A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Do You Trust This Computer? is a documentary about the speedy rise of artificial intelligence, focusing on how quickly it has become part of our lives and how completely it has -- or will be -- taking over. The film warns viewers about the looming possibility of losing our jobs, our freedoms, our privacy, and more but offers few solutions or alternatives. The movie is more frightening than informative, but for many viewers, it will be interesting and effective. Expect a few violent news clips of fires, riots, and police beatings, as well as brief images from R-rated movies (Terminator 2, etc.). Language includes a use of "f---ing" and a use of "a--hole." Brand names like Google, Amazon, and Facebook are frequently mentioned.
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What's the story?
In DO YOU TRUST THIS COMPUTER? experts discuss the wide-ranging impact of artificial intelligence (AI) and the possible downsides to its meteoric rise. Google, for example, no longer simply provides search results; it catalogs each user's searches and guesses their preferences. Today, computers are used in war and in medicine, and computers have even beaten humans at complicated games like chess and Go. The film discusses AI's involvement in Facebook and "fake news" feeds and its possible role in elections. One interviewee warns that AI could become something like an immortal dictator, from under which we can never escape. Another says that we're a slave to the technology "because we can't go back."
Is it any good?
This documentary covers a wide array of examples of the potentially scary downside of artificial intelligence, none particularly in depth but with enough ingenuity to cause alarm. Director Chris Paine (Who Killed the Electric Car?) jumps back and forth between an array of experts, including Elon Musk, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times technology journalist John Markoff, and filmmaker Jonathan Nolan (Memento, Westworld, etc.), capturing moments of both wonder and horror. Robots do incredible things, but they quickly surpass what they were intended to do. Do You Trust This Computer?'s picture occasionally twitches and glitches out to illustrate how scary these things are.
For example: A machine that helps a doctor with routine surgeries seems amazing ... until the doctor admits that he can't remember how to do the surgery himself. And a lifelike robot seems amazing ... until it suddenly seems creepy. To underline its point, the movie includes a wealth of footage from movies that have warned us about computers taking over the world, including 2001: A Space Odyssey, Terminator 2, The Matrix, and Ex Machina. It's all quite frightening, almost gleefully so, but the movie doesn't offer solutions to balance out the fear, nor does it offer any kind of positive upswing. If you see this film and the machines do eventually take over, your only satisfaction will be a spirited "I told you so."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Do You Trust This Computer?'s use of violence. How do the news images and movie clips heighten the tension of the movie's message?
Do you agree with the movie? Do you believe that computers will eventually take over? Did watching make you more concerned about your privacy?
Did the movie scare you? What's the appeal of "doom and gloom" documentaries?
What, if anything, does the movie recommend doing about the situation it describes? What do you think you can do?
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