PARK CITY, Utah—Science-fiction and technology have long influenced each other, and those dynamics are at the heart of Love Machina, director Peter Sillen’s documentary (which premiered at this year’s . Director Sillen presents Perry as a true-believer but leaves out the fact that he willingly castrated himself—a calculated omission designed to legitimize him and, by extension, all of the futurism promoted here.
Martine and Bina’s concept of using mindfiles to recreate people in a digital realm is similar to the strategies being pioneered by the men and women spotlighted in Hans Block and Moritz Riesewieck’s Eternal You. Whether the goal is to prolong life or resurrect the deceased, these trailblazers are convinced that AI is the magic tool that will eliminate death—a perspective that Bina48 overtly articulates at one point. Devoid of any outside voices, however, Love Machina is rather unconvincing on most counts. In new and archival interviews, Martine and Bina gush over one another with a slushiness that’s borderline off-putting, and by the time Martine is showing off the antennas that are used to perform “spacecasting”—the process by which mindfiles are transmitted into space like “messages in a bottle”—her credibility has been compromised by her faith in what comes across as far-fetched pseudoscience.
Love Machina’s scattershot structure does its subjects no favors, with the film taking a variety of meandering detours until its overarching purpose grows hazy. Martine and Bina’s romance often recedes into the background so others can pontificate about an exciting tomorrow in which the merger of humanity and AI will beget entirely novel forms of intelligence, life, and organization of matter. To avoid the “robot uprising” about which Bina48 jokes, various individuals state that advanced sentient machines must be “compassionate,” although given that no one even defines consciousness (apparently, it’s just an amalgam of old pictures and VHS home movies), this resonates as just comforting mumbo-jumbo. Stony Brook University professor Stephanie Dinkins raises the issue of race by noting that the Black Bina48 was largely crafted by white scientists, and then drops it and admits that “death” is what most draws her to the robot.
In the end, the film is a clutter of techno-theorizing that’s flimsily tethered to Martine and Bina’s love. That’s real, whereas so much of Love Machina is merely out-there conjecture.