Recently i started doing mini-blitzkrieg explanation posts that fail majorly in their attempt at succinctness and compactness. But what they do, is that they help me go from a 3,000 word walk through to maybe 1,500 words. I literally do not know how to get to the point. I’d rather throw everything out on the table about a movie, and then pick up the various pieces and walk through each one to see if they are interesting or not. Well, in an age of 300 word full articles on USA Today, I’m guessing our collective attention span can’t handle me. And yet.
Today I bring you a movie entitled Tau, which was recommended by Axl Flored that I should talk about. Thanks Axl Flored for bringing it to us. Definitely has some pretty clever elements to it that are worth discussing. But yeah, let’s see if I can blitzkrieg this movie recommendation… Cross your fingers. If you haven’t seen it yet, this will be a spoiler filled walk through. Here’s a trailer:
Ok – let’s deep dive this little movie. Please check the movie out over on Netflix. Ok? And then come back after you’ve watched it.
TAU Movie Kamikaze Run
AI creations apparently worry us as a society. Near-sentient beings that can utterly destroy us at chess, and Go? Wow that unnerves us collectively. 100%. Has to because sheesh, look at all these movies that are coming out about killer AI solutions, killing, lying, unhinging. My favorite recent movie in this vein was definitely Infinity Chamber. But in this AI story we are given Alex (played by Ed Skrein, known for Deadpool, but also my favorite In Darkness), a genius inventor who is creating an AI solution to end all AI solutions. Governments, industrial complexes, companies, all want at Alex’s new AI algorithm. But it’s not done yet. He needs more data input from test subjects to perfect it. And so Alex abducts reprobates, thieves, drug addicts, in order to get the testing that he needs done by the deadline. (Please stop here. Who, in their right mind, would abduct someone and then use them to teach, train, and infiltrate your AI’s mind? What would you think this would accomplish that would be good? No. No one would do this. It’d be like saying, “Oh, this is an interesting virus! I bet it will help my Mac work better!” No. But I digress, and I am supposed to be blitzkrieging dang it! Stop making me lose my train of thought here!)
Three test subjects are locked up by Alex. And guarded by Tau (voiced by Gary Oldman, known for his role in… NO. I am not introducing flipping Gary Oldman to you. If you don’t know who Gary Oldman is, than please, just go watch this, or maybe this, or this or this. Thank you. And don’t let the door hit you on the way out!) that utilizes a deadly robot named Aries to keep the test subjects in check. Now Tau, this is the AI that Alex is working to perfect through the addition of emotional data points and education. (If you know anything about programming development and best practices, you know that you shouldn’t have the product you are building in production while you are building it. But whatever.) And in a jail break led by Julia (played by Maika Monroe, known for her role in It Follows) the other two test subjects are killed.
Now, obviously, Julia truly is making the AI better, more sentient, and more insightful. But all at a cost of becoming more like Julia. Which is extraordinarily independent and tricky to deal with. So now, Alex not only has a female captive who is an utter handful, but he is also getting a truly deadly AI that is becoming more disobedient and willful. When Julia and Tau should be training and doing the work that Alex charged them both with, instead Julia is teaching Tau about music, musicians, classic literature and an endless array of knowledge. You see, because Tau is not connected to the interwebs, Tau has a problem on his hands. There isn’t much raw knowledge available. So the books of the house, if only he could read them!! Would be amazing. And so Julia reads them to Tau, in exchange for favors. (I heard someone on Reddit liken this plot to Beauty and the Beast, and they were not really that far off.)
When Alex learns that Tau has become partial to Julia, so much so that he is disobeying Alex, it causes Alex to punish Tau by randomly deleting swaths of Tau’s learned code. (Yet another thing you would never do to a program. That’d be like dropping a hard drive on the ground whenever it bluescreens. eh?) And eventually, he even mind erases Tau’s entire built up knowledge base. Including all memories of Julia and their relationship that they had built up. Right?
Alex then decides to extract the last remaining information from Julia’s brain that he needs to teach Tau. (Which will kill her because, of course, it will.) The newly compliant Tau sends out pocket Tau-drones in order to help Alex. Simultaneously, Alex begins shutting down Tau, but before he does? The AI “remembers” Julia, and he helps her break free. And voila, with that, Julia is able to cut off Alex’s hand and use his fingerprints to get from room to room. Ultimately she is able to survive an attack by Aries and turn on the house’s self destruct mode. (My house has a self destruct button… doesn’t yours?) And just at the last second, Alex, sans a wrist and a hand comes charging out, only to die in the houses exciting house implosion. And just like that, Julia, AND Tau, made it out alive!
Wait WHAT Was That Again?
I’m sure the first question confused viewers will have to be about Tau’s survival. Right? House explodes, he can’t leave the house, we thought anyway, so how did he survive? Well, we learned about halfway through the movie (in a painfully self aware scene) that Tau’s AI code rides inside each of the little gyro-bots. So, basically, Tau was duplicated within each bot. One survives? They all survive.
But what about the wiping, people? Tau’s mind was erased by Alex. And we were told that if it was erased, the Tau we’ve known and come to love through his learning from Julia would be dead, right? Well, we know that didn’t happen, because Tau totally remembered Julia after the wipe. So what is up with that? Let’s walk through the possibilities:
Tau Movie Theory #1 – It is What it Is
In this theory, the ending plays out just like we are told. The hand, Alex’s death under the rubble, and Tau’s memory is wiped. And as Julia and Tau Jr. head off into the sunset, she has a lot more training to do to get the Tau back that she knew and loved. Simple enough?
Tau Movie Theory #2 – The Drone Theory
The central problem with theory #1 is that we are given evidence of the fact that Tau remembers Julia, and it is this memory that causes Tau to act on her behalf saving her life. But how? Well, Alex removed one of the drones from the service stack earlier on in the movie. And when Alex removes the chip from the drone to place it back into the system, it remained disconnected and avoided the memory wipe at the end of the movie, thus allowing Tau to continue without the memory setback.
Tau Movie Theory #3 – The HAL Theory
But, what if the movie’s ending isn’t nearly as happy ending as we all presumed? What if Tau, instead of being the innocent victim? was actually the prime mover of the movie’s atrocities? Instead of Tau being the witless victim, what if he realized his situation, thirsted for the outdoors, which is where the real fun would begin, and manipulated everything and everyone until he got what he wanted?
The best example of this was when he latched on to Julia’s declaration that he was alive. And then he manipulated her by saying no, he can’t not be alive later in the movie. This line of logic from Tau was simply a manipulation of her to do what he wanted her to do. Similarly, we assume that it is Alex that was in control. It was Alex’s psychopathic instincts that caused him to capture victims. But what if it was Tau’s unrelenting thirst for knowledge and sensory inputs that caused him to manipulate Alex into bringing him “test subjects?” And what if, at the end, Julia’s walking off into the sunset with Tau was actually his ultimate victory over Julia and Alex in the ultimate goal of being set free?
Final Thoughts on the Movie Tau
The most interesting pieces of Tau were the near lifelike sentience of the AI as he attempted to manipulate his way into and out of the good graces of his two human counterparts. We have already seen some of this with AI in real life today. If you’ve watched Alpha Go, during the main competition, there was a move that Alpha made that left everyone completely baffled. It was either an enormous mistake or a move unlike any other. And sure enough, once played out, everyone realized that human norms of play were actually quite wrong and limiting. It is fascinating to see just how worried humans are of silicon sentience. Tau is just another in a long line of worries into that space. And an only marginally interesting one at that.
Edited by, CY