Robots in Movies

picture of Harry KellerBy Harry Keller
Editor, Science Education

Artificial intelligence has appeared in a great many movies over the years, often as robots. The latest is Chappie, a movie that has been panned by a majority of critics but apparently enjoyed by quite a few movie goers.

Robots (or AI) have been good and bad. The first that I recall was Robby in the first science fiction (SF) movie to adhere to scientific ideas (of the time), Forbidden Planet. This 1956 movie starred Leslie Nielsen when he was still doing romantic leading roles. The character of Robby created quite a stir at the time. He was definitely a benevolent robot who was unable to harm humans. An immense computer system, the hidden evil element of the movie, served as a foil.

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Most people remember HAL, the AI embedded in the spaceship of 2001, a Space Odyssey. This movie debuted twelve years later and showed how AI could be a force of evil. Few who saw it will forget the creepy voice of HAL (notably one letter apiece short of IBM alphabetically).

I probably will not see Chappie for several reasons based on the reviews and my viewing of the trailers. The concept of artificial intelligence rising to the level of human consciousness bothers me, not for religious but for scientific reasons. However, many students probably will see it if only because of its themes involving street gangs and defiance of authority.  Continue reading