Innovation

The 10 most interesting portrayals of AI in movies

With the UK release of Ex Machine in cinemas this weekend TechRepublic looks back at 10 of the most memorable portrayals of artificial intelligence in movies.

The film Ex Machina tells the story of a young programmer invited to the home of a reclusive billionaire to test whether an AI can pass itself off as human.

Needless to say this Turing Test doesn't go to plan, but with the film due out this weekend in the UK here is a round-up of ten of the most noteworthy portrayals of AI on film.

Roy Batty - Blade Runner (1982)

One of the most affecting scenes from Ridley Scott's 1978 masterpiece Blade Runner is the speech given by replicant Roy Batty as he struggles with his mortality.

Despite possessing a genius-level intellect Batty, like all replicants, is cursed with a four year lifespan - a cruel limitation for a lifeform with an acute appreciation of what it means to die.

Samantha - Her (2013)

Samantha could be Cortana's great-great-great-great granddaughter.

Set in the near future, Her tells the story of a lonely writer who forms a strong attachment to his operating system's AI, which chooses to identify itself as Samantha.

As an AI Samantha appears to be just one facet of a vast central intelligence, able to present itself as myriad distinct personalities so as to foster an emotional attachment by users. Her both frames interesting questions about the lies people tell themselves in relationships, modern day reliance on computers and the potential of technology to leave us behind.

Hal 9000 - 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

The most infamous movie AI of them all, the softly-spoken voice of Hal 9000 both make its actions all the more chilling but also lend humanity to a freaky giant red eye.

The seemingly reliable overseer of the Spacecraft Discovery One, the AI's soothing tone belies a very human instinct for self-preservation, which make its subsequent behaviour all the more relatable.

C-3PO - Star Wars

The universe's quirkiest robot, less concerned with questioning the purpose of its existence than haranguing droid pal R2D2.

Due to return to the big screen for the no-doubt lens flare-tacular Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens.

Ash - Alien (1979)

The placid, level-headed behaviour of Ash is perhaps one of few clues that the all too human seeming science officer is not flesh and blood.

Ian Holm portrays Ash as a cold and mechanical machine, whose focus on fulfilling orders overrides human concerns.

The revelation of Ash's true nature and motivations mirror the shock upon first witnessing the alien chest-bursting scene.

Sonny - I, Robot (2004)

An AI of the quirky lovable variety, rather than hellbent on squishing humans.

The android Sonny draws on another AI trope, that of an ingénue, which for all of its vast intellect has a child-like naivete about the world.

Dr Will Caster 2.0 - Transcedence (2014)

An AI made in the image of its dying creator, which, somewhat unsurprisingly, lets the power go to its head when handed the keys to digital omnipotence.

Gerty - Moon (2009)

Gerty may have a dulcet tone and smiley face but it soon becomes clear the AI overseer of a remote moonbase knows more than it's letting on.

Interestingly Gerty seems more human than many of his movie AI counterparts, proving to be open to persuasion to go against his orders.

Skynet - The Terminator (1984)

Skynet is a potent illustration of the paperclip maximizer problem, where an AI designed without malice could destroy humanity in pursuit of its goals.

Originally designed to command the US nuclear arsenal the AI launched a nuclear strike on Russia in an attempt to wipe out human life when it realised it was going to be shut down. In the post-apocalyptic world it devotes itself to building more machines to eliminate the dregs of humanity that it sees as a threat to it fulfilling its programming.

Its next big screen outing will be in Terminator Genisys, where an ageing Terminator has swapped exterminating all human life for raising Sarah Conner as his daughter.

David - AI (2001)

Perhaps one of the most touching portrayals of an AI was that of David, a robotic replacement for a human child, who embarks on a quest to be reunited with his human "mother".

About Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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