Tohoru Masamune Explains His “Weird Alter-Ego” Matt Lin On Twitch’s Artificial

Tohoru Masamune Interview

Earlier this summer, we interviewed several members of the cast and crew from Twitch’s Emmy Award winning series, Artificial, from creator, Bernie Su.

Tohoru Masamune portrays Matt Lin, who builds an AI robot and uses a Twitch stream to teach her how to socialize and life lessons. If you’re not caught up with the series, without spoiling anything, there was a pretty major even at the end of Season 2 which combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, changed the course of the show going into season 3. Check out our interview with Tohoru below and see why he was the perfect choice to take on this role.

Tohoru Masamune On Playing Matt Lin in Artificial on Twitch

I understand that you went to MIT for school. Is that correct?

Tohoru Masamune: That is correct, yeah.

What did you study?

Tohoru Masamune: Chemical Engineering. Came from a family line of – actually, they are quite well-known organic chemists. My dad was a professor there, and my grandfather was a pretty well known chemist in Japan. His father-in-law, that’s how he met my mom, actually. That’s an interesting story.

This is, I guess, how deep I was into the STEM world. That was the big talk I had with my dad; stepping out of science and into engineering, and that was a big deal. My uncle was a chemical engineer, so the whole family. It’s kind of a ridiculous family, actually. That was the whole thing… There were a lot of things that went into that decision, family scientists and research scientists are pretty hardcore, but I stepped out and decided while I was at MIT that I’m going to head into the engineering world. And that’s what I did. Chemical Engineering.

When you were taking on this role, how was your knowledge of the world of AI at the time that all this started?

Tohoru Masamune: Well, here’s the funny thing. I guess it’s kind of a new thing, but it’s been my life forever. There was a time where I had to get a signature at college… for some requirement I needed or something, and I had to get it from Marvin Minsky. I don’t know if you’re familiar with him, but he’s like the grandfather of AI. I remember going to his office, and it’s very funny because I went in and they were all these little robots in his office and his lab. It was pretty surreal. But yeah, he was very kind, and he signed whatever form I need to sign, and I left.

That was a very interesting time, and that was back in the day when LISP was the big AI language. And I do remember a friend, back in speech recognition – I think he’s working with a media lab at the time, and you’d get a call from an AI. It was almost, in a weird way, sort of mini-Turing test. Although I wouldn’t say that those AIs would pass a Turing test. But it was very trippy to have, back in that day, a conversation with an AI. It was really something else, and it’s great seeing what’s going on now.

But yeah, it’s sort of something that has been around for a while. All that stuff is really starting to rise to the surface; there’s some really interesting stuff going on.

I’m going to assume that you’re at least semi-familiar with the three laws of robotics that Isaac Asimov proposed?

Tohoru Masamune: Yeah. I wouldn’t call myself an expert on that, but certainly. All this stuff was being thrown around.

Season 2 ended with horrific events, but when Matt was building Sophie, was there a specific reason that you think he didn’t instill those rules or laws into her?

Tohoru Masamune: The whole structure of it was open-ended; that was kind of the point of Sophie as an AI. I suppose you’re right, one certainly could have had put that in there, where you didn’t allow harm or injury or whatever – Asimov’s philosophy. But the whole point of Sophie, the whole experiment of Sophie, was to become fully a human. That was that was the Prime Directive of Sophie, if you recall: to become human.

With that, I feel like yes, of course, we’re taught that and we learn that. But in terms of having it hard-wired into us that that cannot happen; it’s not something that I would put into that. Everything was built on that Prime Directive, and everything that came from that. Of course, there’s socialization and that’s what creates the desire not to kill humans. This was something that would be developed through socialization, which you sort of see at the very beginning Matt was putting a lot of effort into the socialization aspect and creating ethics.

All those early episodes were based on morality. I mean, those were the titles of the episodes – morality, ethics. To answer your question, the laws of robotics were in there, but they would be brought in through socialization as opposed to hard-wiring into the coding.

What I got from it was that if you had hard-wired those into her, it would have eliminated the essence of free will.

Tohoru Masamune: Absolutely. I think that’s what makes us human, is the fact that we have choice. Of course hardwire means through the coding, and not through actual hard-wiring. Yes, here’s the little anti-killing mechanism. But yeah, absolutely. What makes us human is the fact that we choose not to.

There was an entire episode that was based on the runaway train. That’s the idea behind that, which I suppose is a little risky. But that’s the idea; this is how you fulfill the directive of being human. Because that’s a very critical part of it; free will and choice. Yeah, absolutely.


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Josh Goldman

If you really want to know me, you should watch Ralph Bakshi's Wizards, Rankin-Bass's Flight of Dragons, Johnny Dangerously, and Spaceballs. Co-Founder of The Illuminerdi.