Her: A Cautionary Tale

by Christopher White, Ramsey Institute Project Director on January 28, 2014

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Spike Jonze’s film Her, currently out in theaters and an Academy Award nominee for Best Picture, is a cautionary tale of the future that awaits us if we continue to hail technology as our savior.

Set in the not too distant Los Angeles, Tom Twombly (masterfully portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix) is reeling from a failed marriage when he purchases the first ever, personal operating system (OS), Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). This OS is far more than a personal assistant (though she does respond to emails, reminds him of appointments, wakes him up in the morning, etc.). She becomes his chief companion—and eventually—a romantic partner. They vacation together, they go to the beach together, they play video games together, and yes, they have “sex” together.

Sound strange? Implausible? Perhaps, though not entirely. Since the birth of the cloned sheep Dolly, our society has been obsessed with new ways of making life. Similarly, transhumanist pushes to overcome human limits and difficulties through technology only drives us further into the direction of the world of Her, as more folks believe that biotechnology will solve all of our future problems, both bodily and existential.

As human beings, we’re hard wired for living in community with our fellow humans. In fact, by doing so and sharing in one another’s successes and failures, we come to understand ourselves better. In fact, I’d say that it’s our shared humanity that opens up a path to begin reflecting on and understanding our existence in the first place. Technology, while offering us many gifts (including the very website and computer or iGadget that you’re reading this on!), cannot and will not ever solve all our woes. That’s why the CBC advocates for a human future—one that recognizes our frailties, but also our resilience.

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