Artificial Intelligence (or AI for short) has a long and prestigious history in cinema, from the manical False Maria of Fritz Lang’s silent classic Metropolis through to the menacing HAL in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and the sultry charm of Samantha in Spike Jonze’s Her.
Whilst the characteristics of the AI that are portrayed in these films are as variable as the pictures in which they appear, the majority of them portray their creations as anthropomorphised beings, imbuing them with familiar human characteristics with which we can identify with.
One of the most well known examples of AI in films is in Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic Blade Runner, which stars Harrison Ford as Decker, a law enforcer tasked with stopping Rutger Hauer and his merry band of replicants, as they attempt to hunt down their programmers by whatever means necessary. During the course of the film we see Decker begin to question the notion of existence and memory, as he gradually begins to fall in love with one of the replicants that he is supposed to be ‘retiring’. Meanwhile the remaining replicants discover what it means to be “more human than human” (the motto of the Tyrell Corporation, the company that created them).
In order to discuss the accuracy of the depiction of the AI in Blade Runner, and other films, we talk to Martyn Amos, professor in novel computation at MMU. Amongst other things Martyn introduces us to the concept of embodiment, i.e. why is it that the many of the AI that we see perceived in films not only demonstrates human-like emotions and characteristics, but also mirror their physical features and appearances. Martyn also explains why AI is to blame for some books being listed for thousands of pounds on Amazon, and why we should live in awe of termites.
We also talk to Martyn about the Turing Test, a test designed by Alan Turing to determine if a machine’s behaviour is indistinguishable from that of a human. Effectively this test can be used to determine if an unknown entity is an AI or a human being, with variants of it used in the films Ex Machina and also Blade Runner. In the summer of 2014 a chatterbot (a computer program which makes conversation via the spoken or written word) by the name of Eugene Goostman successfully convinced a panel of judges that it was in fact human, but before you start planning for a dystopian future ruled over by our robot overlords, it is worth remembering that the validity of this achievement has been questioned by many critics, as pointed out in this excellent article by the New Yorker.
For those of you that are still worried that AI might be living amongst us, unnoticed, you can find out more about the future of AI here, alternatively you could play them at their own game by learning how to plan your own AI system with this online course from Coursera. And if you really have your suspicions about someone, why not convince them to take the Voight-Kampf test. Just don’t ask them any questions about their mother…
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