It sounds ideal – holographic wives can giggle, give you compliments and code a new computer game where necessary. Johansson’s voice provides a sultry backdrop to Theodore’s life in Her, able to chat and make jokes; a constant companion in his ears.
Real human relationships are hard. They are constantly shifting and evolving, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. We can be our best and worst selves with a partner, and over time, these highs and lows are the experiences that can either solidify your relationship or tear it apart. People are unpredictable. They can change into someone you might not even recognise any more.
Perhaps the appeal of having artificial intelligence as your most intimate partner is control. Hikari Azuma will always say what you want to hear and be forever young, cooped up in a glass cage (I won’t even get into the feminist dimensions of this). As well as sending cutesy text messages, she can control smart appliances such as the TV, lights, microwaves and robot vacuum cleaners. There will be no complications unless she becomes emotionally complex and goes HAL 9000 on you (“I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that”).
But it’s deeply disturbing that some men would prefer an AI woman programmed to love and obey them rather than taking a risk on a real-life relationship (which may, in part, explain why birth rates are falling). We are at risk of becoming like robots ourselves, isolated and distanced from other people because it’s easier than dealing with messy realities and hurt feelings.
A good human relationship is one of the highest ideals we can aspire to. But we know the statistics – many marriages end in divorce.
And yet, we hope. It takes bravery in the face of statistics to stand at an altar and pledge your lifelong love to one another. That’s why weddings are so beautiful: a brief moment when hope is more real than anything else.
And that sounds far more rewarding than marrying a soulless machine, even if it can turn a Shakespearean sonnet into a rap by Snoop Dogg.
Cherie Gilmour is a freelance writer.