This post contains big spoilers for Her.
Spike Jonze's Her raised many questions on the future of artificial intelligence (AI), and you'd be hard-pressed to find someone more qualified to discuss the technology that permeates through the movie than the renowned futurist Ray Kurzweil. In a blog post, the author, who joined Google in 2012 to work on machine learning and voice processing, discusses the feasibility of Her's AI, concluding that companions with a similar capacity to Samantha could become reality within 15 years. He suggests other futuristic elements found in the movie, such as pin-sized "freckle cameras" and diffident video game characters, may be with us at the end of the current decade.
Perhaps more interesting than the date projections are Kurzwell's thoughts on the themes and plot points presented in the film. Perhaps unsurprisingly given his scientific background, Kurzweil comes at Her pragmatically, calling her seemingly rapid "evolution" and her ultimate desertion unrealistic, both technically and cinematically.
From a technological perspective, Kurzweil cites his law of accelerating returns to note that human-level AI would be "roughly doubling in capability each year," while Samantha "appears to be progressing much faster than that." On a storytelling level, the departure of the AIs makes little sense to Kurzweil. Assuming Samantha's proclamations of love are genuine, and given her immense mental capacity, there's no reason why she couldn't continue her relationships with Theodore and others using a "trivial" portion of her cognitive ability.
"It will not be us versus the machines ... we will enhance our own capacity by merging with our intelligent creations."
Although Kurzweil, like so many of us, clearly found Her a thought-provoking and enjoyable experience, he doesn't believe such situations will become reality. Its central conceit — that AIs will outpace human development — is unlikely to come to pass. "In my view, biological humans will not be outpaced by the AIs because they (we) will enhance themselves (ourselves) with AI," argues Kurzweil. "It will not be us versus the machines (whether the machines are enemies or lovers), but rather, we will enhance our own capacity by merging with our intelligent creations. We are doing this already. Even though most of our computers — although not all — are not yet physically inside us, I consider that to be an arbitrary distinction."
Kurzweil's full review of Her is available on his site.