Interview: Fergus Doyle and Luka Vukos talk their science-fiction short film Lose Like a Human

The independent Edinburgh-based production company Neon-Eye has recently completed a short science-fiction film Lose Like a Human, created by two University of Edinburgh alumni, screenwriter Fergus Doyle and director Luka Vukos.

Set around a conversation over a game of chess between an AI Otto and its creator Jane, the film tackles questions of sociality, ethics and, ultimately, humanity in a highly technologically advanced world. The short resolves with Cara Lynch’s performance of a jazz song by a local artist D. B. Hews, leaving the spectator with a lingering sense of nostalgia and temporality.

The Student sat down with Fergus and Luka to have a conversation about the main topics within their work: the future of AI, aesthetics of the past, and the Sci-Fi of today.

How did you come up with the idea?

Fergus: It began with my short story for the zine Word Addict, based on Deep Blue, IBM’s chess computer. At the beginning, it was without any context, but this is an advantage of Sci-Fi – even when seemingly devoid of it, there are hints.

Luka: It was never going to be set outside the room. I thought to include people watching; something to distract the jargon-esque nature of it, and the only way you do it is through emotion. That’s how the singer and the 30s Berlin aesthetics came in. You have this hybridity: a speculative future, but set in the past. 

Tell me about the character of the creator, Jane. What is she like?

Luka: In terms of gender, you never see a female engineer or a creator, which we thought to put that as a given, without drawing extra attention to it. In terms of character, she is almost the blind watchmaker. That is the tragedy – while incredibly adept in making machines, she fails to see the ethical implication behind what she is doing.

Why chess?

Luka: Chess was the perfect game for our ideas because it’s a rigid system that still requires creativity. Part of the technical aspect of the film was to make moves that were credible so that more eagle-eyed viewers can tell by the structure of the match if it is a computer. That’s why chess is so good – it betrays certain characteristics of the player.

Fergus: In the early midgame, a computer will make moves different from a person – quite illogical moves. Or maybe very logical, but they seem inscriptible. It is not a move a human would ever make.

So what is the difference between human and artificial intelligence?

Fergus: Perfection versus imperfection is where a lot of the conversation about AI is right now. They are getting better than us at everything, but there has to be a cut-off point somewhere, so why not make them flawed? Ultimately, any Sci-Fi piece is not about Sci-Fi, it’s about humanity, and that is kind of what humans are good at – being shit at things.

Fergus and Luka are currently in contact with festivals and are planning for the film’s general release in less than a year. You can follow the progress of the film at https://www.facebook.com/LoseLikeAHuman17/

Image: Neon Eye Productions

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