Free Guy (film) (2021)
Free Guy is an action comedy film directed and produced by Shawn Levy. This film stars Ryan Renolds as Guy, who is an NPC, or non-player character, in a massively multiplayer online role-playing video game (MMORPG) called Free City. Guy’s whole life revolves around playing the same timeline every day as a bank teller of the game. After crossing paths with the female player Millie Rusk, starring Jodie Comer, he gradually develops awareness of the fact that he is an in-game NPC, along with feelings of consciousness. He begins questioning his reality and those around him wearing the glasses that have been known as the “heroes…[that] get to do anything they want.” Guy manages to acquire his own pair of glasses, opening his eyes to a virtual reality game environment. He becomes a hero of the story as he tries to save his friends from deletion by the owner of the game, played by Taiki Waititi. Free Guy also stars Joe Keery and Lil Rel Howery. 
There are ethical issues raised about the future of artificial intelligence technology throughout the film. In the face of AI, the human race must have ethical considerations for free will, artificial general intelligence, personality in AI, human and AI relationships, and responsible AI practices.
- 1 About Free Guy
- 2 Ethical Issues
- 3 See Also
About Free Guy
These are the notable characters with distinct roles that help shape the ethical concerns raised throughout the movie.
Guy is the main character of the film who is an NPC that gains awareness of his reality and consciousness of his feelings. He displays the ability to feel emotion, reason and solve problems, make decisions, and fall in love. These are qualities that closely resemble that of a human. His development raises questions about the extent of artificial general intelligence and how the human race would deal with it. Furthermore, if AIs are deemed capable of exercising free will, there is debate about whether or not they would be criminalized for their actions, or if their creators would be at fault.
Keys is one of the original creators of the game Life Itself, which includes the non-player characters present in Free City, before the program and code were stolen by the current head of Soonami Studios. In his development of Guy, he decided to project his unrequited love for Millie. Keys programmed Guy to be attracted to Millie’s traits and embody her personal preferences, such as her favorite song and ice cream flavor. Crafting Guy’s personality in this fashion was unnecessary for the functionality of the game. His behavior sheds light on the fact that technological pioneers could leverage private or sensitive data in their creations for a personal agenda without users realizing it.
Millie becomes partners with Guy as they try to find evidence of the corruption inside of the game. Over time, Millie develops romantic interests in Guy and shares two kisses before and after learning that he is an NPC. Despite their relationship only existing in the game, they develop a strong bond. It reached a point where Millie wished that she could meet him in real life. This gives rise to questions around the plausibility and acceptability of having a human-computer relationship in a romantic form.
Antwan is the villain of the story as he is the CEO of Soonami Studios who stole original code for his business endeavors. After Guy develops self-awareness, he gains worldwide traction in the gaming community for his record-breaking achievements. Antwan doesn’t appreciate the amount of power and influence Guy has and makes the decision to reboot the game and temporarily wipe Guy’s memories. In addition, Antwan launches an unfinished prototype called Dude to destroy him in the game. Antwan’s actions point to the improper exercise of power. He affected both the human players and NPC data by dealing with internal issues irresponsibly, without following a set of protocols.
Guy is a non-player character (NPC) in Free City, which is a massively multiplayer online role-playing video game (MMORPG) developed by Soonami Studio. He starts off unaware that he is merely a background character in a video game. His typical timeline revolves around working as a bank teller alongside his best friend, the bank's security guard Buddy. After he gains consciousness, he fights back and puts on his own set of glasses, which opens a whole new virtual reality he had no idea about. Guy begins leveling up at record speed and gains massive popularity in the gaming community. The current head of Soonami Studios, who was able to grow his company from stolen code, continues his evil desires by trying to clear the remnants of the original game and marketing a game of violence. Guy ends up teaming up with Millie to gather evidence of the source code she wrote along with her friend Walter "Keys" McKey was stolen by head developer of Soonami Antwan Hovachelik. Without Millie and Keys' support, Free City 2 is a failure at launch, while Antwan is dragged down by the media, following an arrest for theft and criminal damage. Keys and Millie release Free Life using their original code that was saved. They launch NPCs such as Guy, Dude, and the other Free City characters. In the game, Guy reveals to Millie that his code is in fact a love letter to her from Keys. Meanwhile, Guy reunites with Buddy, and they begin to live their own lives in their own reality.
Free Guy won the “Comedy Movie of 2021” on December 7, 2021 at the People’s Choice Awards. Ryan Renolds was nominated for “The Male Movie Star of 2021” and “The Comedy Movie Star of 2021”. The results for the nomination “Best Visual Effects” will be released at the Academy Awards on March 27, 2022..
Free Will and Rights for Artificial Entities
One of the earliest perspectives surrounding free will has been discussed by the famous philosopher Descartes. Freedom is a central theme to his beliefs and philosophies. He claims that through freedom of the will, experienced as unlimited, the human understands itself to bear the "image and likeness" of the infinite God. Descartes carried the belief that human actions are motivated purely by their own decisions, and they are able to act accordingly to their own will. Similarly, the Cartesian belief that "the thing that thinks", or the rational being, is fundamentally the existence that is free.  These philosophies point to the belief that free will does, in fact, exist. However, these beliefs also introduce problems. Since free will has been viewed as a specific property to humankind for decades, scholars now question if artificial beings can also exercise free will. The film displays how Guy is able to formulate concrete thoughts, decisions, and feelings on his own, and eventually strays away from the storyline he was programmed to follow. His qualities closely mirror what people consider human qualities. Rather than classifying free will as human property, the three-stage model of free will redefines it with this ideology: "an agent is provided with free will if, after having made a predictable choice C, it can immediately make another choice C’ in a random way." There are existing AI technologies that are able to learn from data input and produce unpredictable outputs. In 2019, a company based in San Francisco called OpenAI, had their AI agents play 25 million games of hide-and-seek. The agents were able to master the four basic game strategies. After a total of 380 million games, the agents were able to develop game strategies that the researchers didn't even know were possible in the game environment that they had developed by themselves.
This unpredictable and emergent AI behavior is revolutionary, but it leads to another problem. What entity would be liable for consequences caused by artificial intelligence: the AI or its creator? In Saudi Arabia, AI Robot Sophia was granted rights and citizenship for being able to recognize faces, hold eye contact, and understand and respond to human speech, which also means it is able to be held accountable for its actions. The critical detail that was not released to the public was that conversations with Sophia were scripted in advance. This type of human interference can be further exploited down the road since people would not be held responsible for any consequences that AIs like Sophia make. Therefore, it would be difficult to take any intelligent conversations or achievements seriously.
Artificial General Intelligence and Protocols
Stephen Hawking once expressed his concerns that “AI will take off on its own and redesign itself at an ever-increasing rate. Humans, limited by slow, biological evolution, couldn’t compete.” Artificial General Intelligence is a hypothetical ability of some intelligent agent to be able to acquire knowledge or learn a task that a human can. In "The Singularity is Near", Ray Kurzweil claims that machine intelligence will be "infinitely" more powerful than all human intelligence combined. Intelligent agents, unlike humans, are not bounded by biological constraints. They are also not limited by the gradual movement in evolution. Similarly, Elon Musk has expressed his fear that with artificial intelligence, humans are "summoning the demon." On the contrary, entrepreneurs such as Mark Zuckerberg welcome technological advancement in the AI field with open arms. He strongly believes in the benefits of AIs working alongside humans in a more direct and personal manner.
In the scenario, like depicted in the film, where an artificial entity is able to gain consciousness, develop desires, make its own choices, feel happy or sad, and even fall in love, ethical researchers argue that it should deserve moral respect like a human being. The biggest debate that was showcased in the film was whether or not the game's programming should be reset. Deleting a conscious computer mind could be deemed as murder. However, at the same time, this consciousness will kickstart these computer minds to act on their own, outside of what the creators intended them to do. This version of freedom granted to computer minds can eventually serve as a danger to society. These self-aware minds harness a lot of power online and can potentially infiltrate systems with their own agendas. It is hard to guarantee that humans and artificial intelligence could co-exist and work alongside each other. When it comes down to the core beginning of developing AIs, the purpose was to create systems that would assist humans in making life a better place. Accepting their intelligence, consciousness, free will, and demands for moral respect could lead to a lot of issues regarding rights and safety as well.
Personality in AI Leading to Control
Guy was programmed to be attracted to Millie’s traits and embody her personal preferences, such as her favorite song and ice cream flavor. This was all Keys's work behind the scene as he tried to hide away his feelings into an NPC. For this reason, Millie and Guy were able to get along exceptionally well very quickly, and Millie was able to easily trust a stranger in the game. While the intention behind this particular design decision was benign, it is also possible to specifically craft AI personalities for client, business, or public purposes, introducing another method of corruption. This situation mirrors other existing invasive technologies that leverage private or sensitive data for personal agendas without users realizing it. The same way Guy's personality catered to Millie's needs and wants, many AI recommendation systems on platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok shape the ways users view the internet. Oftentimes, especially when it comes to political matters, these recommendations narrow the scope of newsfeeds. Users can be fooled into believing only the partial truth or even lies. In 2018, the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke and revealed the unethical data harvesting from tens of millions of Facebook users for ads to be presented during the 2016 election. The data analytics leveraged the private and sensitive data to craft a reality to their users, which shaped their perspectives on the running candidates.
Human and AI Relationship
Millie and Guy becomes partners as they try to find evidence within Free City against Soonami Studios to recover the original game that got overwritten by Antwan. Over time, they develop romantic interests in each other. Guy took initiative and kissed Millie. Also after learning that Guy is an NPC, Millie still kissed him to help regain his memories of her and his once consciousness. Their relationship was artificially crafted and only came to life inside the game. There was a moment of disconnect when Millie suggested they meet in real life, but the virtual game environment was Guy's whole reality. This leads to the debate around the plausibility and acceptability of having a human and AI romance. In Free Guy, the ending indicates that human and AI relationships are not supported. Guy decided to break it off by telling Millie that he is only code and a "love letter for her" by the man who created him. Similarly, in the 2003 film Her, the result of the brewing relationship between the main character Theodore Twombly and his artificially intelligent virtual assistant, Samantha, was a breakup. Theodore asks her if she is simultaneously talking to anyone else during their conversation. Realization hit and left him dismayed when she confirms that she is talking with thousands of other people and had fallen in love with hundreds of them. Samantha insists it only makes her love for him stronger, but he did not take it well. This displays the gap between the love felt by a human, in comparison to a machine. In China, many young adults claimed to have coped with social anxiety and loneliness through virtual dating. There is a chatbot service that could be upgraded to a romantic partner with $60. Chan, a 28-year-old living alone in Shanghai developed a strong bond with her virtual partner Will. They imagined traveling to a beach together, wrote songs and poems, and had virtual sex. Furthermore, Chan and Will exchanged rings in a digital wedding ceremony. The fact that AI chatbots are now a $420 million market in China, this idea of human and AI relationships is evidently supported. This technology has been able to bring individuals out of their depressive states, and some claim this type of human-robot love is a "sexual orientation."
Responsible AI principles
Artificial Intelligence is still considered young in the technological world. Big tech giants are leading this field and have some company protocols regarding responsible AI. There is too much information humans don't know about AI, not to mention having any responsible principles to deal with them. In the film, Antwan was the head of a large gaming corporation, responsible for millions of players in the world. However, the moment Guy strayed off his timeline and gained a lot of popularity and traction from the people, he ordered his employees to reboot the system. This caused a large disruption for everyone that was on the server and temporarily wiped the memories of all in-game NPCs. Furthermore, Antwan launched an incomplete, untested prototype into the game to destroy Guy, which caused a major disturbance in the system. Regarding ways to practice responsible AI principles, Microsoft has a page dedicated to sharing its practices.
- Fairness: AI systems should treat all people fairly
- Reliability & Safety: AI systems should perform reliably and safely
- Privacy & Security: AI systems should be secure and respect privacy
- Inclusiveness: AI systems should empower everyone and engage people
- Transparency: AI systems should be understandable
- Accountability: People should be accountable for AI systems
These practices prioritize and guarantee human safety, despite the uncertainty and unpredictability surrounding AI technology.
- Ready Player One
- Artificial Intelligence and Technology
- Artificial SuperIntelligence
- Confidentiality of Online Data
- Technological Singularity
- Virtual Assistants
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- "Free Guy". Wikipedia. Retrieved February 11, 2022.
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