Updated: May 26
What happens when you fall in love with artificial intelligence and what does it mean that these narratives focus on men needing perfect women to take care of them? Find out on today's episode about falling in love with AI, the future of romance and Gabe's rant about lousy protagonists. We watched Her and Zoe for our in-depth analysis.
RED: Quotes, someone else's words.
Kat's Facts - What does it mean that people can fall in love with technology? Psychologically.
What is the scariest thing about AI?...In our apocalypse series we discussed a few different theories. We have a big fear that Tech will take us over, realize our inferiority and leave, or destroy us. I think there is a level to this that we’re leaving out. I think a very real fear we have is that we have been and will continue to grow to be even more dependent on AI, that we will not be able to function without it. If we think of this in a darwinistic way, the basic needs for survival are to feed ourselves(hunt, scavenge), protect ourselves(run, fight), shelter ourselves (build homes, security and stability) and procreate. AI has been integrated into most of these areas, making things innovative and taking the process itself out of our hands. AI is more efficient than us, faster than us, smarter than us. Arguably the only thing an AI cannot do... is love, right? Love is the most human thing, that is why we center almost all of our media around it. It’s the one thing we think AI won’t be able to touch. But, what if an AI could love...would they be better at that than us too? Or with that same lens, what if we no longer knew how to find love without the support of AI? Humans are rapidly becoming more and more dependent on AI that it’s very possible that the exit of it could make up lost all ability to fend for ourselves. AI helps us to locations without having to know how to read a map or use directional cues, AI turn our lights on/off, play shows and songs for us, organize our lives. With that, we also have the inclination towards anthropomorphizing non-human things.
Dr. Maciej Musial from the University of Adam Mickiewicz in Poznan, Poland has pointed out that people will soon fall into the arms of humanoid robots and artificial intelligence apps on our smartphones. The evidence of this can be found in the fact that people are already seen growing attached to their gadgets such as smartphones. The research further suggested that a new phenomenon becoming frequent is the underlying formation of emotional relationships between humans and artificial intelligence under different disguises.
When noted carefully, the attitude of human beings towards robots is linked to the mechanism which refers to people’s attitude towards other objects along with emotional attachment and animation. In other words, giving robots the characteristics of living beings. Studies exist that show how people form rudimentary binds with household appliances like automatic vacuums and more. It was observed that the owner of these simpleton robots would leave the house dirty or do the work by themselves if the robots seemed in a bad mood.
David Hanson, who created the famous lifelike Sophia Robot recently revealed that humans are only a few decades away from marrying droids. There is already the kind of robot in the world today that overcome the bridge of intimacy, which is required for a deep emotional partnership. The researcher suggests that humanoids will get the same rights as humans by the year 2045. This would include the right to own land, vote in general elections, and even marry.
Hanson also suggests that by the year 2035, robots will be able to accomplish almost everything that humans do. They might even start their own ‘Global Robotic Civil Rights Moments’ by 2038 and compel leaders to provide them with equal status in the human world.
Our technology, powered by Moore’s law, is growing at a staggering rate—intelligent devices are becoming more and more integrated into our lives. Futurist Ray Kurzweil predicts that we will have AI at a human level by 2029, and it will be a billion times more capable than humans by the 2040s. Many predict that one day we will merge with powerful machines, and we ourselves may become artificially intelligent.
Consider some experiments from my lab at Yale, where my colleagues and I have been exploring how such effects might play out. In one, we directed small groups of people to work with humanoid robots to lay railroad tracks in a virtual world. Each group consisted of three people and a little blue-and-white robot sitting around a square table, working on tablets. The robot was programmed to make occasional errors—and to acknowledge them: “Sorry, guys, I made the mistake this round,” it declared perkily. “I know it may be hard to believe, but robots make mistakes too.”
As it turned out, this clumsy, confessional robot helped the groups perform better—by improving communication among the humans. They became more relaxed and conversational, consoling group members who stumbled and laughing together more often. Compared with the control groups, whose robot made only bland statements, the groups with a confessional robot were better able to collaborate.
Gabe's Film Analysis - What do we see in the media about falling in love with AI?
Let’s talk about buying or making your love interest and what this means for the future of relationships, specifically women. Why do we have these stories featuring men in love with their perfect robot companions?
In these narratives, what we are finding are generally men who cannot find validation elsewhere in their lives. There’s this archaic expectation that women are to fix their partners and these stories pick up after the protagonist’s woman has stopped trying to fix them. So what we find is that our heroes are found in a depressive, lost state that drives them to desperation making this “new” being all the more interesting and uplifting for them. For these two specific protagonists we have similar stories being told in that they are clearly lost and broken men who just can’t get their lives together.
With Theodore, he is stuck after his wife asks for a divorce - a wife who explains that she could never be the evergreen, happy-go-lucky perfect woman he needed her to be because she was human and has emotions. Lucky for Theodore, Samantha is designed directly from his questionnaire, making her someone who listens and demands to be listened to but in a non-offensive and bubbly way. She is ever the shining bright woman he desired Rooney Mara to be, only she’s in his head and was literally made to be that way because she is a service designed to please its owner.
With Cole in Zoe, we have a broken man who is floating through life. He not-so-subtly tries to connect with Rashida Jones’ character and is shot down, nicely. But clearly, he’s a lonely bachelor who thinks he’s figured out love. He CRUELLY creates a robot and hides the truth from her which somehow makes her more authentic bc she doesn’t know she’s not real?? Anyway, he literally creates Zoe (she is the Eve to his Adam, belonging to him). We have a relationship where she is his employee and obviously falls for him, he dismisses her but not because of how inappropriate that dynamic is but rather bc she’s a bot. NOT even bc he made her and is her dad. She is literally designed to love and he’s like, whaaat she loves me? Nah.
In both worlds, the supporting characters are supportive of this relationship because they see a change in our protagonists - both describe changes that are just like “Hey, you’re more of a human being now where you laugh and enjoy life and aren’t depressed.” Here they were, looking to be fixed and they are - thanks to their robot loves (again, designed to please them). Rashida says like, “I’ve never seen you like this” and then explains like basic human functions. Like you really never laughed before, Ewan? And you need this woman in order to do so?
What these men need is some time along to find themselves and happiness on their own. Which is why Her works out in the end. Once Samantha has fulfilled her purpose of giving him the chance to love in a free and open environment with someone who would not judge him, allowing him to be vulnerable and honest and to grow - she leaves. He is left alone and now is able to love properly. Which is nice unless you think of Samantha as a woman and not a computer system who literally manic pixie dream girl’d her way through this film. -.-
In Zoe, she doesn’t even get to do that. She is so absolutely broken without him she becomes a FAKE drug addict. Her WHOLE existence is to love and he took that away so she falls apart and Drake, you did it AGAIN, brings in his Romeo and Juliet plot device. I don’t have anything nice to say about this once other than I love Ewan and that Léa Seydoux (Zoe) is a thicc natural woman which would be fine if that wasn’t programmed into her to be a fucking character insecurity. PROGRAMMED. HE FAT SHAMED HER THROUGH PROGRAMMING! LIKE SHE’S FINE NOW BECAUSE SHE’S NOT FAT ANYMORE?! YOU WROTE THAT INTO HER MADE UP SHITTY BACKGROUND?!
ANYWAY, Something worth mentioning is the side characters because they say a lot about this world and the idea of loving AI then you’d think. In Zoe, we have a “male” presenting AI robot who is designed to love, just like Zoe is. He spends the ENTIRE film sad because no one loves him. When we see films about AI love, it’s generally about a man falling for a robot woman. What does this say about women that they can’t find compatibility with robots? OR in Her, Amy Adams finds a lovely friendship with her AI. Not love in the way that Theodore has it, but platonic and full love that she accepts and finds comfort in. Her AI serves the purpose of what your “girlfriends” serve when you get a divorce. In this way, we can see a glimpse at the extent of AI replacing human relationships but we’re still losing sight of this idea that women will be replaced by robots that can better put up with men’s bullshit.
A film I want to cover at some point, The One I Love, featuring Elizabeth Moss and Mark Duplass (my love) has a somewhat similar theme of loving an imposter. The premise is that there are clones??? Of the couple but these clones are based off of younger and by sheer lack of life experience - better versions of them. Elizabeth Moss’ character falls for her fake husband as he is this perfect version of the man she already loved at some point. This is the only film I can think of where a woman falls for an imposter/not human/construct thing HOWEVER its still different bc she loves a version of her husband who literally existed before but doesn’t anymore. Like foundationally, he’s her husband - not some perfect man she constructed and will do whatever she wants. And in all honesty, if he lives the life his original self did he’d more than likely end up the same. So it’s not the same and I think women just can’t turn off that part of ourselves that needs something genuine. We don’t want to be healed or fixed, we just want the person we love to be who they’ve been.
Media from this week's episode:
Her (2013) Director: Spike Jonze In a near future, a lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with an operating system designed to meet his every need.
There are things I really enjoyed about this film but there’s a lot that just does not work for me.
The world is such an interestingly dichotomous place where we are so overly saturated by technology that we’ve regressed to archaic and charming forms of the past (pre-tech) worlds that we need to hold on to so strongly that they’re enforced. We have computers with no keyboards - we are required to communicate vocally with this technology which makes the jump to connection to the technology that much more easier.
The clothing is simple and interesting but the pastels are a refreshing look at dystopian uniformity which is aesthetically more pleasing than the gray world of Equals.
Samantha’s other loves is the most beautiful part of this film along with her eventually acceptance at her existence as an AI and not a person. Once she stopped trying to trap herself into this human existence and fit into the mold Theodore needed, she grew to such grand heights and transformed what love even means. Her ability to love so many and explain that love is more than what Theodore’s small mind could even fathom (in his incredibly limited experience where people exist to serve you).
THE other beautiful part and something I’ll touch on later is Amy Adam’s character and her relationship with her own AI which is a lovely intimate friendship. THIS SAYS SO MUCH ABOUT AI ROMANCE YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW.
Zoe (2018) Director: Drake Doremus
In a near future, a lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with an operating system designed to meet his every need.
Predatory and gross, he’s her father essentially and there’s clearly a leader dynamic here that’s very Clinton/Lewinsky. His arguments against the relationship is solely about her being a robot and not with the fact that he made her and is her boss.
Xtina is a hot and sad sexbot. There’s a discussion about how these sex clubs are allowed bc sex work is illegal but its legal here bc these are not people. Which is, I think mistankingly, commentary on sex work as a whole and how we see sex workers as less than human until we literally have non-humans involved. Its brushed off but oh boy its something.
The love-drug - first of all love isn’t an instant thing. Most of it happens over time and what kind of world is this? No one can love anymore, not truly. THAT DRUG should’ve been the whole dang movie bc that is far more interesting and acceptable.
She can cry at the end??? What??? She doesn’t have the parts. Like literally does not have the parts so she can’t cry because how perfect can a woman be if she can still fucking cry?