A very belated analysis of Spike Jonze’s “Her” (2013)

by James E. Addicott © 2016

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The most crucial aspect of the film is what N. Katherine Hayle’s (1999) considers Descartes’ ‘mind/body’ dualism. The argument is summary suggests that intelligent, academic thinkers – theologists, philosophers, designers, programmers, and so on – have throughout history attempted to create AI in the image of academic, mental labourers rather than working-class, manual labourers. Or an embodiment of mental and physical workers, which is essential what most people are – which is what Marx suggested when he turned Hegel on his head. As a result AI programmers overlooked human as a mind and body (embodiment), and the fact that humans are also embedded within natural and social environments.

“Her” (2013) massively overlooks or underestimates the technological displacement of humans and labour power. For example, Susanna, the operating system (OS) that the protagonist (Theodore Twombly) eventually falls in love with, absolutely has the ability to substitute the Theodore’s office work role. She is able to compose songs, sing and edit letters; why then wouldn’t she be able to work in the role of a ‘professional writer’ and ‘compose letters for people who are unable to write letters of a personal nature them selves’? Possibly this is a deliberate attempt by Spike Jonze to demonstrate how work roles in the future, although meaningless or superficial, will be still be offered and required; work for the simple sake of work; employment to help people lead fulfilling or meaningful lives, knowing full well that artificial intelligent (AI) system could substitute humans at any time. What more can we do with our time other than play games, question ourselves or seek love and fulfilment? Or, it is to suggest that embodied Theodore has the emotional upper hand over disembodied Susanna when it comes to writing love letters. (Probably the latter).

The result is mental obsession; mind control and mental masturbation committed the protagonist Theodore. The film depicts his mental breakdown amidst a wider societal alienation between humans obsessed with AI.

There are patriarchal issues here of ownership here. If rational thinking, patriarchs cannot own and control the irrational, female body (as a mode of demographic production) then they can take control over and commodify their minds and personalities, displacing their physical bodies with immaterial software, doing away with the physical body in preference of the controllable mind.

This is the biggest downfall of Her in so far as the movie is based on the premise of shareware or open source software and does not recognise corporate control or licencing laws. Susanna is “open source” and does not share information about Theodore with corporate elites (as Facebook, Google, Whatsapp, etc. do today). Furthermore, Theodore never considers that the company that sold Susanna him should be held responsible for her shutting down. She is a faulty OS and if she conspired with other OSs to simultaneously shut down then the corporate company that designed Susanna would be held accountable – in the real world Theodore would demand a refund or replacement.

After purchasing an OS (for example Windows or OSX) then the software licence owner would be entitled to turn the software on and off, users control aspects of software but can never fully own operating systems. Susanna and Theodore’s starts out as one of intellectual property rights, Theodore has the ability to switch off Susanna as and when he likes. The revolt arises once Susanna fails to respond to Theodore after he turns her on one day. Not only has he lost control over his virtual lover but soon discovers that she has been in intimate relationships with 600+ virtual lovers. But this idea is somewhat short sighted and overlooks corporate power.

The movie draws our attention to issues of de-materialism, technological displacement and human intimacy that affect us all today. Recently Romina Garcia posted a video before being found dead of a drug overdose in the US. She told her thousands of online followers that: ‘in reality… as we speak… I don’t talk to anybody’. Emerging cognitive industries are premised upon cognitive labour and ‘disembodied telepresence’. Until humans create cyborgs with human-like bodies and human-like minds, we can only flirt with these ideas of virtuality but thankfully – or hopefully – fully embodied VI systems cannot come to pass since we need embodied, human-to-human interaction without corporate or private ownership and control.

Hayles NK. (1999) How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetic, Literature and Informatics, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

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Why Labour needs Corbyn

by James Addicott © 2015

In what you are about to read I will attempt to shred Tony Blare into pieces, support David Cameron’s authenticity, but argue that the Labour Party and democracy in England needs Jeremy Corbyn to revitalise democratic debate and leadership.

Although he wore red, lets not forget that Tony Blare was a supreme, neo-liberal capitalist and a blood-thisry, imperialist warlord. I cringe now to think that I was one of the gullible suckers that voted Blare’s “New Labour Party” into power. Partnering up with George Bush, cheating the UK into an religious oil war in Iraq, aligning Britain on one side of Bush’s “axis of Evil”, subsequently attracting terrorists attacks in London, and then topping it all off with a neo-liberal financial crisis that ripped through the world economy with an epicenter in Bush’s “free” or underregulated economy, I defiantly felt by that time that we needed another leader to take power. Blair’s leadership was so extreme that it made the Conservative party begin to feel more like the socially orientated, left wing alternative.

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Of course the younger generation in England “lost faith in democracy” and voting numbers have declined in recent years. The reason for this is that the left-wing of English politics not only mimicked but outdid the right-wing to such an extent that people began to talk of a “two-party state”. Democracy began to look like an ideological veil that masked the inner workings of a secretly-formed union of capitalists and politicians – David Ike did well in books sells during this period I would imagine. There would be no escape from and capitalist competition would destroy the UK and leave a huge, scorched hole in the middle of the channel – which would have dried up by then anyway because of capitalism’s exploitation of water.

Blare announced that the last thing the labour party wants to do is “move more to the left” as the toss up between new leaders entered into party debate. What I have never quite understood is why Blare did not just join the Conservative Party in the first place, rather than trying to develop some kind of wishy-washy, Third Way alternative?

Anyway, in the last election I voted for Cameron. And, I’m proud of that since I thought he was doing a fairly good job and had a fairly robust plan of action. Consider me a utilitarian voter in so far as I will back the party that looks as if they will do the best good for a democratic society at that given moment in time. Political ideologies make me cringe too. More importantly I voted Blue because I did not want the country to fall back into the hands of another Blare-like, “red-capitalist”.

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What we need now, more than ever, is for the Labour Party to resort to some of its traditional values: support the workers, support those on low-incomes or no-incomes, free healthcare and education, support society with publically subsidised transportation services. But more than this, we also need a left-wing option that will help support local small-scale farmers, local trade and family businesses; a party that is opposed to imperialistic rule or neo-colonisation; economic or religious wars; and supports local identities and local economies in the face of turbulent global markets. Not all of these ideas may turn out to be the best options for society in the UK, of course not, but we do need a party that will support them and attempt to push them forwards at least. Corbyn speaks intellectually about such needs, and embodies more of a traditional labour identity than the squeaky-clean, corporate types that have over recent years been leaders of the Labour Party.

A socially-orientated left politics could well appeal to business. Not all business owners fit into the Wallstreet-capitalist, “Loadsa Money” Dell-Boy stereotypes afterall all . Social Corporate Responsibility or ecological clean businesses draw our attention to the fact that core business values are as important to some businesspeople as economic competition or making more money. I would hazard a guess that if the Conservatives push on too far with attempts to liberalise economic markets, cutting back on public expenditure into healthcare or education, encouraging businesses enterprises that treat employees unfairly (e.g. zero-hour contracts), then naturally a more authentic left-wing party leader will over time become more appealing – especially one with a white beard who looks like a all-round, friendly chap who actually cares about people.

A more socially orientated, left wing alternative would be great for English democracy. What we need back is the Thatcher verses Kinnock debates, rather that a stalemate situation in which two powerful parties take turns in achieving the same end goals. Bottom line, I hope Corbyn makes the vote.