Spike Jonze put a lot of thought into his most recent full-length film “Her.” After realizing that the focus of the film was people, not technology, he began to construct the film around this concept. While the film does revolve around the relationship of a man and his OS1 (a personable software device), its true purpose is to emphasize the concept of human relationships, especially in the age of technology.
Kyle Vanhemert speaks a lot about “Her” in regards to the growth of technology in his article “Why Her Will Dominate UI Design Even More Than Minority Report.” He emphasizes that the designers of the film felt that in the future, as technology becomes more developed, it will simply “dissolve into everyday life.” He then provided examples of how this is already beginning to take place.
Now let us talk about why we may be seeing this seamless transition of technology “dissolving into everyday life.” Psychology often speaks of a form of sensory adaptation called “habituation.” This is the concept that, once exposed to a certain stimulant for an extended period of time, one will eventually reach the point of no longer being aware of said stimulant. Say, for instance, you were to place a bracelet on your wrist. At first, you would feel its presence entirely (the weight on your wrist, the material rubbing against your skin), as it is a new sensation. However, as time proceeds, the feeling of the bracelet begins to diminish as your senses have adapted. Take the bracelet off though, and you will begin to sense its absence. In this context, it almost seems as if “Her” is predicting that the presence of technology is just a stimulant that we are adjusting to. Right now, we are in the process of habituating. “Her” predicts that, eventually, we are going to reach the point that, if we lose technology, we are really going to feel the loss as it will have been a vital part of our daily life.
The question at hand now is; should we still continue to pursue this enhancement in technology? Is it really good to let our sense adapt so much to the presence of technology that we become dependent on it for everything? Let us reflect back on “Her” for another moment to seek out an answer.
If the focus of the film “Her” was to emphasize interpersonal relationships, what does this mean about the impact of technology? We see in the film that both Theo and Amy have created some sort of intimate relationship with their OS after having lost some kind of human relationship. While the devices seemed to be aiding their growth emotionally, is that actually the proper solution? Technology is great, it aids us with so much, but why do we need it to be modeled like humans? What is the necessity behind creating a virtual connection when you can forge a real one?
Maybe I just do not understand this because I grew up predominantly away from the internet, but it just feels irrational to let us start to depend on technology to this much of an extent. There are some issues humans need to work through independently, and that cannot be done if one is constantly “online.”
Just think about how much time you have wasted on the internet just today. You could have been outside, you could have been exploring, you could have been making new friends, but instead you sat on your computer staring at facebook. However, as the internet has not completely embedded itself into our everyday life yet, maybe you did grab lunch with a friend or take a walk with your parents; something along those lines. Interpersonal relationships are still possible now, even with where we are technologically. Our current level of technology allows us to be digitally connected with our friends while still being able to be physically connected to them. Why replace this physical aspect with a friend you bought to serve you?
We learn from the real world and real experience, technology is here merely to expand our knowledge, not to provide it.
Written by: Maya Sicherer