The idea of a man-made being that eventually surpasses its creator was the subject of at least four movies last year — and comes up again in Morgan, a sci-fi thriller opening Friday.
What’s the deal on our fixation with robots?
And why are they so often the bad guys?
Perhaps stories about robots and Artificial Intelligence reflect our own ideas about consciousness or free will.
Or what it means to be human.
Maybe A.I. represents one way to see human-like beings behave in inhuman ways — a sort of 21st century puppet show. Then again, humans might well feel like God when they help create a new life form, especially a robotic life form that can represent a type of immortality.
And the ongoing problem is this: How do you make sure that machines smarter than people don’t figure out ways to seize power away from their creators?
In a 1942 story, Isaac Asimov spelled out the three laws of robotics:
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Interesting — but Science Fiction is full of stories about robotic creations rebelling against those very laws, unwittingly or otherwise. And nobody loves a recalcitrant robot more than Hollywood.
Here are 10 best movies about AI.
An indestructible cyborg (Peter Weller) that’s part machine, part hero cop’s consciousness, appears to be the future of police work. It doesn’t quite work out that way. This action drama/social commentary is directed by Paul Verhoeven.
BLADE RUNNER (1982)
An ex-cop (Harrison Ford) working as a blade runner — an assassin of rogue androids — grapples with his feelings about the human-like replicants. Ridley Scott directs Sean Young, Rutger Hauer, M. Emmet Walsh, Daryl Hannah.
AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2015)
Evil A.I. Ultron (James Spader) dukes it out with Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America, Black Widow et al in this particular Marvel adventure.
EX MACHINA (2015)
Alicia Vikander is terrific as the A.I. who may or many not have her own ideas about becoming part of the human race. Sci-fi thriller also stars Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac.
THE MATRIX (1999)
Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss star in this futuristic thriller (from the Wachowskis) as rebels who dare go up against the machines that have imprisoned human minds. Can they escape the artificial reality created to lull them into cooperating?
A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (2001)
A robotic boy (Haley Joel Osment) wants his human mother to love him. Then her human son comes home. Steven Spielberg directs Frances O’Connor, Jude Law, William Hurt.
THE TERMINATOR (1984)
Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as a cyborg sent from the future to kill a woman (Linda Hamilton) in the present. The idea is to prevent the birth of the woman’s son — who will grow up to one day lead a rebellion against the machines. James Cameron directs.
Astronaut Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) has a solo stint on the moon, where isolation is either causing him to go mad or keeping him from finding out the truth about his origins. Duncan Jones co-wrote and directs.
Joaquin Phoenix stars as a writer who falls in love with the A.I. operating system that runs his life. Well — the machine does have a fabulous human voice (courtesy Scarlett Johansson). Spike Jonze directs; also with Amy Adams.
ROBOT & FRANK (2012)
Frank, an aging jewel thief (Frank Langella) is given a robot butler by his son (James Marsden) to help around the house. Frank retrains his robot to assist in heists. This is sci-fi for the non-sci-fi-fan; also with Susan Sarandon and Liv Tyler, and that’s Peter Sarsgaard as the voice of the robot.