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"engaging, even-handed and erudite"

★★★½ STUFF 

- As Justin Krook’s engaging, even-handed and erudite documentary tells us, most of our knowledge and fears about artificial intelligence have been heavily influenced by science-fiction and pop culture.

Books, movies and television shows like I, RobotThe MatrixThe TerminatorWestworldHumans and Ex Machina have repeatedly warned us of the dangers of sentient digital beings. But while opening with the distressing sight of 18-time world Go champion Lee Sedol floundering against Google DeepMind’s AlphaGo in a 2016 challenge match broadcast around the globe, this very much aims to temper concerns and separate the fact from the fiction.

“It was 200 engineers versus a guy with a cup of coffee,” one commentator pithily describes how much the match was stacked against Sedol. 

Gathering together those on the cutting edge of theory and practical design from America, Europe and Asia, Krook (whose last doco I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead looked at DJ Steve Aoki) aims to assure us that while stunning advances are constantly being made, we are still some way off creating machines that are truly intelligent (“What can robots do well today? Wander around and clean up the floor,” muses one observer).

Fans of films like Cherry 2000Blade Runner and Her will delight in some of the topics covered here, while the ever-increasing debate over the rise of self-driving vehicles is well fleshed and thrashed out (including the suggestion that someday humans might be banned from driving in certain areas). Deep fakes and Facebook’s algorithms are explained, the case for and against autonomous warfare is presented and there’s a timely look at how virtual vacations, inspired by your own dreams, might work.

Animated sequences break-up the procession of talking heads, although most of those are well-chosen anyway, offering up witty and intelligent observations like: “If we’re going to build things, we’ve got to instil them with our values. Yes, that means, if they take over, it’s going to be horrible, but that is the truth with raising kids too.”

If you take anything away from Machine, it should be that empathy is what is going to save the world and that the future shouldn’t be something “we have to adapt to”, it should be the product of the decisions we are making today.

- James Croot, STUFF

MACHINE is now playing at Light House Cuba!


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