The past couple of years have seen something of a trend emerge in western cinema with films like Transcendence, The Machine, Her and most recently Ex Machina. These are all films about artificial intelligence, or AI. For those who don’t know, AI refers to the intelligence exhibited by computers or machines, and colloquially is used to describe a computer that has become so intelligent it has become self aware, and is even capable of seemingly human traits like emotions. It’s an interesting concept, especially since it’s not a huge distance from reality. A few months ago a team in Russia created the first programme to pass the Turing test, which supposedly required the programme to be indistinguishable from a human being.
So how will people react when faced with this great new horizon, this vast step in human history? Well if we look to film for the answer, things look pretty bleak. The vast majority of films about AI either feature humans and machines embroiled in a bloody war or at least one machine going around killing people for its own nefarious purposes. Either way, people die and it’s generally a bad time for everyone involved. The Matrix, War Games, the Terminator series, all of these make it perfectly clear that the only good computer is a dead computer. They have one more thing in common though, and that is age.
The robot apocalypse theme in modern AI films is certainly still present, but it is becoming less common. Now we’re seeing films like Her and The Machine, in which rather than taking arms against each other, humans and machines have taken to each others arms and fallen in love. That’s humanity for you; when we find something new our first reaction is to fight it and our second is to have sex with it.