Sci-Fi In the Movies

Does the artificial intelligence (AI) of sci-fi affect our lives today? Are sci-fi movies predicting the future or writing the future? How is AI technology depicted in sci-fi movies connected to computer history?

Within CHM’s collections you’ll find artifacts, videos, exhibits, blogs (and more!) that help to explain or even expand on the fictional technology in some of our favorite movies. Grab some popcorn and explore!

Ex Machina (2014)

When a young programmer wins a contest that enables him to spend a week at the private estate of his firm’s brilliant CEO, he learns that he’s been chosen to be the human component in a Turing test to determine the capabilities and consciousness of a beautiful robot named Ava… who is far more self-aware and deceptive than either man imagined.

Is the mind computable? Can we build sentient machines? What are the implications for humanity if we can?

I Think, Therefore I Am, Grady Booch

Emotion AI, Rana el Kaliouby

Her (2013)

A heartbroken man who earns a living by writing personal letters for other people becomes fascinated with a new operating system that is advertised as the world’s first artificially intelligent operating system, that is “not just an operating system, it’s a consciousness.” He starts the program and meets the playful and sensitive “Samantha,” and the relationship soon deepens into love.

Do we need our bodies? Or is love all in our minds… Could AI operating systems really gain independence beyond human controls, for better or worse?

Worry and Wonder: CHM Decodes AI

Podcast with Siri co-creator Tom Gruber

Ghost In the Shell (1995)

In the year 2029, augmented human hackers can project their consciousness “ghosts” to control cyborg body “shells,” or even each other. Japanese Intelligence agency Section 9 encounters The Puppet Master, who leaps from human to robot to human body–but what defines one’s identity? The shell? The ghost? Or the relationship between the two?

As neural engineering emerges as a field of research–currently centered around medical diagnosis, treatment, and improving human lives by developing direct brain-to-computer communications–and augmentation become more realistic, what will the future hold?

Inspiring Innovator Mary Lou Jepsen

Book Excerpt by Pamela McCorduck

The Terminator (1984)

In the year 2029, a computer system named Skynet fights a losing war against the humans who built it. Just before being destroyed, Skynet sends a cyborg Terminator back in time to 1984 to kill a woman whose unborn child is the key to human salvation.

What is the relationship between human makers of technology and the technology we create? Is it possible for our technologies to control us?

Machines of Loving Grace, John Markoff

Police Robot Officer Mac

Wargames (1983)

When a young hacker unwittingly accesses a US military supercomputer, he runs a nuclear war simulation, believing it to be a computer game. Linked to the nuclear weapons control system, the computer attempts to start World War III.

Both the Cold War and computer games have inspired huge advances in technology and innovation. How has the field of AI benefitted from gaming?

How Games Have Driven Two Schools of AI Research

The Future of Computer Games: 25 Years Later

SAGE Weapons Defense System

IMSAI 8080 Computer

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

When astronauts are sent on a mysterious mission with a computer system named HAL controlling the spaceship, their lives are precisely planned and controlled. When HAL starts to behave in strange ways, the command is given to turn off the computer system. Under threat, HAL independently tries to protect itself and the mission rather than the humans on board, leading to a struggle for control through time and space, between human and machine.

How have computer guidance systems for space travel evolved and impacted space travel today? Could HAL’s descendants be preparing for a space takeover?

If Software, Then Space

Apollo Guidance Computer

Margaret Hamilton

Learn more about the history, present, and future of artificial intelligence.

Download a PDF version of this movie watch-list.


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