This article contains mild spoilers through Season 2 of The Good Place.

“I’m not a girl,” Janet, the friendly afterlife robot, tells Jason, her charmingly doltish dead boyfriend, in the second-season finale of The Good Place. “I’m also not just a Janet anymore. I don’t know what I am!”

Indeed. What is Janet, now? Among the twists in the season closer for Michael Schur’s breezily profound NBC sitcom about four imperfect humans navigating heaven and hell was—mild spoiler here—a romantic revelation: The inhuman Janet confessed she loved the human Jason. The sentiment itself wasn’t exactly surprising. The breakthrough was in Janet owning and proactively declaring her feelings—feelings that, it would seem, she shouldn’t be able to have.

In this, The Good Place joins Westworld and Black Mirror in a wave of entertainment preoccupied with the potential humanity of machines. Of course, super-smart robots have been a concern from Blade Runner to 2001: A Space Odyssey to The Terminator. But the particular issue of interest right now isn’t quite whether Skynet will overpower its creators (though that is a theme of Westworld), nor the life-improving potential of AI (though an episode of Amazon’s recent Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams delved into how an android might offer not only practical but also moral assistance). Rather, the present urgency, according to pop culture, is around this: Will advanced AI deserve human rights? Should we cut back on cursing out Siri as she gets savvier, or outlaw kicking the next generation’s Furby?

Stipulated: Calling Janet “artificial intelligence” or “a robot” isn’t quite right. She’s really a metaphysical entity. “Janets are brought to you by the makers of light, darkness, and everything,” reads her user manual, which the afterlife architect Michael (Ted Danson) rifles through at one point. But explicitly she’s modeled on the wave of female-named …read more

Source:: The Atlantic – Culture


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