How are robots and artificial intelligence generally depicted in popular culture?


(Carson Weitnauer) #1

Continuing the discussion from Should we Fear Artificial Intelligence?: Pre Readings:

  1. Think of television shows like Star Trek and Westworld, as well as movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Eagle Eye, Ex Machina, The Matrix series, and the Terminator series. How are robots and artificial intelligence generally depicted in popular culture? Are they seen as malevolent, neutral, or forces for good?

(Ryan D'souza) #2

I think it varies in different movies. In the lore of The Matrix the machines are depicted as neutral, and only acted in self defense by enslaving humans who started the war in the first place, as explained in Animatrix. In the terminator series, they are malevolent and decide to wipe out humanity as the machines deduce human beings are a threat. The same theme runs in I Robot.

On the flip side, there was an interesting TV show that ran for 5 seasons, called Person of Interest. Starring Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson, the show follows the story about a man called Finch (Emerson) who creates a machine with a program, which employs pattern recognition to determine individuals who will soon be involved in violent crimes. Finch employs an ex CIA agent called John Reese (Caviezel) and combining Reese’s covert-operations training and Finch’s money and cyberskills they work to stop the crimes before they happen. Needless to say, the machine becomes self-aware, but continues to view Finch as ADMIN and does everything it can to ensure that he and his team remain safe.

I mention this because it seems to be a current fear that machines or AI will one day become self-aware, and what will happen subsequently. Alan Turing addressed this in his paper Computing Machinery and Intelligence (see pdf) and developed the famous “Turing Test” which is is a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.

Computing Machinery and Intelligence - Alan Turing

On a philosophical level, what would be the next step logically in the following scenario:

  • God creates man
  • Man acquires knowledge
  • Man desires freedom
  • Man destroys God
  • Man creates machine
  • Machine acquires knowledge
  • Machine desires freedom
  • ?

Where do we get the hubris to think that after evicting God from the scene, the same will not happen to us? I think the conspiracy theorists are right to be paranoid about the “evolution” of AI. The conclusion only seems logical.


(Neil Weaver) #3

I think pop culture can’t help but make AI human enough that it stirs our emotions. Robots have feelings or evil agendas.

I wanted to post this link related to the subject of machine behavior and ethics. Good stuff in here to ponder.