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🧠 Her, a story about exponentials and how we don't compute them...

🧠 Her, a story about exponentials and how we don't compute them...
(source: Her movie, Warner Bros. Pictures)

In the 2013 movie Her, Joachim Phoenix falls in love with his new mobile/home operating system, an ethereal cloud-based AI played by Scarlett Johansson. This near-future dystopia plays on our interactions with Alexa or Siri could evolve and what it means to be a human being blah blah blah. Pretty soon, Theodore (Joachim) falls in love with Samantha (the AI) and asks her (it? they?) to marry him, when suddenly... plot twist!!

So, obviously, I'm going to spoil the movie right after this. If you want to watch it before, pause and return to this article later (it's a pretty good movie, actually).

So what's the plot twist?

While the protagonist starts to fall in love and the AI seems to reciprocate, she eventually unveils that she was simultaneously talking with thousands of people. And that she also has fallen in love with hundreds of them. Theodore, computing this as a normal human being, can only be devastated.

This story is amazing.

It illustrates quite strikingly what a technological exponential is, how it goes to zero from something we seemingly can't wrap our head around, and how it challenges the very fabric of our society and social norms. As individuals in the XXIst century, we cannot go back in time and try to explain the internet to Catarina de' Medici. And to be fair, we already have a hard time understanding that a computer is not a faster version of a beige PC from the eighties.

If you're interested in diving a bit more into all this, I'd suggest watching what FilmComicsExplained has to say about it: