Regissør: Tonje Hessen Schei

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE / : The film draws us into a dark and fascinating field of research. But are we convinced that the development of artificial intelligence is beyond our control?


Director Tonje Hessen Schei has previously studied digital media addiction in children in the documentary Play Again (2010) and has provided an insight into autonomous weapons systems in Drone (2014). Based on this broad knowledge, she expands iHUMAN the perspective of a panorama of various trends in artificial intelligence (AI). Through a series of extraordinary statements and explanations from prominent experts, we witness the beginning of an avalanche of changes as our global network community is permeated by algorithms that dictate our existence.

Five years ago, Swedish-American programmer Max Tegmark wrote an article with Stephen Hawking, Frank Wilczek and Stuart Russell warning that movies where artificial intelligence takes over the world should not be rejected as pure fiction.

In the opening of iHUMAN The same Tegmark assures us that artificial intelligence is a historic game of chance: It can conceivably solve all our problems, but it can also lead to total disaster. The film is very much about the last possibility, since digital technology is already leading us into a new reality that we have so far associated with science fiction.


Swiss informant and engineer Jürgen Schmidhüber is willing to portray himself as an archetypal megalomaniac inventor. His civilized, yet somehow-amoral enthusiasm may seem like an eerie one déjà vu for those who know Anthony Hopkins' character from the TV series Westworld: Dr. Ford, the robot engineer who quietly plans the rebellion among his own creatures.

Schmidhüber plays with his cute child robot, a modern Pinocchio, in his alpine laboratory – and it feels imminent to dismiss him as a caricature of a distorted genius. But this man is no lone original; he is the father of modern artificial intelligence – the foremost in his field. We should therefore believe him when he says that we will soon instruct the robots as we teach something to a child, by showing them how something is done. "Once they have learned, they will perform their tasks flawlessly," he points out, smiling happily, "and then we will make a million copies of them."

What will people choose to teach them?

In a series of segments throughout the film, we meet Schmidhüber far up in the alps, as if he viewed human life from an elevated perspective while exploring his own visions of immortal silicone intelligence. He is only a human being and is content to see himself as a step on the path of a cosmic evolution, a means higher beings can use to create themselves. Artificial intelligence is not enough, we must also make one artificial curiosity, so the machines can learn from their own exploration and reprogram themselves.


From his minimalist home, KI developer Ilya Stuskever explains what development means, while strolling on the treadmill while working on the computer. He is convinced that the computers will not only outperform us in ordinary tasks, but that a general artificial intelligence (GKI) is on the way. Although the breakthrough is simply contingent on processor capacity, such a GKI will undoubtedly reprogram itself through advanced forms of machine learning.

The dystopian future, dominated by artificial intelligence, is clearly becoming
a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"Such intelligence," he explains with preoccupation, "could easily be capable of creating an infinitely stable dictatorship." .

Elements of such Orwellian future dystopia are shown as a reality from our own time later in the film. In China, the Muslim Uyghur population is subject to face scanners, constant surveillance and digital barriers. Such a unilateral war of information cuts off the access and ability of political participation, while giving the monitors access to intimate data and the ability to map the actions of the population.

algorithm man

We also meet Michal Kosinski, "the most controversial computer science researcher of our time," the man behind the algorithms used by Cambridge Analytica that helped Donald Trump win the US presidential election. By defining voters on the basis of psychological profiles based on data collected from social media, they could use voters' fears, interests and weaknesses to manipulate their voting behavior. His informed assessment of the situation? "We have to take on the uncomfortable fact that privacy is just a story – forever."

"We have to take on the unpleasant record that privacy is just a story – too
always. ”Michal Kosinski

Kosinski is currently working on face recognition programs that can with great precision distinguish between gays and heterosexuals – and he fantasizes about finding similar patterns for recognizing criminals. He insists that he explore the powers of artificial intelligence to help us stay one step ahead and take our precautions. Still – it sure is! – this data and algorithms can be misused.

As is so often the case with dystopian technology futurists, the dramatic warnings sound more like advertising.

The dangerous half-truth that is constantly repeated by the experts in the film – "it is impossible to stop this development" – should perhaps have been challenged more actively in the film. The dystopian future, dominated by artificial intelligence, is clearly becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Not even the program developers seem to have any belief that they are actually creating a miraculous divine power that can save us. Instead, they are plagued by a strong sense that it is an infamous demonic force they are releasing. So why do it?

Irresistible forces

The special science-fiction mood of the film is mixed with a clear-cut realism, and it is clear that the irresistible forces that drive the development of artificial intelligence are not in themselves very mysterious. The military and strategic benefits KI provides, cause intense competition and lead to secrecy at both national and international levels. The financial resources in the information market are turning media platforms into global intelligence agencies that spy on individuals. The business sector and the military are increasingly collaborating, as we see in the critical passages about Google's disputed Project Maven, which uses KI algorithms to teach drones to select human targets. In everyday life, above all, KI is used as a marketing tool: a clever manipulation we surrender to, so that we are increasingly subject to the dominance of artificial intelligence. At the end of the film, the KI genius Schmidhüber adds a decisive factor: You can try to stop the researchers, but they are simply too curious to tie up!

Despite all its criticism, the film also plays on our own curiosity, and lures us into a field of dark fascination with which it is difficult to get a clear understanding. Perhaps the fascination lies in the realization that this may be the most important story ever, and that the film, with its many and excellent sources, seizes a golden opportunity to make the story incredibly exciting. Excitement, we may have to remind ourselves, is something we experience in the face of forces that are stronger than ourselves – which we are tempted to challenge, but which can just as easily devour us.

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