Glazing Over the Tech Doesn’t Make it Disappear

I think this article is a little bit forceful. I think that Her is incredible and puts forth a very different take on the future than the sci fi movies we’re used to. But If their goal was to make technology fall into the background while also not being that different from what we have today I think they got a little lost.

There are a few things I want to point out.

This first one is a little petty: 

“The skyscrapers in this futuristic Los Angeles haven’t turned into towering video billboards a la Blade Runner; they’re just buildings.”

I would say that many buildings today are more like the ones in blade runner (all biet scaled down a bit) that they are like the ones in Her. And I would imagine most people find that unfortunate. I think that this quote supports less their argument about how tech will blend into the background and more the idea the Her is an idealized concept of the future where — somehow — advertisement stopped being necessary, while Blade Runner looks at a future where advertising continues on it’s current trajectory.

This Is Important:

The article also glazes over the negative aspects of talking as a primary UI. Certainly there are a lot of time when voice is a great hands free UI, but there are other times where a mouse, or some other crazy future tangible interaction device will be incredibly superior. Her, conveniently, follows the story of a letter writer. Someone who’s job relies on capturing the words and the tones of his words and converting them into a faux handwritten letter. Of course the ideal UI is one that relies on voice. Now show me what the UI is for the architect creating those billboardless buildings. Please tell me its not the imaginary gestures that Amy Adams does in the side of her table as she navigates her UI while talking to Phoenix.

And then theres that! What do we do about mindless tasks? The article fails to mention that, while they’ve removed the ouse, these screens DO in fact require you to learn a non intuitive set of gestures to perform simple talks like navigating your file system while explaining the video you’re about to pull up.

I think that her does a great job of showing a lot of ways in which technology could be dissolved and melded into the day to day for a lot of things kind of. But not to the degree the article claims. There will always be technical jobs that require things to be technological. I also believe, that in a future where technology is advanced enough to fall into the background, there will be a need for a hell of a lot of developers. And what better way to create a ton of developers than to expose everyone to technology every day?  And to be honest, I think the Her future captures this, but doesn’t show the full picture because it doesn’t fit into the story they are focused on. I think the earpiece is more intrusive than this article lets on. And I think they the computer screens in the movie require a ton of learned skills that the article turns a blind eye to.

I conclude this post by repeating what the article says at the very beginning. This move is not about technology, it’s about the validity of relationships. They chose a character within a high tech world that intentionally avoids the invasive technological advancements in that world, so they could focus on the more intentional philosophical statements they were making about romance. Just because the movie doesn’t show the technology, doesn’t mean that technology isn’t as pervasive and apparent as it is in other futur portraits.


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