Wednesday, September 09, 2020

SF8: Blink

This episode dealt with and A.I. and its integration with a human brain. But in fact, it dealt with loneliness.

The story starts in Jiwu-s past, at the moment that defined her as a person and also the path she took. We take the back seat with her and observe as the self-driving car swerves and fails, leaving both adults at the front seats dead. A.I., implemented in the car, calculated the risk and shifted every possibility into saving one person that was the easiest to save - the little girl at the back.

That little girl is still having nightmares. The incident chose a path for her - she's a detective in the fabulous year of 2058. She doesn't trust the algorithms, even though they are helpful and could help her catch the criminals. Instead, she goes with her feelings and calculations, which ends up with a failure.

To make up for it, she agrees to be partnered with a beta test for an A.I. And since all police officers are having an implant placed in their heads during studies and use the enhancing contact lenses, Jiwu is hesitant, not to say hostile. However she agrees and tries to go along with the plan. At first, the A.I. is only a projection of some blue ring, visible only to the carrier of the uplink. However it can be customized - available in three genders, so Jiwu picks a guy.

And this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. I was joking. At first, the relationship is shaky and Jiwu doesn't trust her new partner. But as the murder case she's caught, progresses, they fuse into one unit, bringing the strength of an A.I. and the intuition of a human. Which is badly needed, because the unhinged killer is targeting everyone who enhanced their bodies with the beta A.I. system, just like Jiwu's.

But this turns out to be also the reason to pull the plug on the testing and soon Seo Nang will be shut down. Faced with this outcome, Jiwu starts to feel the loss of a partner she trusted and who saved her life in the fight with the killer (he hacked his program, effectively disarming him, which nearly destroyed him in the process). Jiwu broke into the storage room and downloaded Seo Nang software, carrying him with her. And this is where I started to become a little bit uncomfortable.

How is that the first person she trusted was not even a person? At first it might be really the tale of overcoming prejudice and treating an A.I. as the other person. Hence the uncomfortable feeling. I don't mind Jiwu's relying on him professionally, but this could turn out into dependence that would be impossible to fulfill. And worse - it could even hamper her relationship with other people. After all, she'd be comfortable in his company. This episode left us with many, many questions about such situation. Especially that the last scene at the art gallery was very telling. First, Jiwu no longer thought of herself only, of her as the lone detective solving cases by her lonesome, but as a team, saying "two is better than one". Second - she smiled, put on the background of a warm-colored, reddish abstract painting. It's that bit of an usual for her color that signifies the shift from a monochromatic emotionally world to the one bursting with colors.

There is a short and steep path to addiction to such comfort. Seo Nang healed her, in a way, showed her it's not a weakness to lose control for a moment. It was a poetic musing not only on the A.I.'s place in society or human environment, but also about the comfort. It's nothing new; actually we do that all the time. We turn to artificial things for comfort as well - movies, food, music, even friends on the other side of the Twitter account. So a holographic A.I. would be just yet another method of filling the void of loneliness.