.Cinematic Science at Rafael

Everything I know about life, I learned at the movies. This includes my tenuous understanding of the natural world. Fortunately, a new series, “Science on Screen,” is here to fill the estimable gaps.

Pairing film screenings with scientific discussions, the series is hosted by local media personality and playwright David Templeton in conversation with a variety of science-adjacent luminaries—including award-winning novelist Nina Schuyler, whose 2023 science-fiction tome, Afterword, was named one of the Top 100 Notable Books by Shelf Unbound.

Their conversation is part of “Aging, AI, & Making Connections In A Technological World,” and follows a screening of Robot & Frank, a 2012 film that finds an irascible old man (Frank Langella) paired with a caretaker robot he despises.

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Daedalus Howell: As a writer, sometimes of sci-fi, why do you think AI has such a grip on the public imagination, and why is it so grim?

Nina Schuyler: In many ways, AI is a better human. Like the speed of light, it can go through vast datasets and find patterns that point to possible solutions… It’s like a new god, and the techies promise that the future is not just bright, it’s radiant. But then, where do humans fit in?

DH: It feels like we’re in a sci-fi story right now—are we finally in a “life imitating art” moment?

NS: In my novel, Afterword, I wrote about a female mathematician who uses AI to bring back the voice of her dead lover. I started writing in 2019, and shortly after, it was published. What I imagined is now possible. You can talk to the dead.

Every time I discuss AI, I preface it with “all of this could be outdated in a couple of months.” …So you’re right. We’re in a life-imitating art moment. Be careful what you imagine.

DH: What’s the best-case scenario for our current trajectory with AI?

NS: The best-case scenario is that AI collaborates with humans, working with us to solve significant issues: political, medical, climate and social. The efficiencies created by AI are passed along to consumers in the form of cheaper goods.

Sufficient laws and guardrails are put into place to prevent harm, and humans are fairly compensated for their data, which is used to build AI. To help sort disinformation from information, AI-created content is labeled.

‘Science on Screen’ launches at 7pm, Wednesday, May 1, at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center, 1118 4th St., San Rafael. Tickets are $8.50 CalFilm members, $10.25 for youth and seniors, and $14 for general admission.

Daedalus Howellhttps://dhowell.com
Daedalus Howell is the writer-director of the feature filmsPill Head and the upcoming Werewolf Serenade. Learn more at dhowell.com.

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