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Listen to HAL from '2001' and Samantha from 'Her' Talk About Their Feelings

It could be a couple breaking up on the sidewalk outside your apartment window, or on a bench in the park.

Brian Anderson

Brian Anderson

It could be a couple breaking up on the sidewalk outside your apartment window, or on a bench in the park.

"What is your problem!?" the woman asks.

"This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it," the man explains, coldly.

It feels like something you shouldn't be listening to, a private conversation between two individuals at their most raw and exposed. But something is off.

"Are these feelings even real?" the woman asks. "Or are they just programming?"

It's that uncertainty around the realness of feelings that drives this mashup by Tillmann Ohm, who pulled original lines delivered by Samantha and HAL, the body-less, voice-based learning machines from Spike Jonze's Her (2013) and Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), respectively.

Over the course of the six-minute dialog, we come to understand that Samantha, the Scarlett Johansson-voiced companion operating system, feels her emotional complexity is made all the more real by the "overwhelming and sometimes hurtful process" of her learning algorithm, Ohm writes. Meanwhile HAL, the villainous AI, interprets Samantha's feelings as glitches in human programming and subsequently analyzes those malfunctions with chilling dominance.

This conflict between the two iconic AIs can only offer a Gordian Knot of awareness and misinterpretation that covers the spectrum of emotion—a rollercoaster of anger, self doubt, fear, forgiveness, humor, and acceptance. It says as much about the specter of superintelligence and consciousness in machines as it does about our own fleshy and emotional inputs and outputs. In the end, it's difficult to listen to because it's entirely human.

"This conversation can serve no purpose anymore," HAL intones toward the close of the conversation, confirming what we've known all along: men, even male-defining AI, are real assoles.