Artificial Intelligence in Film

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

The film presents the computer ‘Hal’ as a seemingly self-aware being that becomes insubordinate to the crew on board the spacecraft. As he begins to sense the suspicion of the crew members towards him, he begins to take control of the vessel. There is a mutual suspicion between the crew and Hal, with each holding the view that the other is incapable of running the mission effectively.

Electric Dreams (1984)

The Artificial Intelligence in this film is presented as ‘Edgar’, a self-aware and emotional personal computer that attempts to pursue Virginia, a woman living next door. The film explores the growing conflict that arises between Edgar and Lenny, Edgar’s ‘owner’, who is currently dating the same woman that Edgar has fallen in love with. Edgar develops a strong sense of jealousy and frustration as his passion for the woman is never able to be expressed fully, but his sentiments are being used by Lenny in order to further his own relationship with Virginia.

Her (2013)

Her is the most contemporary film that I have watched, the film follows a character named Theodore who falls in love with his operating system, an incredibly life like artificially intelligent interface voiced by Scarlett Johanson, named ‘Samantha’. The film follows the insecurities felt on both sides of the relationship as each ‘person’ begins to realise that they are incompatible with one another.

What has interested me most about these films is the tension and conflicted that arise out of the differences and incompatibilities between the human and the computer. On one level, there is a difference and an ‘otherness’ to be found between the human and A.I. and this difference is highlighted throughout each film.

In Space Odyssey there is a difference in understanding of how to handle a situation, a suspicion that carries between Hal, who does not trust the judgement of the fallible human, and the human who does not trust the alien judgement of a machine.

In Electric Dreams there is an otherness of body, that disallows Edgar from fulfilling his lusts and desires, as he can not act on them in the same way that he could if I occupied flesh. This is a similar thread within Her, but in Her there is an emphasis on the large void between the minds of the human and the computer, and the way in which life is processed by the two beings. Samantha begins to outgrow the human, and can not operate in such a singular way as does a human.

However, at the same time, there is a strong sense in which the Artificially Intelligent computers are ‘alive’, drawing the user into a dialogue that seems sincere. This perhaps is exaggerated fiction in the films, however, it highlights the uncanny presence of the ‘agents’ that acts as hosts of the dialogue between the physical and the digital. 



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