The development of artificial intelligence isn’t only a topic currently growing within the public interest, but one that is also gaining massive screen time in the entertainment industry.
Artificial intelligence, or AI for short, is defined as a “brand of computer science dealing with the simulation of intelligent behaviour in computers.” In other words, it is a substantial attempt in upgrading the human species by replacing our thoughts and actions with machines who can not only do the same thing — but has the potential to do it better.
“Often, films dealing with the technology involve robots rising up to destroy humanity. It’s all in good fun. Except for the possibility that, well, maybe it could happen?” writes an unidentified author for CNET. “After all, the goal of AI, really, is to foster machines that think like humans, and heaven knows we’re capable of some very nasty thoughts.”
The story of AI machines in battle with the lingering presence of humanity is a common theme in popular culture. As for recent examples, these ideas are present in films such as Ex Machina, the second Avengers adaptation and the CW’s The 100.
These genres of entertainment not only explores the potential of artificial intelligence in the modern world, but also examine the benefits, the consequences, and the overall effects of a society powered by operating machines.
A robot from The Terminator franchise (Image Source: Atlanta Black Star)
Admittedly, artificial intelligence is a concept that we as a society shouldn’t be expected to worry about. We are expected to trust scientists: they have introduced us to the creative and imaginative technology we constantly use, though there’s something about the possibility of AI machines that makes us (alongside various other scientists) difficult to accept, a concept that is examined in Hollywood media.
In film and television, artificial intelligence is portrayed as a device that should not be trusted. It’s most commonly exhibited as a rising system that will take over the world like in I, Robot or a concept that can destroy the balance between technology and reality like in The Matrix.
Should this scare us? Films and TV are, for the most part, made up. They dive into inaccurate scenarios and pull us into their characters and settings through visual effects. With the continuing development of artificial intelligence, are films and shows portraying an authentic future of AI in the modern world?
This idea, of course, influences films that examine the trust between AI machines and humans. In Ex Machina, a programmer builds a relationship with a robot named Ava. Although she is a product of AI, he still treats her like a human, like someone who is a stranger and requires small talk in order to become comfortable with.
Which is why it is almost rational when Ava turns against her creators near the end of the film. If a human was trapped for experiments, wouldn’t they act the same way? Is the future of AI, as depicted in certain films, just a glorified version of human beings? With thoughts and emotions that are unstable like our own?
A screenshot of Ex Machina from 2015 (Image Source: Geek and Sundry)
This concept, of course, is an unnerving one to accept, for humans can not be controlled. As exhibited in Ex Machina — and countless other AI films that present a similar theme — there may be exterior forces that try to guide us towards certain behaviours and decisions, but ultimately it is within our own power on how we act and think. This is what is the most terrifying about our kind, and why the idea of AI is hard to swallow.
“AI experts, though, say most of these films don’t offer a realistic portrayal of how we’ll actually get along with the technology,” continues the CNET author. “But filmmakers have seized on the uncertainty and let their imaginations run wild.”
Though, in terms of the future of AI and human kind, we have yet to know how that will develop. Sure, there are films that like to think they have an idea, and there will continue to be films that think the future of AI is no future at all. But until then that future is yet to come, at least for now.