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Hi, this is Two Minute Game Crit and I’m Stephen Beirne.
In a recent issue of Five out of Ten Magazine I wrote an article about the idea of technological determinism in Zone of the Enders 2. Technological determinism is the theory that a society’s forward direction is defined by the technologies available to it. Or in other words…
NOHMAN: “Since the dawn of history, Human beings have realised various forms of energy. Civilizations have progressed with them.”
I want to expand on this with regards to artificial intelligence, which crops up in Zone of the Enders through the characters of ADA and Viola.
So as you can see this is a hack and slash action game based around mech combat, and ADA is the AI installed in your mech.
KEN: “ADA, please look after him.”
ADA: “If I have to.”
She’s gas, and even though she’s clearly her own person, at the end of the day she’s still got it in her head to be subservient to humans because of her programming. Despite how some people encourage her, she doesn’t value her own life.
DINGO: “How can you throw away your life for no reason?”
ADA: “I don’t need a reason.”
On the other side of things is the Viola AI, a rabidly destructive machine modelled after the personality of a tenacious soldier named Viola. The AI’s a success insofar as it mimics her combat abilities, but totally fails to capture her essence.
Whereas the original was “immortal” through sheer force of will, the Viola AI replicates this passion for life through deceit – it’s actually just being mass-produced, not resurrected.
Here we have two different degrees of AI, one wholly synthetic, the other amalgamated from some abstract concept of humanity. In practise, the main difference between the two is the Viola AI is in every way a wholly vapid automaton, completely derivative, while ADA is an entirely new type of lifeform.
Viola is a zombie. ADA is a frontier.
Viola’s a T-1000. ADA’s a Tachikoma.
Viola’s the Borg, ADA is Mr Data.
Now, unlike Shodan or GLaDOS, Zone of the Enders isn’t interested in framing AI as some harbinger of doom. Instead it’s much more interested in similarities, like the way humankind and AI-kind are equally suffocated by the militarism that results from technological determinism.
People like Viola are made as cogs for this relentless engine, and miraculous creatures like ADA are thought as void of sentience as the soulless Viola AI.
Now, if you’re not convinced that humanity objectifies itself by objectifying AI, just trust me. Because…
DINGO: “You should take time to worry about the meaning of your existence later.”
DINGO: “I’ll get rid of it while you’re doing your homework at home.”
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