'Her' Got Us Thinking. Can You Love -- Like, Really Love -- Your Technology?
What if Siri not only told you where the nearest Starbucks is located but also responded to your innermost feelings? And what if you started to like, or even love, this upgraded, more sophisticated version of Siri?
And what if that "what if" is not much of a "what if"?
Joaquin Phoenix's newest movie, Her, which opened in a handful of select theaters this week and will open more broadly in theaters across the country on Jan. 10., is about a man's love affair with his operating system -- an operating system that talks to him in a unbelievably seductive and soothing female voice. She jokes with him, she comforts him, she talks to him.
Wait? She? Maybe it is the proper pronoun here?
The idea at once seems far-off and other-worldly -- the purview of robots on Mars - and yet all too close at the same time.
Do you sleep with your smartphone? Do you long to get back to your computer at the end of a long day? How much of a leap is it to fall in love with a piece of technology?
The idea may make you uncomfortable. (I know it makes me crinkle up my nose and hunch up my shoulders and give my iPhone a sidelong glance.) But I think part of why the idea is so troubling is because it's not really that impossible.
When is the last time you looked up from your smartphone and found everyone looking down at their own? We take these smartphones -- these mini computers -- everywhere. And, if we aren't looking down at our mobile device, then perhaps we are wearing it.
Her is not the first time that a director has played with the idea of human beings becoming infatuated with computers. In 2002, Al Pacino starred in Simone, a movie about a film producer who creates a robotic woman to be his lead actress and fools her adoring fans into believing she's real. In the 1999, Robin Williams movie Bicentennial Man, a robot named Andrew begins to have his own feelings and emotions.
Ten years ago, though, those movies felt completely science fiction. The reason Her looks so compelling is because now, I can't really be sure that it is.
What do you think? Is it possible to fall in love with something that has no human heart? Leave a comment in the section below.
Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at Entrepreneur.com, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.