What a fictional Michigan family can teach us about robots, humanity, and YouTube videos.

This weekend I watched The Mitchell’s vs the Machines with my son. I wanted to watch the movie after seeing the trailer where toasters come to life popping bread burned with the letters “UR Toast!” and washing machines cycle from delicates, to linens, to CARNAGE. I thought it was funny and so different from Augmented Workforce: How AI, AR, & 5G Will Impact Every Dollar You Make. I edited the book for Cathy Hackl and John Buzzell. In it are examples of how we can work smarter, more efficient, and do more than we thought possible with technology.

Source: Lostwoods.co.uk

This movie takes a different approach. In the Mitchell’s vs the Machines, a stereotypical Silicon Valley founder tosses his first creation, an AI assistant, away in favor for his next product. The AI assistant is crushed, so she decides to capture all humans and make them pay.

The Mitchells, who I also love because they’re a Michigan family (as they drive their daughter to college you can see them head down MI 131).

The road trip starts when the dad tries one last time to re-kindle the bond the had with his daughter, Katie. The movie looks like some YouTube Kids video. Animated doodles pop up and screen freezes of cartoonish faces pause the movie one to many times. That’s because the daughter wants to go to film school. Her whole life has been making videos. The dad doesn’t understand her passion or creativity. Honestly, I didn’t get her videos either.

And yet, she is me. In high school my friend and I would make movies together. It was my job to edit them and I remember crying over trying to get the recorded format to convert to a different format the crude video editing software could work with. Things are a lot easier these days. Heck, I’ve been editing videos for LinkedIn on my phone! Yay for digital.

See the source image
Source: “The Mitchells VS The Machines” devient “Connected”, et le plein d’infos ! (littlebiganimation.eu)

On their last night together as a family, the father makes everyone put their phones down for 10 seconds of uninterrupted eye contact. He’s the only one in the family without a phone. The family struggles to meet the challenge. It highlights something I’ve thought about already even though my son is still a toddler.

I say to myself that I won’t get him a cell phone until he can drive. Yet, he’s sitting on the couch with a tablet as we speak. He’s already figured out how to navigate from YouTube Kids to Amazon Prime when the built in YouTube Kids timer is up. Am I going to be one of those parents who will put a timer on the router?

I tell my son, no TV in the morning. Yet, I go straight to my phone.

I think about in the future, having a cell phone basket that all the kids put their phones, friends included. I think, no devices at the dinner table. My husband and I do that already, unless we want to call one of the grandmas for our son to talk too or need to look up hamburger presses so my husband can make the perfect patty.

The movie, with the attention to Katie only feeling like herself when she’s online or making videos, makes me think about how kids these days want to grow up to be YouTube creators and Instagram influencers. In reality, Katie probably wouldn’t have to go to film school. She’d probably be making enough ad money off her videos and a paid subscription for premium content that she wouldn’t need to go to college.

I watched the documentary ‘Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal’, about rich people like Lori Loughlin, cheated to get their kids into elite schools, like Stanford (the main point was not to let their kids know they were cheating). Lori Loughlin was an actress on Full House. Her daughter, Olivia Jade, was an Instagram celebrity. She had her own makeup line at Sephora. She says something in the documentary to the effect that she didn’t want to go to college. And why should she? She was already a successful entrepreneur.

But before Katie can go to college, she and her family have to defect the robot takeover and AI orchestrating the attack. The Michigan family comes out on top. Katie and her dad work together to defect the AI (confusing the robots with video of their pug).

In the end, Katie goes to college. She has to make no concessions on how she lives her life. Instead her dad learns how to use a computer and make a video call. I think Katie comes to realize what her parents, especially her dad, gave up to give her her best life. However, humanity didn’t seem to learn from the AI/robot takeover. It was the robot artificial intelligence that decided to change and help Katie’s dad end the chaotic regime of the disgruntled AI.

We may not be doomed to a dystopian future. But it’s asking a lot for robots to recognize the best characteristics in humanity. Instead, we need to bring them out ourselves.

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