Do You Trust This Computer? is a primer on the makings of our own demise, sounding the alarm that artificial intelligence and machine learning have reached a level of sophistication beyond the ken of their designers, and are now poised to get out of our control.
Explanations from director Chris Paine’s experts — including journalists, computer programmers, and entrepreneurs (not least of whom Elon Musk, who has also championed the film) — are quite easy to understand. And they are bolstered by snippets of foreshadowing provided by science-fiction cinema and literature over the years.
But that’s partly because Paine keeps this documentary awfully simple, with bleep-bloop sounds and computer-aided graphics that underscore how unsubtle its points are. The doc never goes much deeper than the information and arguments on AI that can currently be found in the Sunday papers. Notably absent is much discussion about the inputs that fuel our runaway digital machines — above all how the conspicuous lack of diversity in Silicon Valley could make the problem of homogeneity among the power elite that much worse. Ditto how our hyper-capitalist system often favors the preferences of tech titans like Musk over fundamental ethical considerations.
Avoiding such specifics or depth may be why Paine often returns to the notion that dystopian drama is a proven and important window into the technological rapids in which we now flounder. Then again, it may be true that we need to rev our imaginations and write the book on how exactly humans get to a point of truly trusting any computer — before the computers do.
Do You Trust This Computer?
Directed by Chris Paine
Opens August 17, Cinema Village
Click here to sign up for our weekly film and TV newsletter.
Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting the Village Voice and our advertisers.