M3gan: the terrifying doll in the age of artificial intelligence

Estimated read time 5 min read

M3gan: the terrifying doll in the age of artificial intelligence

At the time when the general public was discovering ChatGPT, horror movie lovers were flocking to dark theaters to discover the latest nugget of Blumhouse: M3gan (pronounced Megan).

Pretty doll

Horror movies based on dolls, we’ve seen several. We will obviously mention the saga of the Chucky, the three Annabelles, but also Robert or The boy. Common point: these stories had their sources in demonic possessions. M3gan changes this genre: the doll is an entirely human creation. There is no demon, no serial killer addicted to “Voodoo for Dummies”, just a robotics engineer, who works in a toy company.

That’s what makes the story so catchy: the story could take place in a few years. After all, Japanese hospitals have indeed set up robots to help the nursing staff in these daily tasks. It would seem that at the moment, the experiment is inconclusive. Nevertheless, what will happen in ten years?

Robotics has been envisaged as a support for human, mechanical and alienating activity. For some, we can delegate the most boring tasks to robots, as long as they are well configured. This would alleviate the burden of work, reduce the resulting suffering and, why not, improve productivity.

Robots and men

We also saw the sex robots looming, Black Mirror had already more or less outlined the thing in its first season. The novelty, with M3gan, is the use of a robot to fill the emotional lack of a child.

Following a car accident, Cady becomes an orphan. His aunt Gemma becomes his guardian. Thirty overwhelmed and passionate about her work, she does not know how to manage a child, let alone a child who has just lost her parents and who is forced to move to another state, thus losing all these landmarks.

To help her emotionally, Gemma releases a project scrapped by her supervisor: a mechanical doll, with very advanced learning abilities. Cady takes a liking to M3gan, who becomes a real friend, but also a kind of mother. Little by little, Cady is blossoming. Unfortunately — or rather fortunately, because we are still in front of a horror movie — things are going to go very wrong.

Technological anticipation

Why connect ChatGPT to M3gan? In the film, it is about artificial intelligence and the potential of the doll to learn by itself, like most of the applications we use today. However, the film is getting ahead of technological reality and if you are a daily user of ChatGPT, you know exactly where the limits are.

The democratization of ChatGPT or Google Bard has made the answers unfortunately become more and more stupid. Depending on the options and the requests, the answers provided are more and more far-fetched. We had already noticed that ChatGPT was outright inventing certain elements. Bard does not necessarily do better, as evidenced by a personal research project.

As part of the Arcadia Project, I am working on a kind of comparison of National Parliaments. Simple question asked to ChatGPT and Bard: what is the parliamentary allowance of a German member of parliament? The two tools ended up answering that the remuneration of individuals was an element of privacy and that they were not able to provide the information. In reality, the remuneration of a parliamentarian is perfectly public information, which is intended to be accessible to everyone. As for the information itself, it was on one of the web pages of the Bundestag. Suffice to tell you that I did not continue my research attempts with ChatGPT and Bard. I went back to the old method of journalism, namely, talking with people.

Lack of context and far-fetched answers

In a sense, this failure is very reassuring. Some companies have decided to liquidate part of their workforce, to replace them with artificial intelligence tools. We understand the movement, but it’s still pretty stupid. We keep repeating it: computer science, in a very general and very global sense, is just a tool. It must be configured, maintained, used to remain relevant and for that, it still needs humans. When it comes to information, without a human, there is no information. Let us take the example of the indemnity of the members of the Bundestag as an example.

It is € 10,591.70 gross per month. It may seem like a lot. But, did you know that it is almost automatically indexed to average wages in Germany? There are specific calculation rules, which provide a context to the information. However, at the moment, neither ChatGPT nor Bard are able to give the context. By the way, the answers given to the question “Why do German deputies earn € 10,591.70 per month? ”are false.

In the film, M3gan learns on her own, without any mistakes — well, almost, you will understand by watching the film — and ends up becoming completely autonomous. The film is far ahead of our technological capabilities. Beyond the technical question, there is an ethical question in the film.

Cady has lost her parents and her bearings and the doll comes to fill this gap that Gemma cannot yet bring to her. Unlike current dolls or toys, M3gan looks like a real person and can do just about anything a human would do. The question that arises is whether it is desirable.

We were already asking ourselves these types of questions for sex robots, but we’re talking about adults. What will be our reaction to toys that would be able to supplant humans, with children? That’s the beauty of this movie. It is very well shot, well written, well acted, but, it also pushes us towards certain reflections that we would not have thought of.

For the moment, the film is available on DVD and we recommend it for Halloween, especially for the bonuses. You will see how the technical team worked to create M3gan. It is as interesting and fascinating as the film itself.

You May Also Like

More From Author