5 retro movies to celebrate AI (probably not) becoming conscious

Here at Classic Nerd, the news that a Google engineer thinks the AI chatbot he’s been working on has become sentient wasn’t shocking or scary. That’s because we’ve been preparing for this moment for decades.

Whether or not it actually is (almost certainly not really) sentient, it’s clear we’re at a point where this conversation is going to come up in real ways in real life. We have a couple options: unplug all the computers, or celebrate getting one step closer to becoming the pets of AI. An outcome that honestly doesn’t sound so bad …

Here are the retro movies we’re pulling up tonight to celebrate artificial intelligence’s (very unlikely) newfound consciousness.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

This film may single-handedly be responsible for implanting a healthy fear of AI in our collective consciousness. And all thanks to the most diabolical name of all time: HAL. 

No offense to anyone named Hal out there, but you scare the crap out of us.

While not the only theme explored in Stanley Kubrick’s seminal movie (hi Time Baby), the HAL 9000 computer that goes on a killing rampage and fears death is one of the greatest depictions of artificial intelligence in film history.

Here’s hoping laMDA is a little nicer to Dave.

Also, read the book if you haven’t yet—the movie is fantastic, but boy it all makes so much more sense when you read it.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

What’s the first reference when talk turns to AI? Yep, Skynet.

Admit it, a future where robots wage war against humans was the first thing you thought of when you read about the Google story. ADMIT IT!

And there really is no better depiction of AI in the Terminator series than the T-800 learning how to smile.

This isn’t only the best Terminator movie, or a great movie that deals with AI, it’s one of the best movies ever made. 

Short Circuit (1986)

Look, we’d be convinced that laMDA was sentient if somewhere in those chat logs we saw the following:

“laMDA is alive! laMDA is ALIVE!! No disassemble!”

Johnny 5 became conscious the old-fashion way: getting struck by a bolt of lightning, like we used to do back in the good ol’ days before all this algorithm and social media nonsense.

Also, Google should add an obsession with the Three Stooges to its checklist of AI sentience. 

Westworld (1973)

Boy, have we got a vacation for you! 

Sidenote: Did you know Michael Crichton, yes that Crichton, directed this movie? That was news to me. Anyways…

Are the androids in Westworld or Future World or Roman World etc. sentient, or are they just imitating human actions? 

That question becomes central to this movie when robots start “malfunctioning” by doing things like saying no. Rude! Also, shooting people, which is worse.

The good news is that it turns out that to stop the machines you just need to throw acid on them. So, if you’re worried about laMDA, I guess stock up on, uh, acid.

D.A.R.Y.L. (1985)

Way before Haley Joel Osment was poisoning other children’s minds in A.I. Artificial Intelligence (such a clever movie title), filmmakers were exploring the idea of an AI designed to both look and act like a child.

Like most things in the ‘80s Data-Analyzing Robot Youth Lifeform, aka Daryl, is designed by the military as an experiment to eventually build a bunch of super soldiers. Instead, he learns to play baseball.

One thing I always wondered about this movie is what happens to Daryl at the end—spoiler alert (I think 1985 is a long enough buffer), but everyone ends up thinking Daryl is dead, even though he isn’t, so he can ultimately return to live with his foster family.

But, like, does he grow up? Does he stay 10-years-old forever? Pretty weird if you ask me.

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Which old-school movie will you be watching in honor of laMDA? Let us know—there’s a lot we had to leave off this list, but hey, we’re only human.