Her, a movie written and directed by US director Spike Jonze, won the Oscar for Best Original screenplay. It explores the romantic relationship between a man and his computer’s operating system.
The story takes place in the near future where virtual assistants are a common aspect of daily life. One day, Theodore, the protagonist, purchases a new-generation operating system. The system, which calls itself Samantha, is on Theodore’s computer and his smartphone. He carries the latter around in his shirt pocket so that Smanthat’s camera-eye can peek out at the world.
Over time, Samantha learns and grows, discovering her own needs and desires and forming her own personality. Before long, Theodore is introducing her to others as his girlfriend.
The movie has captured people’s imagination. Can consciousness exist without a blood-and-flesh physical entity? Will Samantha-like artificial intelligence (AI) with human emotions be a reality some day?
Ray Kurzweil, the world’s leading AI visionary and Google’s director of engineering, predicts we could have Samantha-like girlfriends or boyfriends by 2029.
Kurzweil popularized the idea of “the Singularity” — the point in the future when humans merge with machines. When that time comes, machines will be so intelligent that they will make technology advance in a way we humans won’t be able to understand unless we connect our brains to machines.
In a post on his website, Kurzweil discussed the technological implications of Her. He said that Samantha would happen in 2029, “when the leap to human-level AI would be reasonably believable”.
Mars Cyrillo, executive director at technology company CI&T, echoes Kurzweil’s optimism in an article he wrote for VentureBeat.com:
“If we assume that everything that makes us human comes from our brains and our interactions with other brains and with our environment, there’s no reason to believe that, in the future, computers we build to simulate the brain wouldn’t exhibit human-like behavior.”
Cyrillo also shares Kurzweil’s belief that by 2045 we’ll have molecule-sized computers inside our bodies and brains, tasked with protecting our health and enhancing our cognitive powers. Our brains could connect to the cloud in order to get their abilities extended.
You might think it’s impossible for that to happen in just a couple of decades, but Cyrillo says we shouldn’t think linearly because our technology evolves exponentially.
“In 30 years, Apple managed to build a phone whose computational capacity is almost 200 million times more powerful than the first Macintosh,” Cyrillo wrote. “Projecting 30 years from now, the idea that we’ll have a molecule-sized computer, some billion times more powerful than the iPhone of today, isn’t as crazy as you may think.”
With the development of quantum computers and serious advances in neuroscience that are already happening, Cyrillo says he believes we’ll have examples of strong AI in less than 30 years, or at least AI agents that task themselves with learning all about our universe and its mysteries.