Do you remember Her, the movie? It’s not that old, actually, it premiered just 8 years ago and it even got an Oscar for the best screenplay. This sad Sci-Fi romantic love story features Joaquin Phoenix falling in love with an AI virtual assistant, called Samantha, which is played (voiced?) by Scarlett Johansson. Between you and me, I would fall in love with Scarlett Johansson’s voice anytime too, but that’s another story.
My point is that this movie was considered Sci-Fi just 8 years ago. Today, we’re living in that world. Or an even more Sci-Fi world, if we take into account this type of news: This AI Uses Your Brain Activity to Create Fake Faces It Knows You’ll Find Attractive. If you’re curious, click away for the details, but if you want just the TLDR, here it is:
By using GANs (Generational Adversarial Networks) trained with what subjects deemed attractive, this AI model was able to generate faces that 87% of the subjects found attractive.
Read that again: the AI model was able to generate faces that 87% of the subjects found attractive.
Behold! And wait no more: the woman (or the man) of your dreams is finally here. Well, not right now, right here, but somewhere close, in the bits of an AI model, ready to generate her or his face whenever you’re ready. Or when you have the required cash. Or whatever it will be needed from you in order to actually render one.
This is still a new tech, but knowing how GANs work (I already wrote about how GANs can be used to try breaking the Bitcoin cryptography) I believe we’re not very far from creating not only a face, but also a psychological profile for an ideal partner. And, as the biological 3D printing advances, we may soon build living beings according to our current standards of beauty and attractiveness. If you think it is too early for printing living beings, please remember that Her, the movie, was considered Sci-Fi just 8 years ago.
One one side, I think this is beautiful. It really is. We live times in which we are able to actually put a face on our ideal match, on the loves of our lives, how wonderful is that? Human creativity at its best.
On another side, though, I think this is extremely dangerous. It promotes a hedonistic approach to life and makes us weak in front of the things (or persons, or situations) we don’t like. Or that we don’t agree with.
And, as unpleasant as they are, these things, these persons or situations, are very necessary in our lives. Not only to prepare us, to help us build muscle (because we advance by pushing through resistance, not by running away from it), but also to serve as contrast.
This is very subtle, but very important.
We can judge something as being beautiful only in contrast with something that we consider ugly. And in order to be able to make this judgement, we need to have some “ugly” references in our systems. If we keep seeing only “beautiful” things, slowly, the “ugly” references will fade away. We will have only “beautiful” things in our lives.
But when this happens, and we will have only beautiful people in our reference system, how do we know if they really are beautiful? If we can’t compare them with anything “ugly”, then how can we tell the difference? Not only will they lose their identity, because they will fit pre-conceived models of harmony, but the mere concepts of “beauty” and “ugliness” will fade away, and everything will be flat.
There’s another thing that is flat, and we don’t like it, and that’s the image of a heart rate in an ER room. Flat equals death.
Being able to experience “beautiful” things, or “beautiful” people, or “beautiful” situations, stems from the very ability to recognize, and accept, “ugliness”.
Alternatively, we can try to experience things just as they are, without hunting for an eternal, uninterrupted stream of beauty, or running away from the unpleasantness of ugliness. It might be a bumpy road, at times, but it certainly won’t be flat.