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M3gan and AI

The hit new movie, Megan is a sci-fi horror movie wild ride for the start of the 2023 movie season. Megan is the classic Frankenstein story meets The Terminator meets The Bad Seed with a dash of Chucky from Child’s play added for good measure.  Based on that description, we all can predict some of the plot points in Megan. The movie touches on several themes surrounding technology, including technology’s role in raising children, and AI ethics.  The storyline of Megan centers around a roboticist named Gemma (played by Allison Williams of “Get Out” fame) who works for a toy company that created a very popular toy similar to the 90’s toy pet Furby.  Gemma also has a prototype she created for a more life-like and advanced AI doll that is in development. Gemma becomes the guardian of Cady, her niece after Cady’s parents die in a tragic accident. Gemma is a bit of a work-acholic and has no idea how to parent a young child.  Enter M3gan, or Model 3 Generative Android.  Once Cady begins to live with Gemma, she fast-tracks the creation of M3gan, designing her to be a companion to Cady and to help with parenting duties.

 During M3gan’s design, Gemma gave M3gan the opened-ended parameter of keeping Cady safe. Once the creation of M3gan was complete, M3gan is “paired” with Cady, similar to how you would pair your cell phone with a Bluetooth device. M3gan quickly “learns” Cady through the pairing.  Gemma makes Cady M3gan’s primary user and initially sets no parental controls for M3gan, which proves to be a seemingly irresponsible decision. To further complicate things, no initial testing is done on Megan prior to her being paired with Cady, nor after it is decided other M3gan dolls will be mass-produced and sold to the public.  Gemma sets no real rules in place for M3gan, all the while M3gan is learning about Cady and the world at an exponential rate. Cady quickly forms an unhealthy attachment and begins to see M3gan not as a high-tech toy, but as a parental figure and friend.  This proves to be a recipe for disaster, and we can all guess how the story progresses.

 While the film M3gan is a fictional story, its themes and implications may show up in real life as AI technology advances. M3gan is clearly smart enough to control herself and make decisions that are in her best interest, which is showcased in the movie’s final act. While we don’t yet have an AI as advanced as M3gan, AI ethics must be considered when designing AI technologies, something which Gemma the roboticist in the movie, neglected to do.

 AI assists in almost every area of our work and personal lives, including internet searches, driving directions, reading emails, music recommendations, and automation. The recently launched AI chatbot, ChatGPT, may prove to be a game changer. It has the potential to change how we learn, live, and work.   ChatGPT is powered by large data sets that give it the ability to mimic speech patterns coupled with a vast knowledge that rivals that of an encyclopedia. AI, such as ChatGPT can perform human-like tasks such as writing articles and computer code and making art. With ChatGPT the possibilities may be infinite.

 AI has even been used for companionship/therapy with apps such as Replika. At some point, AI may be used to replace some jobs typically reserved for humans. As wonderous and life-changing as AI has the potential to be, we must also be responsible and ethical when using AI technologies and strongly consider that just because we can, doesn’t always mean we should.