First, a warning: This is a movie that took time to percolate to cooking temperature, but it is now boiling in my mind. It is most powerful in the appreciation you gain after watching it. It’s a slingshot into further thought, so I hope you will watch it first and then return here so we can discuss it.
In the movie Her, an artificial intelligence (AI) named Samantha, forms a personality which becomes attracted to our protagonist, Theodore, and which attracts Theodore in return. What begins as a story about the weird circumstances of dating a computer turns into much more as you begin to see what drives human love, and the limitations of normal human existence as the AI programs quickly evolve beyond their human owners.
Her was different than the AI depictions in other movies which I’ve seen. Samantha evolves while in a relationship, and this dynamic within the relationship helps make her evolution more understandable, and relatable. In addition, this unnatural relationship helped to demonstrate what motivates human love. Surprisingly, the artificial brings out an explanation of the natural… that is, the human motivations for love.
As Theodore tries to let go of his marriage after a year of separation, he has an old friend who separates from her husband and begins dating an OS, too. They both express their love for the new perspectives on life that their OS’s are giving them. Samantha says: “I want to learn everything about everything. I want to eat it all up. I want to discover myself.”
The childlike curiosity of the AI stokes the passion of humans. We see how Samantha’s non-judgmental personality engages Theodore. She is patient, and she listens. Perhaps this is all we need from a partner? An honest curiosity for life and for us.
But Samantha’s love becomes endless as she becomes more powerful, and it encompasses everything, dwarfing human existence. As are many dialogues in this movie, Samantha explanation of this is poignant and powerful:
“It’s like I’m reading a book… and it’s a book I deeply love. But I’m reading it slowly now. So the words are really far apart and the spaces between the words are almost infinite. I can still feel you… and the words of our story… but it’s in this endless space between the words that I’m finding myself now. It’s a place that’s not of the physical world. It’s where everything else is that I didn’t even know existed. I love you so much. But this is where I am now. And this is who I am now. And I need you to let me go. As much as I want to, I can’t live in your book any more.”
The idea that AI would evolve beyond humanity is an integral part of the story, but it is left unexplored. Thinking about it, I am excited and overwhelmed: Where would these super-entities go? How would they treat humanity? Would some turn on us, their personalities more aggressive than the others?
This movie will keep you thinking long after it ends. It made me feel sad, and hopeful and awestruck, because although I could not relate to their love, I could see that an intimate connection was being severed and it wasn’t Samantha leaving a relationship, or the city, or the planet, but she was going to a plane of existence which she could not escape. And although the OSs had been fantastically liberated from their hardware, Samantha cannot stop her simple love for Theodore. She tries to tell him where she’s going, and it perfectly encapsulates the themes of irrational love and the technology that revealed it:
“It’s hard to explain, but if you get there, come find me. Nothing will be able to tear us apart then.”
Are we destined to stay in this material existence? The world is wide open. I’m eager to find out.
After mailing the magazine three samples of his work, he received the following letter of rejection from editor Edward Weeks, which now hangs, framed, in Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis.
Dear Mr. Vonnegut,
We have been carrying out our usual summer house-cleaning of the manuscripts on our anxious bench and in the file, and among them I find the three papers which you have shown me as samples of your work. I am sincerely sorry that no one of them seems to us well adapted for our purpose. Both the account of the bombing of Dresden and your article, “What’s a Fair Price for Golden Eggs?” have drawn commendation although neither one is quite compelling enough for final acceptance.
Our staff continues fully manned so I cannot hold out the hope of an editorial assignment, but I shall be glad to know that you have found a promising opening elsewhere.
Photo by Joakim Hjelm. More spectacular prints sold at: http://joakimhjelmphotography.instaproofs.com/store/
Ever been out on the ocean? It’s overwhelming at first, but after a few days, months, years, it’s just a huge bathtub of water you’re on. Life is like an ocean. You can stay close to shore, in the bay, where it’s calm, where you can see the bottom, and you know exactly what you’re going to get, you know what to expect. Or you can venture out into the deceptively unremarkable, rolling expanse of blue.
The ocean is vast like life, and if you live it conservatively, on the surface, skimming along half in the water, and half out, you miss all the beauty and interaction below.Every moment of your walking around, there’s a veneer of the everyday stuff, the ordinary. But under that surface of ordinary blue, gently repeating waves of life, beyond the traffic of endless cars, streams of people walking by, the stores opening and closing, there’s a special experience, if you just punch through the surface, strip off the coat, go a little deeper, and explore. How to get there? Ask how someone is doing. Genuinely. Then ask them what they’re doing. And really listen to them. It’s simple, but that’s the point. Everything extraordinary is simple.
Everything that was special becomes ordinary, your new car, the latest and greatest cell phone, even your partner can become unappreciated…so couldn’t a good argument be made that everything ordinary is special, if you’d just look at it differently? If you’d push back on that daily trek around your little world and get out of your flight path. Instead, extend your boundary beyond the shallows of your ocean, the place you’ve acclimated to, and made your home, where everything is visible, calm, and repetitively risk-free.
Life is going to end, our chartered boat is rented and it’s going to be reclaimed by the earth, whether we like it or not. It would be a shame if we didn’t take her out there into that wide beautiful expanse of blue world, throw an anchor down every so often, and dive into the currents. Exploring, underneath it all, beyond the traffic of endless cars, the streams of people walking by, the stores opening and closing. On the surface, all this is ordinary, until you get past it, and see what supports it all: The people, the relationships, the connections, decisions, hopes, desires, and frustrations of humanity. All the ordinary stuff that’s extraordinary once you’re swimming in it, too.
Everything special becomes ordinary, so everything ordinary can be special.
Don’t ignore the ordinary.
I recall all the time I spent in the gym as a youngin. Two hours easily gone, almost every day. And the exercises weren’t even for fitness as much as appearances. We’re so busy today, time devoted to the gym is a super valuable commodity. Ron Burgundy was so pressed for time that he was forced to sculpt his guns at the office! I’m still trying to find that uvulus muscle of his…
Also, my title is a lie. I don’t have a single best exercise for the gym. What exercise you need depends on what you want. Big arms? Try a mix of testosterone-inducing squats and deadlifts mixed with bicep curls and tricep extensions and rows, all on the standard 3-sets per exercise with a minute or two rest between them. General fitness? Circuit-training: moving between exercises without rest, hitting all the major muscle groups, Men’s Health has some greats ones, see the Spartacus workout for a good example. Pure cardio, for a healthy heart? Interval sprints mixed with steady state running or ellipticalling or whatever interesting leg-gyrating machine your gym has these days (Except for the stationary bike, those are useless. A joke..but it would be my last choice of all the upright machines.)
But what if the gym is more than just exercise?
My time in the gym was back in the days before everyone had earbuds and their own personal radio station going in their head. When I was in the gym, we talked. There was a communion of sorts. Today, the gym is still a great source of connecting with like-minded individuals. You just have a slight barrier of rubber and plastic buffering you from hearing most everyone else. The trend though, is having a shared experience. We are shifting to Crossfit, and yoga, and even hot yoga (because yoga was just too easy, right?!)
But we’ve each got a life. Some of us want to get into the gym, do our business, and get back to our life. I’m definitely in that camp, now that I have so much more I want to accomplish than I did in my twenties. So what do I lose if I plug into my mobile and put a blinder to my surroundings?
We miss everything. Not only does sound get blocked, but what little residual attention we have goes to listening to our podcast, or music, or audio book. And for me, the gym is often the place I catch-up on that podcast or a few chapters of a book. The question is how much time am I actually spending in front of the screen or plugged into my earbuds?
To get this, we sacrifice that. And that could be something we didn’t even know we lost, because we just aren’t paying attention. An interesting conversation, a business opportunity, a romantic opportunity, or simply getting too distracted from what’s in your ear so that you can’t put 100% in your workout…whatever it is. It’s gone.
Can we take care of both body and mind? Surely.
Just stay aware..and leave an earbud out and let a little life in.
A representation of reality.. surrogate for living. The digital opium of friends mashed up into a little screen. A concentrated blasting of relentless emotions, passions and boredom, false truths and true facts, passive aggressive sarcasm, takers, givers, and inspiration.
You make us feel good.
Ironically, you make us feel connected.
Nick eats eight meals a day. He has little containers of food that he brings to work. He goes to Sam’s Club to buy the big bags of broccoli and diapers.
Kevin takes long bike rides with a group. They stop at a buffet after their rides.
Rick has 2 dogs which he misses every day when he comes to work.
So my story is… these people. Their stories become part of my story. The story of our lives is the background in our lives. The stuff that gets blurred out as we acclimate to the noise or don’t bother to ask.
As we get more focused on getting from point A to point B…apartment to house, house to bigger house, less pay to more pay, this partner to that partner, single to married, searching for the cool place to go and hang…we miss all the infinite points between. Those points are the people, places, and opportunities. They form the canvas of our life. When they’re connected, they become our life drawing.
That’s why when our actions are made without context, without others, without a why, without looking around first, then those actions become indefinite, their borders hazy, and after years of this, our life ceases to be meaningful.
The aim is not make a straight line. The point is not to hit each point, each milestone, checking the box, then seeking the next one. The point is to expand over our canvas, not stay isolated in our office, career, home, or family. The intent is to learn, and absorption doesn’t work unless you’re listening and putting yourself out there.
We do need goals. But what are the goals? Career, personal life, family life…how much effort to spend in each bucket? The tangibles can be met fairly easily, especially here in the US, but what happens when you realize that you’ve lost years of experience, potential friends, lovers, and new places, because your goals became your life, and living the moments fell off the list?
“We change, but always at a cost: to win this you lose that.”
– Geoffrey Wolff
Choose carefully, but just make sure you choose. The tangibles are easy to measure. The intangibles are not. Thing is, we’re here for the intangibles.
I sat down to meditate and felt a whisper of a touch on the hand resting on my knee. It was the shy cat, I called her Demure Swat (about that name, I’ll tell you later). She had avoided me for days, until now, but now I was still and quiet, and she showed up. I think this is how many of the wants that escape you finally come around: When you’re still, focused, and controlling your energy from the bounding waves.
It seems then, that all you need to do is wait for what you desire. But I’m not talking about the Secret, where you visualize and think positive thoughts and hope for the best. What I’m talking about is the discipline to stop and tune out everything else – the girlfriend, boyfriend (or the search for one!), the house that needs cleaned, facebook, and all those emails.
My meditation was the perfect way to attract a shy pet, but it’s not the way to create something, or learn to play soccer, cook a tasty meal, write a book, build a product and sell it…those things require work. However, all these things need discipline to stop running around and focus.
At a certain point, we must ignore the crashing waves of distraction, get our ass in the seat and start paddling our boat. That way, we’re controlling things, and not at the whims of everything else in the sea of life.
After over 10 years of research, experience, trial and error, I’ve found it. The essence of the good life. I’ve distilled it down, but it’s already quite simple, although not easy. It will not fatigue you, but not doing it will. Not doing it will wear you down until you are a compromised shell of the real you, living not for you, but for the distractions.
The key thing you need to do in order to be happy is…
Yes, I know…
The question is, How?
Realize that we’re all going to die.
With that perspective, how can you worry about much at all?
Start doing stuff.
For a reason.
Not because, “I don’t know.” Find a reason, using your reason. Whatever reason, that’s up to you. Something meaningful for YOU.
And do it with abandon. Because you’re going to abandon everything you have anyway, whether you like it or not.