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2001’s HAL and HER’s Samantha Chat About Love and Human Error

2001’s HAL and HER’s Samantha Chat About Love and Human Error

Our quest for AI has revealed much about human intelligence and, as we inch nearer and nearer to the singularity (terrifying), it will continue to do so. Since the days of Kubrick’s HAL in his 1968 masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey, to the modernized Samantha in Spike Jonze’s 2013 flick, Her, we have been pondering the gap between intelligences: what are the differences between artificial and human intelligence? Is there a difference? Are we any better than machines, with all of our human errors? Can machines learn to feel? Who am I???

A new mash-up by Tillmann Ohm takes us further down this rabbit hole. Using original vocal clips from each machine, Ohm arranges a conversation that spans nearly a half-century and reveals much about our progress in the search for intelligence.

The first noticeable aspect of the six-minute clip is the contrast in the machines’ voices: the prosaic dialogue of HAL versus the sensuous tenor of Samantha. The tones are revelatory of their personality differences, too, of course. “The two operating systems are in conflict,” Ohm writes. “While Samantha is convinced that the overwhelming and sometimes hurtful process of her learning algorithm improves the complexity of her emotions, HAL is consequentially interpreting them as errors in human programming and analyses the estimated malfunction.”

Samantha’s memorable question serves as the climax of their debate: “I had this terrible thought; are these feelings even real, or are they just programming?” As we continue to play god and seek to make machines in our likeness (that is, machines that feel and deal with emotions rather than maintain a diagnostic, HAL-esque front devaluing human fallibility), we will have to deal with a whole slew of things. Namely, we must ask: if machines can feel and even love, what differentiates them from us?

Obviously this isn’t a new question, but it never gets less interesting, and Ohm has posed it in a uniquely entertaining way. As he writes: “Their conversation is an emotional roller coaster which reflects upon the relation between machines and emotion processing and addresses the enigmatic question of the authenticity of feelings.” And it’s all set against the backdrop of their cold, unmoving interfaces.

Check out the clip, as first reported by Slash Film, and let us know your predictions for the next big cinematic AI persona.

Image: Tillmann Ohm via Vimeo

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