Modern man spends a day paying for public transportation on his cell phone instead of with a credit card, has dinner thanks to the recipe which his refrigerator provides, and does not have to turn out the lights thanks to his bed that recognizes a person lying down and turns out the lights instead. The age of the Internet of Things (IoT) is approaching, in which it is as if things are performing convenient functions for people by talking to each other. But what happens when the IoT and artificial intelligence (AI) combine to dominate the world? With the movie “Summer Wars,” The Argus predicts the near future of IoT and AI.
What is IoT?
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a system of interrelating computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people. Unlike the traditional Internet where only computers and mobile phones are connected, IoT is an Internet where everything that exists in the world is connected, including desks, cars, bags, trees, and pets. It is available to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. Sensors are attached to objects and data is sent and received in real time via the Internet.
What is AI?
In computer science, artificial intelligence (AI), is intelligence demonstrated by machines, in contrast to the natural intelligence displayed by humans. In 2016, a match between AlphaGo, a computer program that plays the board game Go, and Lee Sedol, a human professional Go player, made headlines around the world.
Introduction to “Summer Wars”
“Summer Wars” is a 2009 Japanese animated science fiction film directed by Mamoru Hosoda who is famous for “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.” It is a story of Kenji who is falsely implicated in the hacking of a virtual world, called OZ, by an insane AI named Love Machine. With the virtual world OZ in turmoil, Kenji and Natsuki find a way to stop the rogue computer program from causing any further chaos and finally save the world together.
World connected as one with OZ
Summer Wars is set in the future, an era of IoT that connects the world with a single network and allows people to do everything with a simple handset operation. The story unfolds in two opposing spaces: the virtual world OZ and the rural real world Ueda. OZ, an Internet virtual world, is closely linked to the military and administrative functions of each country, as well as public services such as transportation and firefighting. It also handles important state secrets. In OZ, more than one billion people worldwide join together and each person has an avatar which represents them. A great number of people around the world all have OZ accounts, regardless of age, gender or nationality.
People log on to OZ through computers, cell phones, Nintendo, and TV. They receive many of the services they need in their daily lives, including shopping and health care checks. As soon as people wake up in the morning, they log on to OZ and check their health status through their avatars. Office workers who have to go back and forth between U.S. and Japanese clients do not have to worry about travel time because their avatars leave for a business trip through OZ instead. Companies around the world open branches in OZ and people can also start-up a business there. Various administrative and local governments in OZ also keep related windows open, allowing quick handling of various civil complaints including taxes. People who want to enjoy their leisure life to relieve stress can always enjoy music, movies, and travel packages. They also shop for furniture, cars, food and they can even make real estate contracts. OZ also has the world's top luxury brands, which allows them to choose clothes and check the size through their avatars.
World in chaos of OZ
Kenji, a high school student who works part-time at OZ’s internal system management office, goes with his school senior, Natsuki, to Ueda one day because of her demand for him to pretend to be her fiancé. Having spent a hectic day surrounded by a large family gathering for the 90th birthday of Natsuki’s great-grandmother, Sakae, Kenji receives a suspicious e-mail from OZ when he goes to bed. Without suspicion, he decodes 2,056 letters in the message and sends the answer to OZ. What Kenji solves, however, is the password for the authority to manage OZ.
The next day, terror occurs when the firewall of OZ collapses. The real world, under the influence of OZ, is in great turmoil and a state of emergency is declared. Love Machine, an experimental hacking AI that is being developed by a robotics lab in the U.S., is the perpetrator. It has a level of high performance that humans cannot control. Traffic accidents occur because traffic lights are not functioning, and all public transportation systems are paralyzed. The GPS crashes, causing ships to move to the wrong places, water pressure rises freely, and gas pipes become imperiled. Sakae, who is not in good health, even dies of angina due to the malfunction of OZ. It is because the alarm that usually alerted Sakae whenever a problem arises in heart rate, blood pressure, and fever, does not sound.
Having authority over an OZ account gives one the power of a real person. It means that stealing an account of the head of a waterworks enables manipulation of the water system, stealing an account of the National Railroad Administration enables control of the direction of the train, and stealing an account of the president even enables a nuclear missile launch. Love Machine is growing stronger by hacking into numerous OZ accounts and making 412 million accounts, which is 38 percent of the total, his own. The situation gets worse and Love Machine is about to drop an asteroid probe into its nuclear facilities. Eventually, the Japanese asteroid probe Arawashi starts falling out of the sky.
Mankind eventually defeats AI
To prevent damage from the asteroid probe’s impact, Kenji successfully unlocks the codes and controls to change its path and leads it to fall into a vacant area, while Natsuki competes with Love Machine. They have a go-stop card game match. Compared to Love Machine which has 400 million accounts, Natsuki’s 74 accounts are ridiculously insufficient, which put her at a disadvantage. Then people all over the world who are watching go-stop on their cell phones and laptops hand over their accounts to Natsuki. With 150 million accounts gathered for her, which is 13.837 percent of OZ’s total accounts, Natsuki's avatar becomes more powerful. In the end, Love Machine loses and collapses.
Meanwhile, Wabisuke, who created Love Machine, appears to be entirely avoiding responsibility. He is the half-granduncle of Natsuki. He is the illegitimate son of Natsuki’s great-grandfather and was adopted by Sakae, whom Wabisuke cares for deeply. He inputted a desire for knowledge into Love Machine and sold it to the United States Armed Forces for a test run at a high price. He is proud that he has confirmed that his experiment is successful, even though he did not know that Love Machine would be used for hacking OZ. He also shows no sense of responsibility, adding, “Love Machine will be equivalent to the military!” However, after hearing of Sakae’s death, Wabisuke helps Kenji and Natsuki stop Love Machine’s tyranny.
Outlook toward the future of mankind with technology
Summer Wars illustrates how violent things get when information is monopolized by a minority or one. OZ is like another reality that is closely connected to the real world, not a disconnected virtual world. OZ monopolizes information as it serves as a control tower for overall social functions. As such, OZ provides convenience for mankind. However, problems arise when OZ becomes indispensable to mankind. Even though humans develop IoT and AI to benefit humans, they can operate outside human control.
Although technology is very powerful, there is one thing that infinite technology cannot keep up with compared to humans. It's emotion. People all over the world readily share their accounts with Natsuki to protect each other’s friends and family from danger. Even Wabisuke, who initially remained indifferent, actively helps eliminate Love Machine after hearing of the death of his beloved family. As such, humans have their own ability to feel and reason. We must value and protect our feelings, thoughts and empathy so that the world will not be conquered by the creatures that human beings have created. The human point of view and interpretation, which is derived from millions of years of evolution, will leave humans as human beings and machines as machines.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg once said that the virtual world OZ is the ultimate evolution of SNS. This means that OZ is not a system that is far from today̓s reality. It also means that the war in OZ could soon come to us. Of course, it is difficult to stop the progress of technology, which continues to progress ever faster. The more advanced the technology, the more human beings should try to maintain their humanity. If a machine with cold parts like Love Machine tries to start a war, let us melt its cold intention with a warm heart.
By Kim Min-ji
Associate Editor of Culture Section