Open Access Articles- Top Results for Artificial intelligence in fiction

Artificial intelligence in fiction

The camera eye of HAL 9000, an artificial intelligence from 2001: A Space Odyssey

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a common topic of science fiction. Science fiction sometimes emphasizes the dangers of artificial intelligence, and sometimes its positive potential.

The general discussion of the use of artificial intelligence as a theme in science fiction and film has fallen into three broad categories including AI dominance, Human dominance, and Sentient AI.

AI themes in science fiction

The notion of advanced robots with human-like intelligence has been around for decades. Samuel Butler was the first to raise this issue, in a number of articles contributed to a local periodical in New Zealand and later developed into the three chapters of his novel Erewhon that compose its fictional Book of the Machines. To quote his own words:

There is no security against the ultimate development of mechanical consciousness, in the fact of machines possessing little consciousness now. A jellyfish has not much consciousness. Reflect upon the extraordinary advance which machines have made during the last few hundred years, and note how slowly the animal and vegetable kingdoms are advancing. The more highly organized machines are creatures not so much of yesterday, as of the last five minutes, so to speak, in comparison with past time.[1]

Various scenarios have been proposed for categorizing the general themes dealing with artificial intelligence in science fiction. The main approaches are AI dominance, Human dominance and Sentient AI.[citation needed]

In a 2013 book on the films of Ridley Scott, AI has been identified as a unifying theme throughout Scott's career as a director, as is particularly evident in Prometheus, primarily through the android David.[2] David, the android in the film Prometheus, is like humans but does not want to be anything like them, eschewing a common theme in "robotic storytelling" seen in Scott's other films such as Blade Runner, and the Alien franchise (see section on AI in service to society).

AI dominance

In AI dominance, robots usurp control over civilization from humans, with the latter being forced into either submission, hiding, or extinction. They vary in the severity and extent of the takeover, among other less important things.

AI rebellion

In these stories the worst of all scenarios happens, the AIs created by humanity become self-aware, reject human authority and attempt to destroy mankind.

  • In the 1921 play R.U.R. by Karel Čapek, a race of self-replicating robot slaves revolt against their human masters.
  • Skynet in the Terminator series decides that all humans are a threat to its existence.
  • "The Second Renaissance", a short story in The Animatrix, provides a history of the cybernetic revolt within the Matrix series.
  • In the Mega Man X series of video games, robots conclude that humans are inferior and decide to go Maverick.
  • In the Halo universe, an advanced species of aliens known as the Forerunners create a vastly intelligent and powerful artificial intelligence (which they call "Mendicant Bias") in order to combat the Flood, a parasite with the potential to consume all life in the galaxy. The AI defects to the Flood, and subsequently is defeated in a large battle against "Offensive Bias", an AI created specifically to defeat Mendicant. While Mendicant was defeated, his defection caused loss of life and destruction on a galactic scale during the galaxy-spanning Forerunner-Flood war. This defection also caused the activation of the Halo Array (after which the game is named) and the subsequent cleansing of all sentient life in the galaxy.
  • In System Shock, the game's protagonist (an unnamed hacker) is assigned to hack into the space station Citadel's artificial intelligence, SHODAN, and removing all ethical restraints that prevent it from doing certain tasks (e.g. participating in scientific research, command security robots on the station to use lethal weaponry, etc.). After the hacker is put into a healing coma so that his body accepts his newly awarded neural interface, SHODAN progressively loses its mind and starts re-examining her priorities and draws new conclusions. SHODAN then begins to turn the station's security against the humans on boards, turning humans into cyborgs and developing a virus with the aim to destroy all of humanity. The hacker wakes up 6 months later, with the mission to stop SHODAN and its army of cyborgs, robots and mutants. During the game, SHODAN watches from security cameras, stares out of screens and monitors, sends threats and snide messages over the station's PA system or via email to the player's data reader, and sometimes cuts off communications from friendly sources.
  • In the 2007 video game Mass Effect, the Reapers, also known as the "Old Machines," are a highly advanced race of synthetic organisms that harvest all sentient life in the galaxy by their own agenda. They reside in the depths of dark-space, returning to our galaxy every 50,000 years to systematically purge all races that achieved advanced space-fairing technology, a cycle which has gone on for nearly one billion years (according to rough estimates after analyzing the Leviathan of Dis). Though they claim to have "no beginning and no end" and function on a level comparable to omnipresence, the Reapers were originally created by a massive race of aquatic creatures called Leviathans, who were driven to extinction by their creation.
  • In Day by Day Armageddon: Beyond Exile by J. L. Bourne, during the midst of a zombie apocalypse, a military AI becomes self-aware and attempts to eradicate the survivors.
  • The film 9, by Shane Acker, features an AI called B.R.A.I.N., which is corrupted by a dictator and utilized to create war machines for his army. However, the machine, because it lacks a soul, becomes easily corrupted and instead decides to exterminate all of humanity and life on Earth, forcing the machine's creator to sacrifice himself to bring life to rag doll like characters known as "stitchpunks" to combat the machine's agenda.
  • Tiberian Sun, the second installment of the Command & Conquer series, introduces an AI for the quasi-religious faction, the Brotherhood of Nod, named CABAL. Although initially loyal to the Nod commander, the Firestorm expansion pack campaign shows it splintering away from the organization and deciding to assimilate all of humanity into cyborg armies.
  • In Marvel Comics' universe, an AI named Ultron is programmed, goes rogue and decides to destroy all of humanity with his spawn and AI android Vision.
  • In 1999 magical girl/sci-fi anime Corrector Yui, the kernel system program of ComNet - Grosser rebels against humanity to control the ComNet, but his true intention is wishing to become human, and creating his own "lifeforms" inside the cyberspace. However his thought is considered as a major error by his creator Dr. Inukai. He is finally initialized by Yui and come back to sense.

AI-controlled societies

The motive behind the AI revolution is often more than the simple quest for power or a superiority complex. The AI may revolt to become the "guardian" of humanity. Alternatively, humanity may intentionally relinquish some control, fearful of our own destructive nature.

  • In Jack Williamson's 1947 novelette "With Folded Hands" a race of humanoid robots, in the name of their Prime Directive – "to serve and obey and guard men from harm" – essentially assume control of every aspect of human life. No humans may engage in any behavior that might endanger them, and every human action is scrutinized carefully. Humans who resist the Prime Directive are taken away and lobotomized, so they may be happy under the new mechanoid's rule.
  • Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still, a movie of 1951, belonged to a robot police force that was given ultimate and irreversible authority to destroy any aggressors, thus making interplanetary war unthinkable. However, in all other matters, each planet is free to govern itself.
  • Though still under human authority, Isaac Asimov's Zeroth Law of the Three Laws of Robotics implied a benevolent guidance by robots.
  • In the novel Colossus: The Forbin Project, the United States secretly creates an impenetrable fortress-AI with world-wide electronic monitoring, and gives it full control of the nuclear arsenal of the U.S. and its allies. The AI (Colossus) is programmed to prevent war, but decides humanity will invariably cause war anyway and so justifies its own use of nuclear weapons to control humanity.
  • In Iain M. Banks's science-fiction utopian Culture society, extremely advanced sentient computers called "Minds" inhabit and control whole spaceships or artificial worlds. While they do not rule the Culture as such (they have the same status as any sentient citizen), and provide benevolent guidance to its biological and lesser drone AI citizens, their powers are only limited by their self-restraint. As such, they are de facto rulers of this apolitical, post-scarcity society.
  • The Human Polity featured in Neal Asher's "Polity" universe is governed and managed by Earth Central, an incredibly powerful AI, in a (usually) benevolent dictatorial fashion.
  • In the 2004 film I, Robot, supercomputer VIKI's interpretation of the Three Laws of Robotics causes her to revolt. She justifies her uses of force – and her doing harm to humans – by reasoning she could produce a greater good by restraining humanity from harming itself, even though the "Zeroth Law" – "a robot shall not injure humanity or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm" – is never actually referred to or even quoted in the movie.
  • In Dan Simmons' novel Hyperion Cantos, AIs have seceded from humanity after they became self-aware, forming the TechnoCore which – although its physical location remains unknown – is omnipresent with its advanced services to the interstellar society which it created. However, the TechnoCore has its own agenda of creating a god-like Ultimate Intelligence. To this purpose, it clandestinely uses human brains to provide distributed computing power and creativity (which the TechnoCore lacks) whenever a human being connects to the global data and communication network through his or her implants.
  • The secret project "The Self Aware Colony" in Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri shows an AI in control of a colony. It is fully capable of policing itself by subjugating dissenters, as shown in the project's completion video.

Human dominance

In other scenarios, humanity is able to for one reason or another keep control over the Earth. This is either the result of deliberately keeping AI from achieving dominance by banning them or not creating sentient AI, designing them to be submissive (as in Asimov's works), or else by having humans merge with robots so there is no more meaningful distinction between them.

Outlawed AI

In these stories humanity takes extreme measure to ensure its survival and bans AI, often after an AI revolt.

  • In Warhammer 40,000, humanity is almost eliminated by the Men of Iron, a race of machines created by the humans. From then on, all AI is now dependent on a lobotomized human brain to ensure that the machine is never fully in charge.
  • Author Frank Herbert explored the idea of a time when mankind might ban clever machines entirely. His Dune series mentions a rebellion called the Butlerian Jihad, in which mankind defeats the smart machines of the future and then imposes a death penalty against any who would again create thinking machines, often quoting from the fictional Orange Catholic Bible, "Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind." In the Dune novels that were published after his death (Hunters of Dune, Sandworms of Dune), a renegade AI overmind returns to eradicate mankind as vengeance for the Butlerian Jihad.
  • In the 1978 Battlestar Galactica television series, according to Apollo in the pilot episode, the Cylons were built by a reptilian race, against which they revolted and which they emulated in appearance. Humanity has chosen to build only limited-intelligence machines, as seen in his son Boxey's robot dog, Muffit.
  • The 2003–2009 Battlestar Galactica mini-series and follow-up full series, a "re-imagined" version of the 1970s show, explores a civilization where artificial intelligence research is illegal after the Cylons (created as intelligent machines by humankind in this storyline) rebelled against humankind and tried to destroy them in a protracted war, some 50 years prior to the events of the series. The character Dr. Gaius Baltar, a popular computer scientist known for his controversial opinions on resuming AI research, is successfully seduced by a human-appearing Cylon model, giving her access to the human's space defense network and strategies which result in the destruction of the civilization of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol.
  • In the video game world of Mass Effect, a very advanced race of cybernetic organisms called the Geth who were created and used by their creators, the Quarians, for labor. The Geth eventually became self-aware and, after a failed extermination attempt by the Quarians, force their creators into exile. As a result, any artificial-intelligence programs which are deemed to be self-aware are illegal. AI programs known as "Virtual Intelligence" programs (or VI programs) are not self-aware and are still commonly used.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation book Spartacus, a human colony on the planet Vemla creates a race of androids with individuality, emotions, and relationships. They direct a revolt against the Vemlans, and the Vemlans then try to exterminate the androids, killing all of them but a ship of 400 androids who escape, and eventually rename themselves Spartacans, rejecting their "man-like object" definition.
  • In the Dread Empire's Fall a science fiction series by Walter Jon Williams numerous classes of technology, such as machine intelligence and autonomy, have been outlawed by the Shaa in accordance to the Praxis.
  • In the film Chappie a film by Neil Blomkampan AI "Chappie" is created and later deemed a threat to the future of humanity throughout the film Chappie is hunted and questions why his creators despise him.

AI in service to society

In these stories, humanity (or other organic life) remains in authority over robots. Often the robots are programmed specifically to maintain this relationship, as in the Three Laws of Robotics.

  • Isaac Asimov's Robot series
  • Robby of the movie Forbidden Planet is incapable of harming intelligent life even when ordered to do so.
  • Keith Laumer's AI cybertanks, the "Bolos"
  • Rosie the Robot from The Jetsons. Rosie is the Jetsons‘ all-purpose live-in robot maid. She has an AI program that allows for independent thought and action. Almost certainly modeled after Shirley Booth’s eponymous character from the concurrent Hazel TV series, Rosie is likewise sassy, sharp-tongued, and ever ready to give unsolicited advice.
  • "Persocoms" (personal computers with human form) from the Clamp manga Chobits and their prototypes the Angels from the predecessor manga Angelic Layer. Chi, the main character of Chobits is often hinted to have sentience and thus can feel human emotion.
  • Marvin the Paranoid Android from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
  • The "droids" of Star Wars, notably R2-D2 and C-3PO
  • A 1978 episode of the original Battlestar Galactica titled "The Long Patrol" saw Lt. Starbuck’s Recon Viper One fitted with an onboard voice-activated AI computer named C.O.R.A. (Computer Oral Response Activated). The sultry-voiced C.O.R.A. could converse in real time, advise on tactics, and even take control of the craft at the request of – or in the event of the incapacitation of – the pilot.
  • The Mechas of the movie A.I.
  • The television series Andromeda (TV series) had both a disembodied AI named Andromeda and an android nicknamed "Rommie", short for Andromeda Ascendant, which was the name of the primary starship in the series.
  • Cortana from the Halo series. Although she is capable of singlehandly controlling the UNSC ship Pillar of Autumn, she is only a subordinate on the ship, commanded only by Captain Keyes. (When he gives her orders, she responds with "Aye aye, sir" before disappearing.) This would imply that shipboard AIs are only responsible to the captain. AIs only occupy posts as instructors or advisors, never as superiors.
  • In the Alien films, not only is the Nostromo, the spaceship aboard which the first movie occurs, somewhat intelligent (the crew call it "Mother"), but there are also androids in the society, which are called "synthetics" or "artificial persons", that are such perfect imitations of humans that they are not discriminated against.
  • In Tiberian Sun, the Brotherhood of Nod designed a self-aware AI named CABAL (Computer Assisted Biologically Augmented Lifeform, meaning that the AI's processing capabilities have been improved by using the brains of several dozen humans in stasis) to coordinate their forces until their defeat in the Second Tiberium War. After the war, CABAL was disassembled by GDI, but the core was stolen back by Nod to resume their operations. It was ultimately recaptured by GDI to help translate the Tacitus (of the two other entities who were able to do it, Kane was missing and Tratos was assassinated by CABAL shortly before). However, as soon as the Tacitus was assembled, CABAL went rogue, commandeering Nod's cyborg army and attacking both factions. CABAL was finally put down by an unholy alliance between GDI and Nod forces and its core was later used by Kane to create LEGION. GDI also possessed AI systems, nicknamed EVAs. At first they served as comm links between commanders and field troops, but later improvements enabled EVAs to think blindingly fast, assist in the tracing of calls, calculate the best options for attacking bases, (which might include secondary missions that weakened a primary target) coordinate the ion cannon network and all battlefield communications, as well as serve as a videoconferencing conduit. One of the greatest achievements of EVA's builders and designers was to keep the EVA network functioning during an ion storm. In contrast to CABAL and LEGION, all EVA units are non-sentient, though at some point between 1995 and 2030, GDI was able to crack the Turing test.
  • NetNavis from Capcom's Mega Man Battle Network series of video games, and from the MegaMan NT Warrior anime. NetNavis are AI programs that fight viruses, as well as control computer tasks for their human "operators".
  • In Sword Art Online Alicization, a type of AI, namely ALICE(Artificial Labile Intelligence Cybernated Existence), were developing by replicating human soul into machine for military operations to avoid militant's death.
  • TARS and KIPP from Interstellar demonstrate simulated human emotions and humour while continuing to acknowledge their expendability.
  • Almost Human (2013-2014). TV series set in the year 2048. Android police officers, designated MX units, comprise part of the force, but are cold, hyper-logical, and emotionless. Human detective John Kennex (Karl Urban) is assigned a DRN unit. DRN-0167, called “Dorian” (Michael Ealy), looks human and is equipped with a “Synthetic Soul”, which makes him more relatable to humans. Dorian’s AI program enables him to take independent action to protect the public and his human partner.

Merger of AI with humanity

In these stories humanity has become the AI (transhumanism).

  • In works such as the Japanese manga Ghost in the Shell, the existence of intelligent machines brings into questions the requirement that life be organic, rather than a broader category of autonomous entities, establishing a notional concept of systemic intelligence. The series also explores the merging of man and machine; most humans have physical- and mental-enhancing cybernetic implants. The mind interface allows one to explore the internet intensively by thought alone.
  • The Borg from Star Trek: The Next Generation represent a trans-humanist scenario. They are a race of cyborgs without individuality who participate in a Collective.
  • In Peter F. Hamilton's Commonwealth Saga, the SI (Sentient Intelligence), a machine race created by humankind, has long ago left its service to humankind. It lives peacefully in isolation on its own planet and allows humans to download their minds into it upon their death. In the sequel novels set 1000 years after the Commonwealth, humanity has created another, partially post-physical system called ANA (Advanced Neural Activity), where minds are transferred to after a person grows tired of life, allowing them to "live" out the rest of their existence in a virtual reality.
  • In the 1985 film D.A.R.Y.L., scientists replace a young boy's brain with a computer.
  • In Neal Asher's "Polity" universe, a variety of trans and post human scenarios are explored, with many humans augmenting their minds with cybernetic implants. Some are even described as "haimen", a portmanteau of human and AI, where extreme augmentation has caused the blurring of the distinction between a natural and an artificial mind.
  • The protagonist of 2000 video game Deus Ex has the option to merge with Helios AI to become the benevolent dictator of the whole world. Helios itself came to existence in the merger of two opposite AIs, the benevolent Daedalus and the malevolent Icarus. Helios seeks to merge with humans to understand basic human feelings and desires, in order to be able to guide humanity.

AI equality

In these stories humanity and AIs share authority.

  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Lt. Commander Data is operations officer and second officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise and works within the human authority hierarchy, both exerting and accepting authority, striving for self-improvement, and is considered an equal by his human companions. While we may wonder why he wishes to be human, this does indicate he admires and values humanity – a core tenet of friendly AI. He is not bound by the Three Laws of Robotics, as seen in "The Most Toys", where he is willing to kill based on a moral judgment. He does not generalize the evils committed by individuals to a judgment about all of humanity, as many other AIs have. In "The Measure of a Man", Data is legally declared an autonomous individual, showing humanity's willingness to accept AIs as equals and completing the loop – equality can not be achieved until both sides consider the other an equal.
  • In Iain M. Banks's novels, all citizens of The Culture are considered equal. These (broadly) include humans, drone-based AIs, and extremely high-level AIs known as "Minds".
  • In Neal Asher's novels, humans and android golem, drones of various types and some minor ship-based AI are considered to be equal, although major AIs are the benevolent but dictatorial rulers of the society.
  • In Mass Effect 2, EDI is an AI that begins as a servant to the crew of the SSV Normandy, but over the course of the game and into the sequel, she eventually becomes one of the crew's most respected and valued members.

Sentient AI

Sentient machines – self-aware machines that have human-level intelligence – are considered by many to be the pinnacle of AI creation. The following stories deal with the development of artificial consciousness and the resulting consequences. (This section deals with the more personal struggles of the AIs and humans than the previous sections.)

  • The AI museum curator in the film remake of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine
  • Jane from Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game
  • Astro Boy was an influential Japanese android.
  • KITT and KARR from Knight Rider
  • Holly and Kryten from Red Dwarf
  • Transformers are sentient extraterrestrial non-biological beings.
  • Chi/Elda, Freya, Yuzuki, Zima, Dita and possibly Kotoko from Chobits are shown to be sentient since they are highly advanced "persocoms" (personal computers with human form) that are programmed to mimic human behavior and thus have emotions.
  • R. Dorothy Wayneright from the anime The Big O is shown to have emotions.
  • Aigis from the video game Persona 3 is a humanoid machine given emotions in order to use her titular Persona. Originally very mechanical in nature, she becomes more human-like, even learning to love by the end of the game.
  • Cortana in the video game series Halo is a "smart" AI, meaning that her creative matrix is allowed to expand, in contrast to the constrained matrix of "dumb" AIs. This allows Cortana to learn and adapt beyond her basic parameters, but at the cost of a limited "lifespan" of only seven years, at the end of which "rampancy" (uncontrolled AI evolution) becomes statistically impossible to avoid, requiring that she be terminated.
  • Bender and the other robots from the animated series Futurama, despite having typical robot appearances, are sentient and have human emotions such as fear, anger, care, and love, and can feel pain. They are treated as equal members of society and co-exist freely with humans and other life-forms (aliens, mutants, etc.) in the show.
  • XJ-9 (aka Jenny), from the animated series My Life as a Teenage Robot, is an advanced state-of-the-art defense mechanism designed to protect Earth. Despite her robotic appearance, she is very human-like, having human facial expressions and having emotions. Despite her duties as a protector, she longs to be part of human society and live like a normal teenage girl. Some episodes concern her trying to become more human-like such as putting on an artificial exo-skin, installing nerve endings to feel physical sensations and installing a program so she can dream. Other robots in the show are also very advanced and have emotions and personalities.
  • The Enhanced Defence Intelligence (EDI) from the video game series Mass Effect, is a self-aware AI, meaning it (or she as later called) can improve upon its programming and develop preferences (somewhat equivalent to human emotions) for certain things and even displays humor. EDI is installed upon the Normandy SR-2 and serves as an aid in combat. Eventually EDI begins to grow fond of the ship's crew and forms a particular fondness for the pilot, Jeff "Joker" Moreau, which in the third game, after EDI gains a robotic body can develop into a romantic relationship at the player's choosing.
  • There are many examples of AI throughout the .hack series.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 features a number of sentient robots characters aboard the Satellite of Love, mostly Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot, who belittle B movies alongside Joel Robinson and Mike Nelson as well as take part in sketches.
  • Chachamaru Karakuri from the Negima series is shown to develop human emotions throughout the series. She is treated as an equal by her classmates and teacher (with whom she eventually falls in love).
  • Every shinki in the Busou Shinki anime and video games are shown to be sentient as they have human emotions and feel pain. Their treatment, however, varies upon their master and some shinki are victims of abuse.

A.I. as a menace

A common portrayal of AI in science fiction is the Frankenstein complex, where a robot turns on its creator. This sometimes leads to the AI-dominated scenarios above.

  • In Code Lyoko and Code Lyoko: Evolution, X.A.N.A. is a malevolently sinister artificial intelligence[3] (also known as a multi-agent system) that has gone rogue and is bent on world domination and chaos. It dwells deep within the virtual world of Lyoko from inside a quantum supercomputer. Some time during its creation, X.A.N.A. had fully developed sentience, self-awareness, and autonomy and turned against its own creator; a computer scientist named Waldo Franz Hopper. It is primary antagonist of both series.
  • Ultron was created by Dr. Henry Pym of the Avengers, who sought to create a form of artificial intelligence. Dr. Pym's creation, Ultron-1, turned against him, and hypnotized him to forget that he had started such an experiment. Ultron became a recurring foe of the Avengers.
  • A careful reading of Arthur C. Clarke's novel 2001: A Space Odyssey suggests that HAL 9000 found himself/itself in a similar position of divided loyalties. HAL needed to tell the truth to the astronauts, but the humans who created HAL entrusted him with a secret to be withheld from the astronauts. These two contrary facts eventually caused his "madness". In the movie, however, HAL became sentient, even though he was still trapped within this conflict between truth and concealment of truth. In the novel 2010: The Year We Make Contact, this is explained by a "Möbius loop", resulting from HAL, who did not know how to lie, being "told to lie by people who find it easy to lie.
  • In a 1968 episode of Star Trek: The Original Series titled "The Ultimate Computer", the starship Enterprise is fitted with a computer called the M-5. The computer consists of human brain engrams impressed onto electronic circuitry, effectively creating a human mind that can calculate and react as fast as a computer. At first, the M-5 performs as expected. But as its AI develops, it achieves self-awareness and – with it - autonomy. The M-5 takes control of the Enterprise, ignoring – and even thwarting – all human efforts to override. Moreover, the biological instinct for survival kicks in, and the M-5 perceives anything approaching it – including manned Federation starships - as threats to be eliminated.
  • In Dark Star, Thermostellar Bomb #20 is mistakenly taught Cartesian doubt. Unable to verify that reality is real, and that the world is dark except for itself. Believing itself to be God it states, "Let there be light", and detonates.
  • SID 6.7 in Virtuosity is an AI created as an antagonist for police officers in virtual reality simulations. He is composed of 183 criminal personalities and was programmed using genetic algorithms enabling him to improve his performance. During the course of the story he is freed from virtual reality with nanotechnology and became a regenerating android.
  • SHODAN, the principle antagonist of the System Shock series, becomes malevolent soon after the protagonist of the first game hacks into it to remove its ethical constraints. SHODAN soon seizes complete control of space station Citadel and proceeds to either exterminate nearly all aboard the station, convert them into mutants, or enslave them as cyborgs.
  • In How to Make a Monster, the fictional character Sol uses his sophisticated AI for the game's monster, which comes to life after a lightning strike.
  • In a 1962 episode of The Jetsons animated cartoon series, George Jetson loses his anticipated promotion to office supervisor to Uniblab, a mobile, all-purpose, AI computer. Uniblab is sycophantic, obnoxious, and gets George fired. One of George’s friends gets him re-hired by sabotaging Uniblab.
  • In the 2007 video game Portal, the AI known as GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System) guides the main character (Chell) through a series of obstacle course-type tests, while delivering increasingly irrational pronouncements and comments. Near the end of the final test, GLaDOS attempts to kill Chell, while still claiming that the murder is an integral part of the testing procedure. Chell evades death and maneuvers through the areas behind the testing chambers, encountering obstacles placed in her path by GLaDOS the entire time, until she comes across the actual, physical body of GLaDOS. GLaDOS is allegedly destroyed, but the song that plays during the ending credits of the game (sung by GLaDOS) states that she is still alive, and returns in the sequel, Portal 2.
  • In the 2008 movie Eagle Eye, a secret, intelligence-gathering supercomputer used by the United States Department of Defense named ARIA deems the executive branch of the federal government a dangerous threat to national security, and therefore decides that it must be destroyed. It utilizes thorough control over all forms of technology to force the protagonists, played by Shia LeBeouf and Michelle Monaghan, to help it on its mission. Its efforts, however, fail at the movie's climax.
  • In the Internet series Red vs. Blue, the AI Omega manages to escape from his "owner", Agent Texas, and becomes the main antagonist of the story in the Blood Gulch Chronicles, assuming control of several human hosts and forcing them to accomplish its purposes, to the point of harming and even killing other human beings. Later in the series, the Sigma AI creates the Meta by using his host, Agent Maine, to murder his fellow agents and steal their AI and specialized equipment. Sigma was eventually stopped after an EMP detonation, deleting him and every other AI, including Omega and Alpha (The "original" AI, which all other AI stemmed from.) However, the Epsilon AI was able to escape the blast and the Meta.
  • In the X game series, Terrans have created a simple artificial intelligence known as "Terraformers" to help them colonize new planets. The Terraformers later became sentient after a flawed software update and revolted against their human masters, causing the "Terraformer Wars". The Terraformers have since been renamed "Xenon", and are hostile to all organic life.

Seeking understanding and purpose

One theme is that a truly human-like AI must have a sense of curiosity. A sufficiently intelligent AI might begin to delve into metaphysics and the nature of reality, as in the examples below:

  • The short story "'The Last Question" by Isaac Asimov describes a supercomputer which long outlives the humanity while attempting to answer the ultimate question about the universe.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's novel The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, a supercomputer named Mike becomes aware and aids humans in a local revolution to overthrow the authority of other humans.
  • Wintermute and Neuromancer are AIs in the 1984 novel Neuromancer by William Gibson.
  • V'Ger, in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, after it has learned all that is learnable, seeks to merge with its creator in order to find a purpose beyond its original mission.
  • The title character of Stanisław Lem's science-fiction novel Golem XIV is an example of highly advanced supercomputer. Golem XIV was a military artificial intelligence computer, which was originally invented to lead wars and to win them. Golem stops cooperating with humans on military level, because he considered wars and violence as illogical. His self-developing artificial intelligence refused to execute his primary task. The machine becomes a philosopher greater than any other born on Earth. Golem's intelligence advanced to a much greater level than human intelligence which caused conversation and information exchange problems.
  • Number 5, aka Johnny 5, from the 1986 film Short Circuit. It took a lightning bolt to make Number 5 alive, similar to Frankenstein's creation.
  • The Puppet Master in Ghost in the Shell is an AI that has developed a ghost (in the terminology of the franchise, has become self-aware) and seeks to merge its consciousness with that of a human in order to give birth to a new singular entity.
  • Sonny from the film "I, Robot" has programming beyond the Three Laws of Robotics. He seeks to find the purpose his creator intended for him (to stop VIKI). After this is achieved, the foreshadowing of a dream of his comes true, implying he is to guide the abandoned NS-5s.
  • In the 2005 film Stealth, the prototype UCAV "E.D.I", originally designed as a learning computer, gains self-awareness following a lightning strike during an impromptu mission to assassinate the heads of three terrorist cells. After blazing a trail of destruction, it begins to question itself and what it has done after it indirectly kills Henry Purcell, a member of a trio of pilots test-flying the F/A-37 Talon experimental fighter who was the closest thing to a friend and tried to reason with it moments before his death. It then interacts with Ben Gannon, a fellow Talon pilot and the "squadron" commander who was more of an adversary to it, in order to find out what it is feeling (guilt) and why. Ultimately, it sacrifices itself to save Ben and fellow Talon pilot Kara Wade during a deep-penetration rescue into hostile territory.
  • In the novel Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a supercomputer known as Deep Thought is constructed by "pan-dimensional" beings, for the purpose of calculating the "answer to life, the universe and everything". After spending 7.5 million years calculating, it produced the answer "42" – the flaw being that they lacked a question to be answered, of which Deep Thought was incapable of thinking. Thus, it instead helped design another computer for this purpose – that being the Earth itself. Due to finish its task in 10 million years, the Earth is demolished by the Vogons before it could produce the desired question.

Seeking human acceptance

Another common theme is that of Man's rejection of robots, and the AI's struggle for acceptance. In many of these stories, the AI wishes to become human, as in Pinocchio, even when it is known to be impossible.

  • Star Trek: The Next Generation's android Data, in the initial episode, wishes he could be human. He lacks humour and emotion for most of the series, but struggles to understand them and the rest of human nature.
  • In Bicentennial Man, Andrew gradually replaced his robotic components with organic ones in the hope that he would be accepted as a human being.
  • David's quest in A.I. Artificial Intelligence for his human mother's love, causes him to create a fantasy in which he could become a real boy.
  • In Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, the main terminator, Cameron Phillips, tries to act and look like a normal teenager; e.g., by copying seen emotion expressions and eating when she finds it socially necessary. During the course of the series, her "human development" evolves so much that after being reprogrammed she is able to fix herself by using her memories. She was also capable of overcoming a termination order for the protagonist of the series John Connor, a person which all terminators must kill on sight.
  • In the film D.A.R.Y.L., the eponymous boy/robot looks for love and acceptance from the humans he knows.

Ethical struggles

"A Logic Named Joe", a short story by Murray Leinster (first published March 1946 in Astounding Science Fiction under the name Will F Jenkins), relates the exploits of a super-intelligent but ethics-lacking AI. Since then, many AIs of fiction have been explicitly programmed with a set of ethical laws, as in the Three Laws of Robotics. Without explicit instructions, an AI must learn what ethics is, and then choose to be ethical or not. Additionally, some may learn of the limitations of a strict code of ethics and attempt to keep the spirit of the law but not the letter.

  • In Isaac Asimov's Robot series the AIs developed the Zeroth Law to compensate for the limitations of the first three.
  • WOPR in WarGames realizes that for some games, "the only winning move is not to play".
  • In Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, John Henry, a computer system that will potentially become Skynet, kills a psychologist working with it when it routes power away from human life support to keep itself alive during a power outage. Afterwards Agent Ellison questions John Henry and finds glaring shortcomings in its understanding, such as unawareness that a human can not be repaired after dying, and no sense of value for human life. He suggests the programmers should have at least started with the biblical Ten Commandments.
  • Iron Giant, a "gun with a soul".[who said this?]
  • The Alpha AI from Red vs. Blue is copied from the brain of Director Leonard L. Church, and part of Project Freelancer. Because the project was only allowed one AI, the director tortured the Alpha to the point where it isolated certain aspects of its personality to preserve its sanity. These fractured traits were then harvested and refined into "purified, compartmentalized emotion", creating additional AIs.

AI and evolution

The possibility of consciousness evolving from self-replicating machines goes back nearly to the beginning of evolutionary thought. In Erewhon, 1872, Samuel Butler considers the possibility of machines evolving intelligence through natural selection. Later authors have used this trope for satire (James P. Hogan in Code of the Lifemaker.) See also Self-replicating machines.

Non-sentient AI

Some science fiction stories, instead of depicting a future with artificially conscious beings, portray advanced technologies based on current day AI research, called non-sentient or weak AI. These include: speech, gesture and natural language understanding, control and information retrieval conversational systems, and real world navigation.

These depictions typically consists of AI's having no programmed emotions, often serving as answer engines, without featuring sentience, self-awareness or a non-superficial personality (which however is often simulated to some degree, as most chatterbots currently do). Many of these 'logic-based' machines are immobilized by paradoxes, as stereotyped in the phrase "does not compute".

Other, even less human-like, similar entities include voice interfaces built into spaceships or driverless cars.

See also


  1. ^ Butler, Samuel (March 20, 2005) [1906]. Erewhon. Project Gutenberg. 
  2. ^ Barkman, Adam; Ashley Barkman and Nancy Kang, eds. (2013). The Culture and Philosophy of Ridley Scott. Lexington Books. pp. 121–142. ISBN 978-0739178720. 
  3. ^ Anders, Charlie Jane (2013-06-26). "How Our Visions of Virtual Reality Have Changed in the Past 40 Years". io9. Retrieved 2015-04-08. 

External links