Friday, June 17, 2022

Guidance: The Destructive Impact of AI, from China

A Chinese inventor’s new AI implant is a lot like socialism and every other utopian scheme. The pitch might sound appealing, but as soon as you experience it first-hand, you realize it is a nightmare. Two lovers are manipulated into taking the nano-operating system that detects lies, but the reality of its usage is predictably more likely to split them apart rather than bond them together in Neysan Sobhani’s Guidance, which releases today on VOD.

Ten years before the start of the film, there was a catastrophic war that left Han Maio deeply scarred emotionally. Before the war, she was ambiguously involved with her childhood sweetheart, Su Jie, the heir to a big tech empire. Now, she is in a relationship with Mai Zi Xuan, whom she suspects has been unfaithful. He also has reason to suspect her.

Rather fatefully, she happened to visit Su Jie the very day Luddite terrorists launched an attack on his company. Consequently, she spent six hours alone with him in a safe room. Of course, Mai understands that gave them more than enough time to revisit old times. As a parting gift, Su Jie gave her two pre-release doses of NIS, for her and Mai, so they can get a jump on the Brave New World before everyone else. They literally get red-pilled together, during a romantic getaway that gets much less romantic once the new computer voices in their heads call them out each time they bend the truth and point out signs of deception in their partner.

As a Chinese language film,
Guidance is particularly interesting (and timely), given it presents a cautionary tale of artificial intelligence over-reach, at a time when AI surveillance software is identifying Uyghurs to be rounded-up and incarcerated. Arguably, what the CCP is doing now in Xinjiang and Tibet is even more dystopian than anything portrayed in the film.

Nevertheless, Sobhani and co-screenwriters Anders R. Fransson and Daniel Wang vividly illustrate the perils of the utopian temptation and its unintended consequences. This is largely character and idea-driven sf, but Sobhani still offers up an intriguing looking future world.

Sun Jia is terrific as Han Miao, who is rather a tricky character to play, because she has a great deal of complicated emotions, most of which she is trying to hide. Likewise, as Mai Zi Xuan, Harry Song really manages to surprise the audience, in a heavy way.

Perfecting humanity is a siren call that always leads to folly and often to abject human horrors.
Guidance smartly illustrates that point. It also turns into a surprisingly romantic sf film that might play well with Time Capsule. Recommended for genre fans who can appreciate its quiet thoughtfulness, Guidance releases today (6/17) on VOD.