Jennifer Hsu, Video Producer, WNYC Interactive
Jennifer Hsu produces videos about news and culture for WNYC. She is the creator of the ongoing Know Your Neighbor video series of intimate portraits about living in New York City.
A video movie review, and musing on modern life from New Tech City host Manoush Zomorodi.
The very concept of Her, the new movie by Spike Jonze is unsettling, but it might also be prescient.
The New Republic calls the film, opening in wide release today, “The Scariest Movie of 2013” [the film opened in select cities last month] because it raises some hard questions about the implications of our increasingly intimate relationship with software.
Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore, a lonely guy who falls in love with his incredibly caring, funny, and sexy computer operating system. Who wouldn’t fall in love with her? Voiced by Scarlett Johansson, she is every female figure in his life (wife, lover, therapist, secretary) rolled into one. But she can be turned off. And has no ticking biological clock.“Are we becoming so disconnected from the tangible world that we’ll soon resort to virtual love?” mourned someone I spoke to outside the theater.
We already turn to technology to make us feel better. Why think about how much you have to do tomorrow when you can check Facebook? Why think hard about any news event when we can compete with pithy one-liners on Twitter? That’s how many of us interact emotionally with technology now. It’s a diversion, often subconsciously designed to repair our bad moods.
In Spike Jonze’s future, Theodore spends no time on social media. And his relationship with Samantha, his OS, becomes one of true, soul-searching, deep emotion, helping him reconsider everything about his life. Is that so bad?
Decades ago people questioned the authenticity of the feelings of someone on an anti-depressant. Was that joy, or even calm, “real?” In 2014, millions of people don’t question it. Or if they do, they’ve made a decision that feeling positive is the ultimate goal, no matter how they get there.
Maybe that’s how we will feel in the not-so-distant future: just glad that we can still have intense feelings and real joy. Even if the source is software.