In an age where automation and robots are set to take over the majority of human employment, I find myself taking a paranoid glance down the path we’re on. There have been several, very successful films that warn us against robots, specifically artificial intelligence. The worries displayed by writers over the years is usually centred around robots being more physically dominant and intellectually superior, or at the very least equal. Below are four films that scared audiences with their predictions of robotic take over, hopefully none of them come true.
Perhaps the most recognisable mention on this list is The Terminator (1985) directed by James Cameron. The story features a young Arnold Schwarzenegger as an android sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor, mother of a soon-to-be resistance fighter against the machines. Schwarzenegger’s physique coupled with his ice-cold demeanor perfectly captures the domination that robots could have over the human race, while teasing a future in which humans are fighting for their survival.
If you managed to drag your eyes off a shirtless Will Smith doing pull-ups, then you might have noticed the attempted artificial takeover in Alex Proyas’ I, Robot (2004). The story is set in a world where human-like robots are part of everyday life, performing household chores. A detective played by Will Smith investigates the first ever robot/human homicide. The plot unravels, challenging the characters prejudices about robots – which are similar to my paranoid fears.
Based on the renowned sci-fi author Philip Dick’s Do androids dream of electric sheep?, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) blurs the lines between robots and humans in ways that have reshaped the genre. In this future world, androids are so advanced that they are almost share the same physiology to humans. Some even have implanted memories, making them believe they are human. The film explores similar themes to I, Robot and asks; how much like humans do androids have to be before they are afforded the same rights?
Neill Blomkamp’s C.H.A.P.P.I.E (2015) is one of the most well-done films I think I’ve ever seen. It is set in a crime riddled Johannesburg where indestructible robotic humanoids are police officers. A young scientist endows one of the obsolete robots with his new artificial intelligence programme, against the wishes of the government who own it. The film plays out, showing the incredible and at times moving development of Chappie as he learns from the scientist and criminals whom he must hide with. The film explores some thought-provoking themes including existentialism when Chappie discovers he is broken and his battery will only last a short while. There’s a particularly potent scene where he rejects the scientist, or his creator, because he will die..
In conclusion, films frequently delve into the possibilities of future robotics, each time fetching a large audience. We seem to like the formula: humans create robots, robots kill humans. But many of the films listed above use this as a way of exploring other themes including humanity and what it is to be human.