Elove: What Does Fiction Know?


By putting aside the question of authenticity for so-called intelligent machines, Turing undoubtedly opened the way to the great technological advancement made in Artificial Intelligence (AI). As we all know by now, passing the Turing test does not say anything about the intelligence of a machine but it says a lot about its capacity to simulate intelligence, and, to use Philip K. Dick’s expression, to bamboozle its user. We experience that simulated intelligence every day, even several times a day: searching Google, checking the latest news, being reminded of our next appointment…. We are sometimes amazed by the machine’s performance, a result of the work of enumerable algorithms on machines dispersed across the planet that do the “thinking” for us. We know perfectly well that we are dealing with a machine and that knowledge on our part does not impair in any way the performance of those machines. If Siri tells me that it is going to rain today, I believe her and I make sure I grab an umbrella on my way out the door. I take the information and literally, at least in this case, walk away with it, leaving Siri and all its “intelligence” behind me, until, of course, I need something else from her. There is always a “walking away” when it comes to these kinds of machines, even the most sophisticated among them, such as the one recently proposed by a start-up aimed at lawyers who could submit their cases to “virtual judges” capable of providing simulations of probable judicial decisions (Eudes). The lawyers walk away with the result and use it as guidance in counseling their clients.
What if, however, a machine starts to flirt with you, tells you that it loves you, that it misses you when you are away, that it desires you? This is the case with Samantha, the new operating system Theodore installs on his computer in the movie Her. Or when in an act of generosity and empathy, Hadaly, the android Villiers’ Edison makes for his friend Lord Ewald, tells Ewald that she is the cause of his suffering (191). In these amorous settings, there is no information, no intelligence, no umbrella, no action to be taken, and certainly no walking away. Philip K. Dick would say that the machine at the very least acknowledges your existence. A machine can pretend to be intelligent and we are more or less satisfied with that, and so we move on. But it is not the same when it comes to love. Artificial love is artificial and is therefore not love. It is more like a situation in which, for one reason or another, a person pretends to love you. When it comes to love, genuineness is, in other words, an end in itself. Remove the end in itself and you remove genuineness.

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