It’s not often you see a documentary about emergent technology and come away feeling comforted.

One of my old uni lecturers said, “I’m not really worried about AI. Because all a computer can do is add 2 numbers, subtract 2 numbers, multiply and divide 2 numbers, and decide which one is larger or smaller.” That proves decidedly prescient given the subjects covered in Machine.

Machine is a sort of setting to rights by robotisicist and AI specialists on the capacity and limitations of AI. The good news about AI is, a lot of it’s shite, so we’re not all gonna be replaced by androids just yet. The bad news is our problem isn’t AI, it’s capitalism, the state, patriarchy and racism. So yeah, there’s that.

The kind of point of Machine is to say that the future of AI is not a technological problem, it’s a philosophical problem. And the problem with us getting good or bad results from AI, is down to the fact that we don’t really understand ourselves or know what we want. In fact, at basics, the trouble with replicating human thought, is we don’t really understand how humans think. It’s Dostoyevsky’s problem with creating a sane society for an insane species flung into a technological future.

In short, people say what they want, then don’t want it. Best example is the driverless car trolley problem. People say that a driverless car should swerve to avoid injuring a group of pedestrians, even at the sacrafice of the safety of the driver. When asked if they would drive such a car, they’re like, “Fuck no!” How can a technology be developed to serve such a contradictory customer base?

An interesting conversation starter. Give it a watch if it pops up on Netflix, which I suspect it will.