From 2001: A Space Odyssey to Blade Runner and RoboCop to The Matrix, how humans deal with the artifical intelligence they have created has proved a fertile dystopian territory for film-makers. More recently Spike Jonze's Her and Alex Garland's forthcoming Ex Machina explore what it might be like to have AI creations living among us and, as Alan Turing's famous test foregrounded, how tricky it might be to tell the flesh and blood from the chips and code. These concerns are even troubling some of Silicon Valley's biggest names: last month Telsa's Elon Musk described AI as mankind's "biggest existential threat… we need to be very careful". What many of us don't realise is that AI isn't some far-off technology that only exists in film-maker's imaginations and computer scientist's labs. Many of our smartphones employ rudimentary AI techniques to translate languages or answer our queries, while video games employ AI to generate complex, ever-changing gaming scenarios.
Like a film critic asked if the Oscars got it right this year, one has to feel a sense of standing too close to the frame, the field of vision too narrow to provide the context necessary for proper judgment. After spending an afternoon among the various installations that comprise "Thinking Machines: Art and Design in the Computer Age: 1959–1989," I wonder if this anxiety applied to the team tasked with creating this exhibit. In this case, I think not. Here, closeness to the frame is a virtue, not a vice.
"If you've created a conscious machine," says Caleb to Nathan toward the beginning of Ex Machina, when Caleb discovers Nathan is on the verge of creating an artificial intelligence indistinguishable from human intelligence, "it's not the history of man. Ex Machina, written and directed by Alex Garland, is an intriguing film about the wonders and dangers of artificial intelligence (AI). Garland's tale is stylishly told, beautifully photographed, and aided by a clever script that subverts standard cinematic clichés. It is also suffused with religious themes and theological motifs--unsurprisingly, because ever since Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the prospect of human beings creating human-like beings of their own has almost invariably raised the issue of "playing God." In Ex Machina, Caleb is a computer coder brought to Nathan's secret research facility to apply the Turing Test to Nathan's AI--that is, to test whether a human interacting with the robot would be able to tell that the AI is non-human.
By using this "Contrivance," "the most ignorant Person at a reasonable Charge, and with a little bodily Labour, may write Books in Philosophy, Poetry, Politicks, Law, Mathematicks, and Theology, with the least Assistance from Genius or study." Bayesian inference will become a leading approach in machine learning. The boat was equipped with, as Tesla described, "a borrowed mind." The word "robot" comes from the word "robota" (work). It features a robot double of a peasant girl, Maria, which unleashes chaos in Berlin of 2026--it was the first robot depicted on film, inspiring the Art Deco look of C-3PO in Star Wars.
The term "artificial intelligence" is being thrown around a lot lately. But what is artificial intelligence, really? With A.I.'s like Siri, Cortana, and more, the world is approaching what is known as The Singularity, the era of the machine. Though these A.I. are nothing like James Cameron's Skynet in the 1984 sci-fi smash hit The Terminator, it is imperative to understand where artificial intelligence came from in order to fully comprehend where it is going next. Many filmmakers and authors were afraid of the rise of artificial intelligence and attempted to capture this fear in many notable and influential works of fiction that are still relevant today.