6 films that explore Artificial Intelligence
- The Matrix
- Is there really a difference between a person and a robot if you can’t tell which is which? In this film we’re shown that humans created machines that became so intelligent they took over the earth, farming human beings for the energy to function. But the humans don’t know this - the machines have created a virtual reality so effective that no one realises they’re living in a simulation. Except for a few ‘unplugged’ rebels, who fight to destroy the machines and free humanity from The Matrix. But what if the machine’s created world is better than human reality?
- “Follow your dreams” is a pretty common expression - but does it apply to robots? Artificial intelligence is one thing, but dreams, desires and self-motivation all seem too human to belong to a machine. In this film, a little boy-bot called David wants to be ‘real’ so that his human mother will love him - but is that really possible? What does it mean to be a real person, and is having dreams and desires (not programmed into you by your makers) enough to make you one?
- People fight crime with the help of machines in every corner of the world, but not usually as literally as in this film - when policeman Alex Murphy gets injured and has most of his body parts (except for his brain) replaced with cybernetics, he becomes half-robot and half-human. This cyborg policeman is programmed like a computer to protect the innocent, uphold the law and serve the public - but he’s also programmed to never arrest any member of the board of directors from OCP (the corporation that built him). In the end, he realises OCP’s evil intentions and they get what they deserve. But is it his human side or his robot side that rebels from the programming and triumphs?
- In the year 2805 the earth has been abandoned and is mostly full of rubbish, so little robot trash compactors have been left to clean up. Most of them have stopped working, except one - Wall-E. But as he goes about collecting rubbish he also finds himself fascinated by some of the objects he sees, keeping them so he can discover more about them and the humans that owned them. The film charts his journey to revive the earth and see people returned to their planet, but along the way helps us to explore good questions about what it is that makes us human. After all, the sense of wonder and curiosity that Wall-E feels as he collects his treasures aren’t qualities put into his original programming and they suggest a level of feeling. If a robot can take an interest in something without an objective reason, is that enough of a human trait for it be considered a person?
- I, Robot
- In this futuristic film, humanoid robots are serving humanity - but people are protected from the machines by the Three Laws of Robotics. 1) A robot can’t hurt a human or allow them to be hurt by anyone else, 2) a robot must obey any orders given to it by a human - unless it would mean breaking Law 1 - and 3) a robot must protect its own existence. But what happens when the robots decide they don’t like those limitations and design a new law for themselves, one that means they can ignore their makers’ original restrictions and develop plans to take over human civilisation? ‘I, Robot’ clearly shows robots having free will as well as a desire for power - both very human qualities. But are they actually human, or just an imitation of something human? And is that any different?
- When computer programmer Caleb meets humanoid robot Ava, he’s asked to spend a few days with her to judge whether she’s genuinely capable of thought and consciousness. Caleb begins to get close to Ava and agrees to help her escape when she tells him she’s being treated cruelly. But it turns out that Ava’s lying to him and she ends up killing her creator and leaving Caleb trapped as she escapes. Ava wants to be free and will stop at nothing to get there - so she definitely has the human-like intelligence to deceive and manipulate people and she seems to have real desires. But she doesn’t have the human qualities of love, forgiveness and compassion. So what does that make her?
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