AI in Popular Culture: Beyond the Fear, Embracing the Future

November 13, 2023 by
Tingenuity AI, Warren Tingen
| No comments yet

Often when people talk about artificial intelligence (AI) the conversation turns to concerns. Concerns that are valid and should be analyzed and discussed. Right now, prime topics of concern are:
• How will this impact my job?
• Will I lose my job to an AI?

Invariably, one question that is asked is “when will AI revolt against the human race and destroy us?” This question is at the top of the list for some. Concern is brought on because of the many pop culture, science fiction stories, video games and Hollywood movies. Instances where AI, because of a triggering event, decided humans needed to be displaced.

Popular terrifying examples include Skynet from the Terminator movies, Glados in the Portal video game, The Matrix, Hal from 2001: A Space Odyessy and many more. Why are these examples so prominent?

There are just as many examples where AI is helpful and supportive to humans. Even to the point of sacrificing themselves. Why aren’t these examples seen as the end result of AI?

Fear is an easy emotion to generate and live with. It doesn’t require a lot of work. Something unknown or strange? I don’t want to deal with, work on or figure out the true story.

In this blog post I want to discuss those positive and optimistic examples. Two of the most well-known are Star Trek and Star Wars.

In Star Trek the computers aboard starships are powered with AI. On very rare occasions do these computers do anything intentionally malicious. In those instances, it is typically because of an outside influence. Overall, the computer on the Enterprise helps the crew with calculations, experiments, entertainment and more. It offers intuitive and creative aid in solving problems. Helping the crew live better lives. The crews of the Enterprise and other starships don’t appear to hold any concerns the AI might maliciously turn off the life support or other vital functions. It is just a daily part of their lives. A tool to improve the lived experience for anyone visiting a starship.

Lieutenant Data is a sentient form of AI. Human in many respects and robotic in others. Both qualities meld together to make him a fascinating subject in the AI discussion. He develops throughout The Next Generation series in a variety of interesting ways. He builds friendships, learns, serves the crew and makes sacrifices.

Now let’s turn to the Star Wars universe, where AI (Droids) suffuse the entire galaxy. Most AI in Star Wars appear extremely neutral — with some notable exceptions — in the conflicts and stories in that universe. All factions readily employ AI to perform all sorts of tasks. Translation, computer interfacing, repairs, navigation and a great many other tasks are given to the AI of Star Wars. As with Star Trek, AI is fully integrated in to the lives and society of that galaxy long ago and far away. They treat AI personally, free from the concern the droids will rise against them. AI are both tools and friends to the inhabitants of the Star Wars galaxy.

The two examples demonstrate a more optimistic and positive view of AI. This is how I lean when other bring up concerns about AI. I believe we’re on the cusp of amazing developments and opportunities for humanity. Artificial intelligence is — I believe — a necessary step in our human journey. There will be an explosion of discoveries as we use current AI tools to advance the human condition. I, for one, am excited about the possibilities before us.

Sign in to leave a comment