Prof. Boris Mirkin, film

Short text of the film.

The main character is Boris Mirkin; or rather his lifestyle, with a background of old Russian documentaries about artificial intelligence after Alan Turing. The plot is not quite clear, like it is usually in Russian plays or movies. Take "Seagull" by A. Chekhov: Here is an ageing diva Arkadina along with her lover writer Trigorin, here is her son Treplev trying to live a decent life yet having no money at all, and here is Nina Zarechnaya, the "seagull shot pointlessly". Perhaps, the plot can be put as "There exists a fellow in Russia."

The film is a series of clips at which Boris Mirkin expresses his opinions or tells of his life episodes, while walking in a mirrored labyrinth at a science museum or sitting in a chair or doing similar auxiliary actions. A couple of times his stories are interrupted by extracts from Russian popular science films of 60es, mainly illustrating the famous definition of Artificial Intelligence by A. Turing. A. Turing proposed that a machine is intelligent if we cannot tell the difference between a human and machne based on our dialogue with her. One of B. Mirkin's opinions is that although this idea may sound interesting but it is sheer nonsense because brings forth no concepts or methods to define and determine such important notions as "sense", "understanding", etc.

The namesake episode is in the end and shot with the help of a quadrocopter to illustrate a landscape over Moscow and its river. That refers to the time in 90es when Boris was a long term visitor to DIMACS Rutgers University NJ USA, having received two three-year grants from the ONR. To drive home from DIMACS, he and his roommate had to enter a larger road by turning to the left with no lightings nearby. Tomorrow's luck was measured by the time spent waiting till both halves of the larger road get free of cars so that the turn could be made. If that was quick, luck was spread over both of them. If the wait lasted several minutes, it was no luck in the sight. Although being a joke of a kind, the device did work. A paper could get through, or grant application approved, or bad debt paid in full. Boris says that is more complicated than it seems. "See, luck is a very rare bird. We do not wait till luck descends upon us by herself but rather we actively work to make luck happen - if not here, then there; if not now, then later." "I feel I have a guardian angel who sometimes acts very straightforwardly denying me this or admitting me to that. Sometimes she sends me signs and I try interpreting them."

A question in the film discussed at a meeting relates to the so-called Yandex poetry, a program making verses of user queries (a very colourful episod preceding that is of a lonely poet quetly sitting under a beautiful modern painting and sipping vodka from a bottle). That was whether computer could compose good verses at all. Boris said there are two types of congitive systems in humans. Individuals of one type collect impressions of life and summarise them in interacting taxonomies stored in the brain. The others do not build complex taxonomies; they perceive all phenomenae as some texts related to the given time moment but rarely kept in the long memory. This second type usually feels good having no ideas of their own, beyond those presented in the current texts. When they need more than that, say to make a long term decision, they ask their relatives, friends and colleagues for opinion. Poets of the first type create another reality in their verses, like Ossip Mandelstamm or Alexander Block (Great Russian poets at the beginning of 20th century; both died under bolsheviks because of lack of freedom.) Poets of the second type also create good poetic texts, yet they are more bookish and secondary. The poetry of the second type can be computer-developed right now. The poetry of the first type is impossible as yet - we first need developing the art of creating of adequate interacting taxonomies.

One more example of Boris' opinions: He says that Internet data mining makes individual inner selves open to public, which can be police or competitor or an overzealous friend or just any passerby. Therefore the zone of individual freedoms is significantly narrowing. Moreover, he expects that the cybercrime will grow significantly so that everybody will be subject to big robberies in the future. "I do not want to live in that future", Boris says. "How come," he hears, - "You yourselves work to make it happen!" "Ok then, shoot me" - says Boris - "Nobody can escape the technology advance!"