What does it mean to be human?
It's a quandary braved by the great minds of Carlo Collodi, Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Brian Aldiss, and the two guys who wrote Short Circuit. And in every instance of wrestling with the question, the lines seem to become blurrier. What exactly changes when marionette puppet Pinocchio swaps splinters for skin cells at the end of the story? Who is to say whether the machines inhabiting Blade Runner's molting Los Angeles are of any shyer value than the humans bent on destroying them? Where exactly in Johnny 5's mainframe does a soul come into play after he is struck by lightning during that poorly planned government showcase?
And does it make any difference that the ingenious zen master Horse_ebooks, that which we have always identified as a "Twitter bot," has in fact been identified as a member of our own sentient species? Two members, in fact: The New Yorker identifies BuzzFeed creative director Jacob Bakkila and former Howcast production development VP Thomas Bender as the living, breathing souls behind the horse.
We can't quite land on an answer there. We've always appreciated the ostensibly automated mania that is the Horse_ebooks Twitter account as comical in its complete independence from any understanding of what comprises a functional thought. Its natural, unadulterated production of nonsense is what has made the Internet phenomenon such a popular, oft quoted craze. To know that gems like "Tired of Deli Delights?" were crafted not from the cogs of some copy machine, but instead from the mind of two fellows trying like the dickens to come up with something that sounds wacky.
On the one hand, we can argue that this robs the account of its authenticity, like the loss of some of the humor or fascination that comes from translating an interesting real life story to the medium of film. On the other, we can now attribute to Horse_ebooks a genuine accolate of ingenuity. This ain't just some computer regurgitating collected content with no understanding of the craft of comedy. These are two guys who truly know how to make people laugh, as is proven by the fame gained by their Twitter account over the past years of its existence.
But are we less likely to laugh now, knowing that the horse is a farce? We might be, but that doesn't mean that Bakkila and Bender have set their careers as absurdist humorists to rest: the two are pioneering an interactive video piece called Bear Stearns Bravo, the trailer for which you can watch below.
So, we can set our sights on this new creative venture by the Kaufmanian masterminds. Horse_ebooks might lose its luster for us, but we should really offer due praise to the pair for their experiment. They made something. Something that, no matter where it goes from here, will be remembered.
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In the 21st century life is not all good on Earth. The polar ice caps are melting submerging many of the world's coastal cities. To help cope with the situation artificial intelligences or robots have been created and are generally designed for specific purposes--housework babysitting and even sex. A genius professor (William Hurt) builds an 11-year-old child robot named David (Haley Joel Osment) for a different purpose a child android that once "imprinted" by his human parents can actually feel emotions. When a couple (Frances O'Connor and Sam Robards) despondent over the loss of their own son takes on the role of David's "test" parents they set in motion a personal journey for the young boy. Through a series of events he is forced to seek out his own humanity and attain the one thing he wants most in the world--to be real and to be truly loved.
OK if Spielberg had to sit down and find someone who could play a child robot who just wanted to be loved his choice probably wasn't that hard. Osment is just one of those child actors who breaks your heart the minute he comes on the screen. He did it in The Sixth Sense and even in the melodramatic Pay It Forward. No actor out there has the soulful face that he does. But his performance in A.I. takes the cake. Osment is almost eerily perfect as David. Never once do you doubt he is artificial as he watches with amazed curiosity and sometimes horror the world around him. And never once so you forget that he wants desperately to be real. There are some nice supporting turns especially by Jude Law playing the gigolo android who helps David in his quest and by O'Connor as David's "mother." But it was without question Osment's film.
Spielberg took over the project based on the short story Super-Toys Last All Summer Long by science fiction author Brian Aldiss from the late Stanley Kubrick who had been trying to get the film made for 20 years. And therein lies the film's main flaw: it's not really a Spielberg special. It did have a lot of elements he has made his own (he even expands on his Close Encounters alien) but this film was very dark somewhat hopeless and pretty slow. That's definitely not Spielberg's usual direction for a movie especially one based on original material. Kubrick excelled at bringing to life those slow methodical story lines and didn't care if an audience liked it or not but Spielberg is used to creating wide-eyed extravaganzas and historical epics that capture their audiences' hearts. Yes Spielberg's war movies are somber but that's because they are real--those events really happened. A.I. is a different kind of Spielberg film and some audiences may not be ready for it.