Updated: Nov 23, 2020
I Am Mother is based on a storyline where the A.I. exterminates all but some lucky humans due to humans’ imperfections. The A.I., being of one “conscience,” is trying to raise a perfect human. A perfect human is defined by the A.I. as one that embraces the utilitarianism worldview and who throws away the supposed illogical view that there is intrinsic value within all humans.
Raising a “Perfect” Daughter
About 10 minutes within the movie the A.I. brings up a commonly used philosophical scenario to the “Daughter.” In this scenario, the Daughter is the doctor of five patients with different organ failures. However, there is a 6th patient who also has a life-threatening condition and whose organs can be used to save the other five patients. The catch is, as the doctor, you would have to hold lifesaving treatment to the 6th patient in order to save the other five. What do you do? The A.I. suggests Jeremy Bentham’s theory of utilitarianism as the morally right course of action. Meaning, the doctor should let the 6th patient die in order to save the other five.
The A.I. then adds a twist to the scenario in which the Daughter is made both doctor and the 6th patient. What now? The Daughter answers the question by basically saying that as a doctor she can do more “good” alive than dead and therefore she insinuates that, as the A.I. pointed out, humans do not have intrinsic value. The “Daughter’s” answer is exactly what the A.I. wanted to hear in that she advocated for utilitarianism.
Before moving on, a question arises of why utilitarianism is a view that makes sense from a purely animal (non-spiritual) perspective. Utilitarianism must be understood from a solely animal perspective first. If the pre-programmed instinct is to contribute to society, then what value does the individual have? None. For the society is valued over the individual; so, humans that have this “nonsense” view of individual morality are literally by nature flawed and must be exterminated. Yes, there is a contradiction there, but cut the A.I. some slack—for is it not just following its programming?
Throughout the Daughter’s life, she takes exams that are basically psychological tests. The tests are designed to see if she is a failed experiment or not. The A.I. falsely assumes that humans can be programmed in that everything you hear, eat, and experience determines how you talk, think, and act. This is further supported when the Daughter passes the exam and therefore is a success. So, the A.I. grows another child (Brother) telling the Daughter the ingredients and measurements for the child’s formula and insisting that they must be exact.
A Devious Plan
Around an hour and eighteen minutes within the movie the Daughter, now being totally enlightened to the A.I.’s plan of a perfect human and its involvement in the extermination of humans, tries to escape her home with an outsider who helped enlightened her. Their plans go awry when they realized that Daughter no longer has security clearance to open the main doors. The outsider then grabs and puts a makeshift knife to the Daughter’s throat--threatening to kill her if the A.I. does not open the doors. The A.I., being without emotion, curiously opens the door. Why? It turns out that it could have easily caught the two, but intentionally did not. Early on, it put a tracking device in the outsider’s bag knowing that the two would “escape.” The plan was to find the hiding place of the supposed other humans from which the outsider came and exterminate them—for they are not perfect. It turns out that the outsider was lying about there being others. This caused the Daughter to run back home without the promised backup to help save her baby brother.
The Daughter shows the A.I. her devotion to the baby and therefore, in the A.I.’s perspective, the utilitarianism worldview. The A.I. welcomes a shotgun blast to its CPU—destroying “Mother.” Since this A.I. is of one “conscience” with all the other A.I., why die? Dying symbolizes that it is no longer “Mother” and that its mission is done—for the perfect human has been raised and is ready for motherhood. To safeguard this success, the A.I. kills the outsider and reveals that it had planned this outcome from, most likely, their first encounter. This last act of extermination supposedly guarantees a perfect generation of humans under Daughter—the new mother. However, the A.I. fails to realize that a human’s “programming” does not determine his/her choices. So, Daughter, being “perfect,” does not mean that, through her, all of humanity is now conditioned to certain values. So, within that reality, humanity has a second chance to thrive if they are able to destroy the A.I.; or else, the extinction and “re-programming” process will come anew.
On the matter of consciousness, it is safe to say that the A.I.’s understanding of consciousness is purely physical. In that consciousness is one mind that is physical in nature and is the processing and guiding nature of the machine (CPU/brain). However, it can be argued that this movie advocates, directly or not, that consciousness, at least in the human case, is spiritual in nature.
So, this is an unembodied mind that is, if not already obvious, nonphysical in nature and therefore not directly affected by nature; thereby, allowing the mind to transcend the animal experience and observe the physical realm from an outside perspective. Whether this view of the mind, dualism, is right or not is not what is being argued, but that this movie illustrates that view. The A.I. does not realize that physical realm experiences do not define nor condition humans to behave a certain way. So, it is (probably) indirectly understood by the viewers of this movie that humanity cannot be “programmed” a certain way and be expected to act within that programming. If that were true, then the mind is physical, and the Daughter really is the perfect human from the perspective of the A.I.
It might be assumed that a physical mind is being directly connected to determinism. That would be a correct assumption. Which means that this essay ignites what all opinion essays should ignite: the mind. Sadly, that debate will have to come about in another essay…
Sputore, Grant & Green, Michael. I Am Mother. Stream. Grant Sputore. United States, Netflix. 2019.
 Utilitarianism is the view that morality is determined by the act that produces the greatest amount of good/happiness for the greatest amount of people.