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  • Kwok Cheng Leng


Have you watched the movie Free Guy? If you haven’t, then you might wanna catch it before reading on. Warning: major spoilers ahead!

Guy waking up to a brand new day

Set in a Grand Theft Auto-esque video game, Guy, a bank teller, goes about his life as a non-player character, or NPC, in Free City.

In his POV, people with sunglasses are heroes—they’re cooler, can do anything, and don’t have to abide by the laws.

Just the everyday police chase

This is why a normal day for NPCs like Guy includes the noisy sirens of police cars chasing down people with sunglasses in fast cars, multitudes of explosions, car crashes and armed robberies. Because such crime happens so often, none of the NPCs really take it to heart or bother to put up a fight—when armed robbers barge into the bank Guy’s at yelling a typical “everybody down on the ground”, the security guard, also Guy’s best friend, simply drops his gun and lies down comfortably on the floor with Guy, engaging in small talk and joking around with him.

Everything is going great for Guy until he meets a real player. He breaks his daily routine and also picks up and puts on a pair of sunglasses, prompting him to realise that he is, in fact, a virtual character. Guy initially struggles with the realisation that he is “fake”, like all of us would if we were put in the same situation. He felt as if his whole life had been a lie, and storms around Free City in a sarcastic and angry mood.

Guy's emotional breakdown

After confiding in his best friend, Guy decides to take his life into his own hands.

In the real world, we find out that the real player Guy meets is actually a programmer called Millie, who created a code for a virtual game that was stolen by Free City’s game publisher, Antwan. Millie plays Free City in order to look for evidence that Antwan had illegally used their code to create his game. Guy, naturally, helps Millie with her mission. Antwan finds out about their scheme and threatens Free City’s existence. At the end, Guy saves the day and prevents his world from disappearing for good.

Besides just having an interesting storyline, from Guy’s struggle with his identity, Free Guy inspires viewers to think deeply about the idea of existence and how we live our own lives.

To me, Guy is like many of us going about our lives with similar mundane routines. Because of how our society focuses on academic success, many students likely have the same general routine: we wake up, we eat, we study hard, we sleep, repeat. But sometimes, this isn’t really how all of us want to spend our time.

Some of us may have had dreams of being an actor or actress, a singer, a Youtuber, or even a K-Pop idol, but not all of these people eventually seek to pursue their ambitions. Instead, because of the lack of support in pursuing non-academic paths or how being risk conservative has been inculcated in most of us, we might have conformed to the norm, choosing to study hard so that we can secure a stable, commonplace office job as these aspirations become “just fantasies” in the end.

Guy prompted me to reflect on how, occasionally, a few of us might feel stuck in our endless cycle of humdrum, and whether we really have the free will to decide what we want to do in our lives instead of following the common mentality that our society guides us to have.

A brief look into the programming Guy has

Free Guy also invokes thought on whether self-aware artificial intelligence (AI) can be considered real, living, human beings too. AI programmes are now so advanced that they can match up to human intelligence, and it feels like only a matter of time before AI might be enabled to develop self-consciousness. Guy has feelings and desires like us, but are they not validated because he was programmed to have them?

Another thing to consider is whether machines would truly be able to feel what humans feel. After all, since we cannot quantify our emotions, I am unsure as to how we can define what real emotions are as it would be tough to measure and compare an AI’s emotions to ours.

What if Antwan had successfully destroyed Guy in order to stop Millie from proving that he had stolen their code? Does he become a murderer?

These are questions that have no unified, correct answer. But eventually, I think they all boil down to the question of what makes us human. What is it that sets us apart and makes us real? I believe the answers to these will help us define what a real, living being should be, and decide whether self-aware AI should be considered human too. So, what do you think makes you human, and would self-aware AI fit that criteria?

Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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