Movie review / ‘Machine’ (M)

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Machine  (M) ****

“MACHINE” is an information-rich, uncompromisingly-challenging Australian documentary with an international cast that includes some of the world’s brightest minds.

For 86 minutes, it examines the possibilities arising from information technology, for which the acronym is a synonym for that all-things-to-all-men little word, IT.  And IT’s cousin Artificial Intelligence or AI, which, beside being the acronym for artificially mechanising the reproduction of living organisms, now contemplates a future world where machines might be as smart as people. And, dare I say it, as emotionally flexible.

Fun stuff, eh? Just the right sort of movie for the silly season in which Christianity defers to Mercantilism in celebrating the winter solstice north of the equator and the summer solstice south. 

So what’s in it for us? Depends on when you were born. The more recently, the deeper the prospect of an unsustainable existence. And don’t say: “We can colonise other planets” because we haven’t yet found one that’s environmentally suitable.

Why is AI important? Because bright minds are working to design machines that can do what we’ve spent millennia developing in that 1500-gram part of our bodies which, if it stops, means we stop – even if our other essential organ keeps pumping oxygen-carrying blood through our bodies. Mechanising that one is now a medico/technological commonplace. I know; I’ve got one.

Does AI sound exciting? It should. Is it achievable? Ah. Well. The film shows that it’s possible, at humungous cost, to design, build and operate. Why?  Here’s the rub. In that long list of necessary achievements for surviving the existential crisis looming before mankind, where should developing a machine that thinks like humans rank? 

Mankind can be divided into two classes – optimistic about the future, pessimistic about even having a future. “Machine” the film displays that choice fairly bluntly. There is no crystal ball anywhere in the universe capable of answering it correctly.

At Dendy and Palace Electric

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Machine  (M)   ****
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Dougal Macdonald
“CityNews” film reviewer

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