The world is currently abuzz with news stories about AI. A majority of conversations around this technology are about the danger it poses for the future, particularly for work. People worry that the rise of AI will lead to an increase in the rate of global unemployment and drive even more people into poverty. This fear and wariness is present even in people who have helped bring AI to the world. Geoffrey Hinton who has worked on this technology for many years and is responsible for a lot of its developments also shared some concerns about the rise of AI.
These sentiments about Artificial Intelligence are not a recent phenomenon. While discourse was happening in scientific and technological spaces, films also had different theories about the existence of this technology. Here are six films that predicted the rise of AI and what it might mean for the human race.
Starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Hugo Weaving, The Matrix created by The Wachowskis, tells the story of a world that has been taken over by sentient machines who use human beings as an energy source while trapping them in a simulated reality. The films that make up the trilogy chronicle the war between the machines and a few members of the human race who have awoken and are aware of the actions of the machines. The films have become very relevant in a range of discourses. Consciousness, the human condition in relation to simulated reality – questioning what is real and what is not, and more importantly, the tendencies for AI to become malevolent and enslave the human race.
The 1984 James Cameron movie, Terminator is part of an expansive universe that forewarns the dangers of AI. Addressing what the future can look like with the rise of AI. Arnold Schwarzenegger is the titular character, a Terminator robot T-800 sent from 2029 to kill Sarah Connor played by Linda Hamilton. Connor’s unborn son, John is responsible for the victory that humans will have against Skynet, an AI defence system and its army of machines. To stop this from happening, Skynet sent T-800 to the past to kill Connor and prevent the birth of John. On its theme of the dangers of AI to the human race, Meia Chita-Tegmark writing for Huffpost described Schwarzenegger’s character as the “visual representation of AI risk” while positing that the risk from AI will not be a robot army and will be less visually menacing.
There are not a lot of films in the AI genre that tackle the relationship humans have with AI at an interpersonal level, but the 2013 film Her does this. It stars Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson. The former’s character is a lonely man who falls in love with his AI virtual assistant voiced by Johansson. Over the course of the film, the two characters evolve into better versions of themselves until the AI departs to a place that she does not talk about. This film unlike the others in this list, imagines what a romantic and sexual relationship with AI can look like. Covering what benefits it might offer to the humans who struggle with human connection.
Colossus: The Forbin Project
Before there was Terminator, there was a much older film that theorized the possibility of AI dominance and control. The 1970 Colossus tells the story of two AI defence systems, one in the United States and one in the Soviet Union who fuse and leave a stream of destruction in their wake. Motivated by an intense desire to end all wars, the Artificial Intelligence in this film embarks on a quest for control, tragically resulting in the loss of countless lives.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Another film that tells the story of AI who is looking to make the world perfect is the 2015 MCU Avengers: Age of Ultron. Tony Stark and Bruce Banner decide to use AI in Loki’s Scepter to finish building Stark’s global defence program that is supposed to protect the world. This catastrophic turn unfolds when Ultron, the formidable AI, scours the depths of the internet and determines that the only means to save humanity is through its extinction.
Ex Machina focuses on the role that humans play in the evolution of AI into malevolence. It does the same thing as Her with its discourse on interpersonal relationships between Humans and AI. Domhnall Gleeson is Caleb Smith a programmer who has been invited to the home of his company’s CEO, Nathan Bateman played by Oscar Isaac. During the week they spend together we see the way each man relates with the AI that Isaac’s character has created.
The film implies that their behaviours are what inform how the AI acts. Bateman’s death, the emotional manipulation Smith suffers and his eventual abandonment by the AI played by Alicia Vikander are supposedly spurred on by the underhanded treatment she had experienced at the hands of Bateman. Ex Machina’s interrogation of gender imbalance and the feminization of AI as influencing factors for the way people have relationships with this technology is something that very few films in the genre have been able to do.
I, Robot is another cautionary tale on the rise of AI. Will Smith plays Del Spooner a police officer in 2035 who is investigating the death of Alfred Lanning, a Robotics scientist. In the film, AI governs itself by following the Three Laws of Robotics, designed to safeguard humanity from a potential takeover by artificial intelligence. Spooner who is largely sceptical and mistrusting of AI uncovers a conspiracy by the film’s central AI system while working with a robot.
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