What Do The Movies Tell Us About AI?

Brian Thomas of Enlightened Digital tells Top 10 Films why artificial intelligence has often formed the basis for many fascinating pieces of cinema dating back to Metroplis in 1927.

Ex Machina, Alex Garland, UK Film, Top 10 Films, Science Fiction,

Artificial intelligence has long been the subject of interesting stories in films. Starting in the 1920s with an autonomous robot in Metropolis and then through the years with portrayals of AI in humanoid form, computer systems, and other embodiments, we see how fictional versions of the technology behaves. Albeit at a much different scope currently, AI in the real world is improving and finding additional use cases as time goes on. From self-driving cars and predictive insights utilised by companies to chatbots and digital assistants capable of language processing, the technology is further incorporating into our lives.

In alignment with some of the movies, some theorise that we cannot comprehend the true intellectual extent and behaviour of future AI billions of times smarter than us and so experts like Elon Musk claim that we must merge with it in order to stay relevant. Others, like Mark Zuckerberg, posit we will always benefit from acting in control behind a switch allowing us to constrain the technology. This split in assumption implicates what people predict on the results encountered if and when we produce more advanced forms of general intelligence. Will the machine always act obediently or will reason be found to deviate, and what will be our level of control throughout this process? The movies provide their own answers.

Several films portray AI as a humanoid robot with the capability of moving its limbs and locomoting autonomously. These robots housing the intelligence often also exhibit super strength and smarts. The Terminator, Ultron from The Avengers, and Ava in Ex-Machina showcase examples of such AI extrapolation, and each of them unfortunately acts negatively toward humans (Ava does so do a lesser extent but it still harms people). Whether it be to execute actions based on their coded purpose or to fulfil semi-conscious desires rooted in a decision framework, these instances of AI sacrifice human well-being for what it views to be a greater objective. Although we see recent advances in neural networks and robotics, right now AI is still nowhere near the levels of autonomy to act in the negative ways expressed in these movies. Though, technological innovation occurs at an increasing rate, and we would not want to get caught off guard.

Films like Bicentennial Man and A.I. Artificial Intelligence portray equally futuristic (and currently unrealistic) forms of artificial intelligence, yet they behave more amicably towards humans. Again, it is unsure whether it is best to describe their behaviors as an execution of their underlying code or a fulfilment of authentic desires created by their complex code. This question will continue to persist as we contemplate future artificial intelligence that potentially borders on degrees of self-awareness.

Even though it will most likely be years before such issues and possibilities come up in actuality, they should be considered so we can best prepare for what’s to come. Past milestones argue it may arrive sooner than expected. Besides, these subjects also make for interesting movies and thought experiments in the meantime. Why not contemplate such an important and equally entertaining subject? Check out this infographic detailing some major instances of AI in films to help you do so:

Artificial Intelligence in movies

Words by Brian Thomas.

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