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The Pod Generation

Recently, while on a long-haul flight and unable to sleep, I decided to see what the in-flight entertainment had to offer. I was looking for something light-hearted, yet engaging enough to save me from boredom. After some browsing, I discovered a Belgian-French-UK co-production entitled “The Pod Generation.”

The story in a nutshell: in not such a distant future, a tech giant offers prospective parents the possibility of renting artificial wombs, the so-called pods. The pods are portable, so that the parents-to-be can take them home and both experience a hassle-free pregnancy. The tech company also caters for the super busy. It offers the option to leave the pod at the company’s premises and thus outsource all aspects of nurturing.

As time and convenience are premium commodities in this ultra-modern society, the couple Rachel and Alvy also decide to embark on the pod-pathway to parenthood. Alvy, an “old-fashioned” botanist, is reluctant at first, but slowly develops an affectionate bond with the pod. Rachel and Alvy are living in a world, where AI voice assistants choreograph and measure every aspect of their lives. The natural world is also becoming obsolete because artificial nature pods are replacing the great outdoors. Alvy, a university lecturer, loses his funding for his plant collection, as it is more cost-effective to replace real plants with holograms.

After a honeymoon-period of pod-bonding, the couple become disillusioned with the tech company’s interference in their lives. One day, the company makes the unilateral decision to change the gestation period to 39 weeks to vacate the pods more quickly and allocate them to other prospective parents. In the end, the couple reject the artificial pregnancy pathway, and (no spoilers!), opt for a more natural approach.

I enjoyed this funny, yet thoughtful sci-fi comedy, and of course couldn’t help to see parallels to a potential AI “take-over” of some aspects of our daily lives, including certain professional sectors, such as our own, the translation and interpreting industry. “The Pod Generation” features AI psychologists, coaches and assistants, and I have recently spotted ads for AI language teachers and sports coaches on social media.

Humans who still had jobs, like our tech executive Rachel, were under relentless scrutiny to be at the peak of their efficiency, with their performance closely monitored and backed-up with hard data. What it meant to be human felt very hollow – perfect, yet somewhat bland and boring, like odourless hologram flowers.

So what is the conclusion? Certainly not an aversion to all things AI, but rather a healthy curiosity in what is to come in, let’s say, five to ten years time. What aspects of AI will stick, and what will be forgotten as short-lived hype? In the meantime, as curious observers, we can enjoy the odd sci-fi romcom, and sign up for CPD courses while trying to imagine the future.

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