Al: Artificial Intelligence: His Love Is Real. But He Is Not

Steven Spielberg’s AI (Curtis, Harlan, Kennedy, Parkes, & Spielberg, 2001) offered a tantalizing view of an imminent future in which “mechas” play an increasingly significant role in the lives of people and, yet, are feared for their abilities to replace humanity. As one character, Gigolo Joe, notes, “They made us too smart, too quick, and too many. We are suffering for the mistakes they made because when the end comes, all that will be left… is us.” The film asks challenging questions of its audience (one of the reasons for its relatively low success as a moneymaker). Most intriguingly, can machines be taught to love—not merely to emulate the physical behaviour associated with the emotion, but to actually feel? Moreover, if machines can be trained or created to love humans, do we have a responsibility toward them? One can imagine no more harrowing way to play this quandary out than to introduce a mechanical child into a family that has lost a flesh-and-blood son. At what point does the machine cease to be a novelty or a pet and to become a family member? This challenge ties back to notions of technology as more than a set of inanimate objects, technology as more than an extension of human will, to the idea of technology as a reflection of the human soul.