantly affordable to pretty much anyone. And while there's some obvious reluctance to admitting somebody had a relationship, many did and once the cat is out of the bag, acceptance grew. Of course this is just a movie and in reality there will be many groups, religious or otherwise, against such relationships. At first, anyways.
Oh and FTR I have a background in (C)AI and I strongly believe it's theoretically possible to create such an AI, however I don't think I'll live to see that ever happening. And when it happens, I'm pretty sure that the first generations will not be believed to actually have true emotions or anything like that, even if they would. The majority of the people will still think they are programmed. This is not the first nor last time I've given this subject some deep thoughts :)
By the way, just imagine how much difference the voice makes, despite an AI being asexual! I'm guessing any person would accept an AI relationship faster if it used a voice (of the gender) that this person felt attracted to.
Somebody kickstart that pocket device already.