A.I. Artificial Intelligence

A.I. Artificial Intelligence has little to do with artificial intelligence, but it is an interesting modern-day fairy tale to watch.

It would've been better to leave as is the title of the book the film is based on: Supertoys Last All Summer Long by Brian Aldiss. I would not go as far as to say that movie completely ignores interesting issues regarding artificial intelligence, but the primary focus is mimicking the story of Pinochio and his quest for humanity. Here, Pinochio is represented by David (Haley Joel Osmond), a robot ("mecha") who is capable of love. David lives in the future where the polar ice caps have melted, resulting in the submerging of world's coastal cities. To preserve resources, a strong birth control regimen is adopted and robots are used to perform functions that humans aren't available to do. This ultimately ends up including the functions of sex and love.

Like with Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, the movie (one of his inspirations, with director Steven Speilberg) is structured into four different phases: the part where David is adopted into a human family; the part where he is rejected by the family; his search for a sense of identity (to become "real"); and his eventual reconciliation with his identity.

Monica (Frances O'Connor) and Henry (Sam Robards) are a couple who have adopted David to substitute for their real son, Martin (Jake Thomas), who is in a coma. Everything is going well until Martin wakes up. Martin and David don't get along and a string of incidents leads to David being abandoned by Monica.

This begins the second phase of the film. David wanders around a rain forest-like New Jersey and is captured by a bunch of mecha-haters who like to destroy robots for entertainment. He befriends Gigolo Joe (Jude Law), a robot who is also on the run. They are about to be destroyed when they escape, thanks to David's human-like nature.

The third phase is David's desperate attempt to become real by finding the blue fairy, which leads him to his creator (who has created him to replace his own son). In contrast to his expectations, David finds hundreds of replicas of himself which leads him to a catatonic state for a thousand years.

Then, archaeologists (either from another planet or evolved robots who survived humanity's eventual destruction), revive David and help him realise his dream with their amazing technologies.

There's a lot going on in the film, but it is a mediocre effort. For someone who is capable of intelligence and emotion, David is incapable of doing trivial things like ingesting food. Contrived situations like this don't appeal to me. It is also incongruous to think that an emotion like "love" can be dissected and reproduced ignoring all the other emotions we observe.

The movie's insights into artificial vs. real are not something I think very much of, since it simply anthropomorphises the human condition. This is the biggest flaw of movies that deal with this subject: there's no reason to expect that humans are any more special than bacteria in this universe and AI to me just represents a natural advance of human evolution. The Matrix, which also ended up being sentimental, was far more rigourous in its portrayal.

In my view, artificial human-like intelligence cannot be achieved using a top-down approach. Molecular or atomic level simulation of the brain must be performed to replicate intelligence, consciousness and emotion. This is because I believe traits like intelligence and consciousness and emotions are simply a logical consequence of having a complex (i.e., non-linear) adaptive set of interactions (which evolutionarily arose to propagate the information in our genes).

Movie ramblings || Ram Samudrala || me@ram.org