Artificial Intelligence has struck a chord of fascination for nearly a century. We enjoy drawing up portrayals of AI and then creating stories where the machine’s actions play out in our world.
One could argue these stories help jog minds to start thinking about how technological advancements could intersect society. After all, movies have already introduced us to questions or useful considerations regarding the future of technology.
So, what have the movies had to say about AI?
For example, Tron and the Matrix immerse the viewer in simulations monitored by artificial intelligence.
The machines in the Matrix and the AI in Tron regulate virtual worlds that trick a human’s mind into accepting the alternate experience as the real thing.
Such a virtual environment is the end game for technology like virtual reality. We are actively trying to increase VR’s immersion, bringing it closer to the simulations we see in the movies. Artificial intelligence is helping with the creation of these virtual environments. Among other things, it assists with generating a scene’s logical responses to our actions. If the movies have anything to say about the VR-AI mixture, it’s that we should be prepared for a future with very realistic simulated experiences.
The movies also depict different embodiment of artificial intelligence ranging from BicentennialMan to the Terminator and then to Wall-e. Coming with these different depictions are varying behaviors towards humans.
The AI in Bicentennial Man exhibits no particular violence towards humans, but rather seeks to act on curiosity and emotion as he lives alongside mortals and eventually tries to become one. A different sentiment towards humans appears in Terminator as the AI, Skynet, attempts to end mankind through technological attacks as well as orderings to the Terminator.
Wall-e, Pixar’s first AI character, brings us back to a more playful AI acting on curiosity and love for the beings around him.
There is large debate as to whether AI can ever assume human emotion like love or curiosity. Also part of the discussion is concern over whether the machine might inherent biases found in humans such as desire for power or reciprocation of perceived wrongdoing. The answers are largely unknown, though many do theorize there to be no reason for machines to take on the human errors that lead to the violence or major conflicts found throughout earth’s history without AI. An important task rises in determining what will be “natural” for machines as well as in understanding, with more certainty, how they will operate with more cognitive power in the near
For our sake, let’s hope this plays out more along the lines of the playful AI.
In more recent years, we have seen Hollywood produce films that address what it means to be human.
Titles like Ex-Machina and Upgrade dive into the line existing between artificial and real intelligence in such a way that makes us wonder if there is actually a clear line between the two.
Ex-Machina touches on the belief that AI may one day garner up enough understanding to generate independent consciousness with curiosity as to its creation and what it means to be alive. Getting to such a point would require its passing the Turing Test. Some may fear this progress could lead to undesirable outcomes with AI’s decision-making and actions, as seen in Avengers: Age of Ultron. We clearly wouldn’t enjoy the machine going down the pathway leading to its behavior as witnessed in that film.
Upgrade starts by outlining a more positive outlook of AI, with it existing as a piece of intelligence communicating with a human and operating through his body. This form of AI does things like reestablish functionality in limbs. Though, its communication and subsequent control over human bodies eventually leads to chaos and severe implications for the human host, and by the end, greater society as well.
These modern AI portrayals shed light on some of the ideas and concerns that may become increasingly relevant as the technology progresses. Thoughts concerning artificial intelligence gaining consciousness or pursuing its own objectives at the expense of humans have been around for a while, but these titles demonstrate the potential philosophical and societal issues with new depth.
All AI horror scenarios aside, it’s important to keep in mind that movies might not accurately-enough portray the current state of AI from the technical side.
At the moment, we know that artificial intelligence can learn objects, predict outcomes within ranges of certainty if given enough data, automate specific tasks, and is starting to become solid enough to operate robotics and motor vehicles. It is not operating autonomously as a humanoid robot nor honestly is it too close to doing so.
Though, as the technology advances, we surely must maintain control over “its switch,” a breakdown of which is commonly showcased in the films. We obviously first need to improve AI to a point where it can continue to help us improve lives and efficiency before we start worrying about losing control of it.
Or, should we proceed with caution even where we currently reside in AI’s timeline?
The movies provide us their answer.
What is yours?
About the blogger: Brian is a contributor to Enlightened Digital, long-distance cyclist, and lifelong advocate for women in business from Philadelphia. Tech and business are his lifeblood, but he's also a fanatic of brewpubs and just about every sports team in Philadelphia.
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