Director: Chris Paine
Cast: James Barrat, Rana El Kaliouby, David Ferrucci
Watch Do You Trust This Computer? online in the UK: Amazon Prime Video
Do You Trust This Computer? It’s a question that we all increasingly have to answer, as we put more and more of our day-to-day lives into the digital ether. From social media profiles to shopping habits, websites and data companies know more and more about us, from the things we like to buy to things we like to watch. But how much do we think about the price of the convenience we get in exchange?
With Cambridge Analytica in the news just the tip of the iceberg, director Chris Paine’s prescient film couldn’t have come at a better time. Paine, who has a keen interest in the shifting technology landscape, previously directed Who Killed the Electric Car? and its follow-up, Revenge of the Electric Car. But while electric vehicles are becoming more mainstream, what would automated cars mean for society? Would they spell an end to traffic collisions? And – the question the movie is most interested in – what would happen, if they started to think for themselves?
It’s the kind of technophobic question that you might expect from your grandad – the fact that Do You Trust This Computer? begins with a clip from Terminator 2 gives you an idea of the film’ tone. But the string of experts that line up to contribute paint a persuasive, compelling picture of a cliff edge that we may well be heading to at an unwitting pace. From travel booking websites that calculate whether you’re the kind of person willing to spend 2 cents more on a flight to Google predicting what you’re searching for, AI has gradually evolved over the years from programming computers to behave in a set way to pattern recognition, so they can learn, recognise and pre-empt human actions. The use of technology in warfare, meanwhile, may be restricted in America, but as one commentator notes, once another country begins using automated machines to attack somewhere else, it’s only a matter of time until others follow suit.
It plays out like a behind-the-scenes featurette for an episode of Black Mirror, particularly after Season 4’s emphasis on the permanent nature of the online world – where a human dictator is mortal and will eventually die, a ruling computer would last forever.
One haunting sequence featuring a robotic starfish teach itself how to move – and then, without prompting, start scanning all the human faces around it, after they test removing one of its limbs – is worth tuning in for alone. The result is an eye-opening and thought-provoking watch, made all the more so by the fact that it’s not science fiction.
Marley & Me is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.