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#Film Review: Netflix’s Extinction (2018)

Director: Ben Young

Rating: 4/5

This film started a bit slow and I thought it may be a candidate for discontinuing watching. But, no. The film is actually very interesting and has an interesting story. Therefore, if you start watching and then you feel like discontinuing, don’t.

There has been a growing debate on artificial intelligence (AI) in the past years, and the debate has so far concentrated on robots taking work from people, but many also raised a question whether robots will be able to feel emotions. The obvious answer is that no machine can feel exactly the same as human, for emotions are linked to biology, but it is possible to replicate some aspects of emotional responses, such as being afraid of destruction and thus reacting. This obviously brings worries that robots will act in their own interest. Paul Thagard summarised this well by saying,

“The result would be important for worries about the future of humanity, as robots and intelligent computers become more prominent. One of the main concerns about the possibility of fully intelligent and independent robots is that they may act only in their own interests and therefore become harmful to humans. Building robots capable of caring about us might be one way of forestalling technological disaster. Unfortunately, by that time robots will be building robots, and they may prefer to sidestep emotions in favor of their own unpredictable goals” (see full article here)

This film addresses exactly that. Humans have built synthetic look alike creatures, which then took work from other humans. The public debate however is concentrated on whether synthetics should be destroyed given the fact they started to experience emotional response and are evolving on their own. The propagators of this view are saying they will rule the humanity if not destroyed, while there is of course the other side advocating their rights and calling for the history of racism in humanity, where certain humans always thought they are better than others.

*** SPOILER ALERT FOR THE NEXT PART ***

As it turns out in the film, synthetics and humans are in the state of war because when humans tried to destroy them, synthetics responded and defended themselves. Humans then ended up on Mars but keep coming back and the war keeps continuing. What is interestingly made in this film is that it starts with Peter (Michael Pena) who keeps dreaming about war and destruction. His wife and friends are convincing him to seek help, and when he eventually makes an appointment another man tells him they are not crazy but that they are remembering what ‘they’ don’t want them to know. Peter looks at photos in the office and it all seems familiar, even though he has no recollection of being there before. As it turns out, he is a synthetic but when the first big war with humans broke out, synthetics decided to forget to be able to continue their lives without constant fear. A few kept their memories to be ready for when the next attack comes. As a man from Mars says, this is a fundamental difference between synthetics and humans, as humans can’t erase their memory like synthetics did. In the continuation of the film, synthetics gain their memories back and decide not to wipe them out anymore to be ready for a new attack…

Lots of food for thought here. I suppose that only humans could be that stupid to develop robots so advanced to put themselves in danger of extinction. If that happened in the future it would not surprise me at all. What I thought was interesting is the notion of robots stealing people’s jobs, which has been mentioned in the film. This is precisely a debate I was having recently when I asked in one conversation who will racists hate once robots take over all manual and many office jobs. Will racism towards people of different colours and creed then stop at least? In other words, do we have to put ourselves at the level of extinction to stop racism? This film addresses exactly that, and is certainly worth watching.

Thank you for reading.

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