Spike Jonze's film Her tells the story of a man  who falls in love with his computer - but  could it be more than science fiction?
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Women are confusing. Men are bastards. Most of us will have found ourselves expressing one of these opinions at some point in our lives, either over cups of tea, pints of beer or phone conversations punctuated by guttural sobbing. But our beef isn't really with one gender or the other; they're both as bad as each other. All relationship problems are ultimately caused by that most reprehensible of culprits, human beings; we seem to be designed to cause each other misery, our conflicting priorities colliding in a tense atmosphere of grim silence or screeching recrimination. "It doesn't make any sense," we'll say to our confidantes, who can ultimately do nothing other than nod and shrug in sympathy. Because relati-onships are baffling, and that's why we continue to write songs, poems, screenplays and indulgent blog posts about them. When we're single, when we're freed from the unfathomable logic problems associated with closeness and intimacy, we forget what it's like and we start to crave the thing that's been proven to cause deep confusion. Then, when we're back in a relationship, there's that moment of recall and realisation that leaves us shocked and bewildered. "Oh. Right, yes. I remember now. Oh, dear." Faced with the prospect of loneliness on one hand or the yo-yoing uncertainty of romance on the other, there might seem to be some wisdom in the idea of outsourcing one's emotional needs to a computer. After all, computers are resilient. If they can safely operate nuclear power plants then they can surely handle people being a bit needy from time to time. They could instil a bit of order, inject a bit of stability. Always be there when we need them. Help us through times of trouble with a selfless attitude and a hard- working central processing unit. Say the right things, and never say the wrong things. This winning combination of attributes, coupled with a fearsome intelligence, is what the character of Theodore Twombly is confronted with in Spike Jonze's new film, Her, when he buys and installs a copy of OS1, an intuitive computer operating system that names itself Samantha. He becomes disarmed by her inquisitive nature, sharp humour and alluring voice (provided by Scarlett Johansson). He knows deep down that the computer is merely programmed to be that way, but he can't help but be attracted to it. He ends up falling in love with an entity that's creative, caring and clever, but essentially just a stream of zeroes and ones. Romance involving humans and computers is relatively rare in contemporary fiction, but when it does occur the computer generally overcomes its functional boundaries, experiences something akin to emotion and then causes chaos when it realises that it won't be allowed to get married or have sex with anyone. From Agnes With Love, a Twilight Zone episode from the mid-1960s, sees Agnes (the computer) fall in love with its programmer; Kurt Vonnegut's short story EPICAC was about a computer who fell in love with the same woman its owner was pursuing – a storyline also used in the fondly remembered but rather ropey 1984 film Electric Dreams. But Her is different; it depicts mutual love between man and machine that, for some reason, feels multifaceted, amorous and profound. Just like the real thing. It's easy to watch the film, be superficially touched by the romantic tale but then dismiss it as a ludicrous fiction set in the distant future. However, technology is moving faster than we might imagine. It's predicted that within 15 years or so there'll be computers that have the processing power of the human brain, by which time Alan Turing's celebrated test to establish whether humans can tell the difference between computers Next
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