Artificial Intelligence: An (Often) Cautionary Tale

Much has been made of late about the recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI). With openly available programs like DALL-E 2 for image generation and ChatGPT for text generation,[1]concerns have been raised that the AI behind these and similar program have the potential to replace humans in the creative trades. Articles like, “The New Generation of A.I. Apps Could Make Writers and Artists Obsolete,” from Vanity Fair have only fueled the concern.[2]

According to ChatGPT itself:

“AI has the potential to revolutionize the field of screenwriting, eventually replacing human screenwriters altogether. With advancements in natural language processing and deep learning algorithms, AI systems can analyze vast amounts of existing film scripts, character development, plot structures, and audience preferences to generate original and compelling screenplays. AI can quickly generate multiple script options, tailored to specific genres, target audiences, or even individual preferences. By leveraging its ability to learn and adapt from vast amounts of data, AI can efficiently identify successful story arcs, engaging dialogue, and captivating characters, ultimately creating narratives that resonate with viewers. Furthermore, AI can continually iterate and refine its writing based on audience feedback, enhancing the quality and relevance of the scripts over time. While human creativity and intuition may still hold value in certain artistic endeavors, AI’s potential to deliver consistent and data-driven storytelling could make it an appealing alternative to traditional screenwriters in the near future.”[3]

The concern that machines will displace humans is not new. The word “sabotage” originated from French labor disputes.[4] According to an article from 1907 (at around the time the word entered the English language), “(Sabotage) has been adopted by certain French workpeople as a substitute for striking. The workman, in other words, purposes to remain on and to do his work badly, so as to annoy his employer’s customers and cause loss to his employer.”

Mechanization and automation have long been displacing humans by reducing (and in some cases eliminating) the human labor required to produce goods and perform services.[5] This began when movable type replaced scribes in book manufacturing and continued through mechanical looms,[6] sewing machines, washing machines, typewriters, and telephone switchboards, culminating in the vast array of robots that have replaced most manufacturing jobs. The specific concern that technology will replace workers led economist John Maynard Keynes to coin the term “technological unemployment” in 1930.[7]

But all is not doom and gloom for scriptwriters and other workers in the creative industries. ChatGPT also makes a good counter-argument:

“Despite the remarkable advancements in artificial intelligence, it is highly unlikely that AI will completely replace human screenwriters. While AI systems can analyze and generate scripts based on existing data, they lack the depth of human experience, emotions, and creativity that are essential in crafting compelling and unique narratives. Human screenwriters possess the ability to draw inspiration from personal experiences, cultural contexts, and societal issues, enabling them to create stories that resonate with audiences on a profound level. Additionally, screenwriting involves a collaborative process that requires an understanding of complex human dynamics, nuanced dialogue, and character development. Human screenwriters bring a distinct perspective, intuition, and imagination to their work, which is challenging for AI systems to replicate. Ultimately, the artistry, emotional depth, and imaginative storytelling that human screenwriters provide will continue to be valued and sought after in the film industry.”

As you might expect, long before screenwriters became concerned that they might be replaced by AI, AI was a plot device in those writers’ creative works – and (spoiler alert) it has generally not gone well for the humans.

The term “robot” owes its origins to the Czech playwright Karel Čapek and his 1920 play R.U.R.(Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti, or “Rossum’s Universal Robots”). It was derived from the Czech word “robota,” meaning “forced labor” (think serfs bound to the land), itself derived from “rab,” meaning “slave.” One of the first motion pictures to depict an artificial intelligence, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927),[8] featured a robot. (It did not end well.) Things have been going downhill since then for artificial intelligences in general, robots in particular, and the unsuspecting humans who interact with them. To be sure, not all AIs are malevolent, but there’s often a disconnect between their concept of “the greater good” and our concept of “continuing to live.”[9] Still, you will find the occasional artificial good guy in the AI oeuvre, ranging from the cute and good-natured Johnny Five in Short Circuit (1986) to the tragic self-reinvention of the weapon-turned-savior in the eponymous The Iron Giant (1999). Though, admittedly, beneficial Ais are rare.

For your edification, we provide a list drawn from the EIDR registry that demonstrates the wide variety of motion pictures that feature an artificial intelligence. Among the 175 entries, you will surely find examples that reinforce your (positive or negative) view of AI while also offering hundreds of hours of human-crafted entertainment along the way.

AI Through the Ages

Title Year EIDR ID
Metropolis 1927 10.5240/B158-B2CA-62BE-C5EF-50DC-2
Der Herr der Welt 1934 10.5240/D43D-78E9-686F-EA23-8AE8-9
The Day the Earth Stood Still 1951 10.5240/26E4-1B35-3DDC-218A-9DAF-N
Forbidden Planet 1956 10.5240/8F6B-7224-178A-B810-F961-S
The Invisible Boy 1957 10.5240/746A-7DE8-4533-68FB-0832-V
The Creation of the Humanoids 1962 10.5240/5E2D-FDF8-21E3-1888-E111-A
Alphaville 1965 10.5240/71F0-43AE-BA81-1D58-4C62-K
2001: A Space Odyssey 1968 10.5240/5240-AEED-91B0-86C7-1CF3-7
Colossus: The Forbin Project 1970 10.5240/0CA8-4331-EEB7-7540-3DCA-S
Paper Man 1971 10.5240/E0B5-9A49-8098-11C7-23F0-N
Silent Running 1972 10.5240/71DE-45BE-4FEB-8683-2064-B
Westworld 1973 10.5240/00A7-792F-D5EA-47CF-4073-U
Dark Star 1974 10.5240/A555-22C6-C10C-51D5-36C2-2
The Questor Tapes 1974 10.5240/5D05-3D4F-3EA2-A1BE-333C-G
The Stepford Wives 1975 10.5240/3F36-64D3-31DD-31C6-3781-I
Futureworld 1976 10.5240/A991-F274-3296-BE63-1C3E-V
Demon Seed 1977 10.5240/F70E-1AD9-CF5A-3488-194B-S
Star Wars 1977 10.5240/5868-409E-7BFB-536A-6067-E
Alien 1979 10.5240/55AD-7242-833C-F4AA-9776-7
Star Trek: The Motion Picture 1979 10.5240/4774-86E2-3C8C-8733-D00C-5
Saturn 3 1980 10.5240/9EC9-49E3-F5E8-F75F-C53D-H
Airplane II: The Sequel 1982 10.5240/1205-F946-2BB1-D1B9-86C8-4
Blade Runner 1982 10.5240/EA73-79D7-1B2B-B378-3A73-M
TRON 1982 10.5240/81BF-CF67-5AB6-7C25-E0B4-S
Superman III 1983 10.5240/625E-6307-EF55-7327-F6B1-A
WarGames 1983 10.5240/1302-AE25-0A2C-1B85-A764-0
Electric Dreams 1984 10.5240/5727-28A0-60EE-6007-29EF-S
Hide and Seek 1984 10.5240/CBED-613E-23D2-B518-67D2-W
The Terminator 1984 10.5240/528E-9A7E-8AE2-2212-61A5-K
D.A.R.Y.L. 1985 10.5240/1418-12A1-093C-C9C9-F64C-L
Annihilator 1986 10.5240/A480-990E-3C70-FE23-777E-Z
Deadly Friend 1986 10.5240/6C4D-11C7-D932-1A29-3270-4
Short Circuit 1986 10.5240/9071-96F1-C04D-2DE8-9CEF-Y
RoboCop 1987 10.5240/FFB3-7428-8A73-E097-BF27-T
Short Circuit 2 1988 10.5240/463B-16F6-31C2-8CAE-A7AC-E
Class of 1999 1990 10.5240/B155-25EB-C211-B780-B891-Q
Terminator 2: Judgment Day 1991 10.5240/8E11-8334-FCA6-D475-7AD3-G
Homewrecker 1992 10.5240/A382-D3E2-6AF3-8875-5BC9-9
Blankman 1994 10.5240/DD89-33F0-0C65-B522-25E7-4
Star Trek Generations 1994 10.5240/E2E6-0723-F556-93FB-84EB-T
Ghost in the Shell 1995 10.5240/7E03-12E0-B2E3-6F12-6F06-P
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie 1995 10.5240/ED09-1666-D462-25E0-2385-9
Screamers 1995 10.5240/7921-5AB6-F8E8-6483-3606-V
Star Trek: First Contact 1996 10.5240/AC94-2612-0E58-BD13-6A5A-0
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery 1997 10.5240/6319-C989-0513-AA65-A6A4-E
Nirvana 1997 10.5240/BBA8-C8B8-1845-5506-3DC7-U
Lost in Space 1998 10.5240/A58B-9FC3-B449-DD05-2897-G
Star Trek: Insurrection 1998 10.5240/B060-2E66-756E-C1A7-86C1-A
Bicentennial Man 1999 10.5240/FA92-EBAC-15FD-8BCF-884C-I
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace 1999 10.5240/0C5B-71BC-CFBF-4B09-2D29-7
The Iron Giant 1999 10.5240/47D5-9541-01D9-D917-1FCA-E
The Matrix 1999 10.5240/FDBD-5E62-33F8-1876-7966-G
A.I. Artificial Intelligence 2001 10.5240/A959-8F32-B819-335F-ED46-K
Resident Evil 2002 10.5240/11F1-0E52-D8A5-7CBD-3E73-1
S1M0NE 2002 10.5240/264F-BD80-C292-61CB-2D8B-D
Star Trek: Nemesis 2002 10.5240/9E34-4515-1D48-8D81-9F45-U
Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones 2002 10.5240/03E7-AD56-0F60-2392-A1FF-K
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines 2003 10.5240/BE2C-294D-31FA-3332-52ED-N
The Matrix Reloaded 2003 10.5240/EC9F-0479-B822-6624-CC65-B
The Matrix Revolutions 2003 10.5240/B0D4-82C3-5452-5069-0EAF-M
I, Robot 2004 10.5240/923A-E0B5-B883-57CC-9F59-6
Team America: World Police 2004 10.5240/F2ED-E3B3-B098-C7E0-107C-5
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith 2005 10.5240/0C6B-73A7-3D92-3950-76BD-Q
Stealth 2005 10.5240/8C6B-9E5B-9943-4A85-459D-Y
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy 2005 10.5240/B752-5B47-DBBE-E5D4-5A3F-N
Meet the Robinsons 2007 10.5240/BF84-8A49-CFED-704E-9DAC-Y
Resident Evil: Extinction 2007 10.5240/1546-1C00-0881-A301-F858-P
Eagle Eye 2008 10.5240/10CC-9D02-9F2E-CC09-5622-E
Iron Man 2008 10.5240/3615-0D84-E33F-DB5A-E892-F
The Day the Earth Stood Still 2008 10.5240/8323-B080-CDA1-D541-0426-0
WALL-E 2008 10.5240/53D1-46C9-A679-1BC9-6209-S
Echelon Conspiracy 2009 10.5240/1D66-F0D3-DCA9-15C8-F911-G
Moon 2009 10.5240/A2F5-FC5E-3ABB-0130-EF4F-3
Terminator Salvation 2009 10.5240/A33A-F4B5-7EB1-D28E-9305-A
Enthiran 2010 10.5240/6E9D-9D9C-9836-56A9-39EB-U
Iron Man 2 2010 10.5240/631A-9EC2-9011-6CC6-E303-F
TRON: Legacy 2010 10.5240/3FA7-FD0F-54C0-048D-7625-H
Eva 2011 10.5240/012C-21B4-577D-D0DB-5E82-W
Ra.One 2011 10.5240/BB44-8524-DD11-2EB1-B0AC-Y
Real Steel 2011 10.5240/D866-D9EE-7CBA-0928-5ED0-X
Prometheus 2012 10.5240/BEFD-8CA5-7D66-B200-1AF4-L
Resident Evil: Retribution 2012 10.5240/8D32-F8C0-09E1-F5EE-8564-V
Robot & Frank 2012 10.5240/7F3C-E8CD-E13A-7890-E2F5-Q
The Avengers 2012 10.5240/EBF7-E7FC-0630-DEE9-94EF-E
Total Recall 2012 10.5240/1D51-D96B-C74C-EE4D-444E-E
Elysium 2013 10.5240/A5B2-2AF6-2AB1-CA86-B91C-8
Her 2013 10.5240/1EAD-CF6C-B6CE-E4D8-A99E-E
Iron Man 3 2013 10.5240/C5F8-9145-5EF5-FDF6-A88C-Y
Oblivion 2013 10.5240/9015-D7D2-ED38-973B-EC1B-5
Pacific Rim 2013 10.5240/0A3C-CC52-3A66-133A-DB71-N
The Machine 2013 10.5240/99D1-C3CE-D7B3-385B-E1BF-0
Autómata 2014 10.5240/15A5-1DB4-7469-61C9-3607-6
Big Hero 6 2014 10.5240/C553-4376-D14A-13FF-858B-Z
Interstellar 2014 10.5240/7F93-54BB-49EF-CD69-2C90-R
Robocop 2014 10.5240/D8D3-B0D3-4B72-94E0-6316-V
The Imitation Game 2014 10.5240/D9B3-E0F7-CD94-A883-C140-Q
Transcendence 2014 10.5240/AE41-E7BB-D715-7E0F-C6AB-L
X-Men: Days of Future Past 2014 10.5240/7AF1-EB5C-B61B-B146-4609-7
Avengers: Age of Ultron 2015 10.5240/B848-FD86-D188-4B1D-6A25-E
Chappie 2015 10.5240/F740-774C-3354-D68C-9E78-Z
Ex Machina 2015 10.5240/99BA-8E81-111A-79B3-D8C7-S
Gekijouban Psycho-Pass 2015 10.5240/4F0F-C8D3-9693-2F7A-C4E2-J
Star Wars: The Force Awakens 2015 10.5240/BF71-F98C-596D-652C-AC59-5
Terminator Genisys 2015 10.5240/EB2D-AFD1-5045-478B-B4DE-G
Tomorrowland 2015 10.5240/8582-FE10-5E66-0A4D-F167-6
Uncanny 2015 10.5240/2BAD-1DF6-704B-81B0-B92D-B
Captain America: Civil War 2016 10.5240/C0BA-3279-0DE9-66F6-BBA4-O
Infinity Chamber 2016 10.5240/C54A-4628-800D-F474-B015-P
Kill Command 2016 10.5240/B19D-8EF5-4360-12D4-B841-O
Lo And Behold: Reveries of the Connected World 2016 10.5240/722E-12B5-CF1A-E2CC-542B-Z
Max Steel 2016 10.5240/E1B8-A4E0-F147-E02C-CDF1-P
Morgan 2016 10.5240/684A-3318-C14C-A51E-C376-2
Passengers 2016 10.5240/4505-A328-E027-6B3A-1ACB-Z
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter 2016 10.5240/4BB8-2F03-753A-30AA-D37E-P
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story 2016 10.5240/E9F5-E1C2-87BA-1CCD-C859-L
Why Him? 2016 10.5240/63CF-2F5A-AF56-F82E-0E6C-2
Alien: Covenant 2017 10.5240/E912-B77E-287E-E432-497A-8
Blade Runner 2049 2017 10.5240/621E-22BD-A148-54E5-C33F-B
Ghost in the Shell 2017 10.5240/8695-82BD-5C98-F402-4600-D
Power Rangers 2017 10.5240/D896-7E29-FC4A-4ACF-E02D-P
Singularity 2017 10.5240/48C7-4961-D419-BA75-F2DE-P
Spider-Man: Homecoming 2017 10.5240/4B5E-32E4-3EE7-0C3F-C53C-J
Star Wars: The Last Jedi 2017 10.5240/4BDD-9A56-63CF-F425-63D1-V
Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale 2017 10.5240/1CB6-6087-F558-2817-3623-N
2 2018 10.5240/C1E9-E748-A5F9-0333-EDE5-Y
2036 Origin Unknown 2018 10.5240/8D31-6029-03CA-400D-7345-I
A.I. Rising 2018 10.5240/3CAB-CFAB-9D9C-74F8-BBBB-U
Avengers: Infinity War 2018 10.5240/748B-771F-2C72-6F9C-2FB0-N
A-X-L 2018 10.5240/51A3-B4EA-3D29-7E63-1091-S
Extinction 2018 10.5240/CB74-7710-928F-8CEE-BBDC-Z
Replicas 2018 10.5240/246E-9C63-31D0-B4FB-2D67-P
Tau 2018 10.5240/BA78-091A-4D37-255A-9600-I
Upgrade 2018 10.5240/D0C4-AE86-4EA9-DA86-DA6E-L
Zoe 2018 10.5240/DC9E-E2B4-10C5-53AE-3FA3-R
A.M.I. 2019 10.5240/C738-F4D2-0DD4-9C65-8B9B-I
Alita: Battle Angel 2019 10.5240/43F5-E2AE-4DF4-1777-063A-B
Captain Marvel 2019 10.5240/00BA-0C17-A638-72E8-3CED-F
Hi, Ai – Liebesgeschichten aus der Zukunft 2019 10.5240/0073-3C16-D17D-1C7B-EEA4-G
I Am Mother 2019 10.5240/4ED2-F662-9A50-9539-A193-M
iHuman 2019 10.5240/F36D-67CA-F792-0084-4AF6-X
Jexi 2019 10.5240/C6EF-0828-8D0D-498B-795D-O
Machine 2019 10.5240/3F28-8DDE-4EC5-D94C-E205-J
Serenity 2019 10.5240/3D3C-03ED-976D-BBC5-1CF4-N
Terminator: Dark Fate 2019 10.5240/4012-828B-1CCB-67F5-F84E-5
The Great Hack 2019 10.5240/CE24-AA64-2967-2A41-B576-A
The Wandering Earth 2019 10.5240/86A3-F82B-7D53-D165-587B-W
2067 2020 10.5240/918D-224C-6D2E-A211-3FE7-F
Archive 2020 10.5240/36B8-CB65-41A9-BA9A-1150-E
Blood Machines 2020 10.5240/169C-7FA6-63C5-FBBC-23EB-1
Bloodshot 2020 10.5240/68F5-97F5-F938-8535-4E3C-P
Coded Bias 2020 10.5240/5897-3ECD-BF92-20B0-A14B-R
Invasion 2020 10.5240/E63E-E1A1-B6DF-FE77-D5B9-4
Monsters of Man 2020 10.5240/F940-9FD4-C467-65DB-C1CD-5
Superintelligence 2020 10.5240/F5C6-F6B8-0606-925B-A369-D
The Alpha Test 2020 10.5240/80A5-083A-4D24-6CEB-B8C1-G
The Social Dilemma 2020 10.5240/201C-1D6B-366C-36B9-FE74-Z
We Need to Talk About A.I. 2020 10.5240/3F92-CE5E-6B22-64CF-7BE5-K
After Yang 2021 10.5240/C5DD-FC32-8194-D3F3-0E1F-Q
Finch 2021 10.5240/D7D0-6463-E4EF-CE77-1ED5-V
Free Guy 2021 10.5240/8E36-D2D4-4EA9-12F2-C76B-5
I’m Your Man 2021 10.5240/2CE8-9EB6-7E68-3C52-ADB0-0
Mother/Android 2021 10.5240/1ED6-845B-51E4-A0FE-0819-2
Ron’s Gone Wrong 2021 10.5240/00E6-41BC-C06E-1595-93ED-2
The Matrix: Resurrections 2021 10.5240/2B8C-C708-B31E-0B65-A954-9
The Mitchells vs. the Machines 2021 10.5240/D998-6950-66BB-9B7C-ABB8-I
Big Bug 2022 10.5240/8021-E8D5-F815-6F75-A065-D
Blank 2022 10.5240/8469-4898-2807-75B6-BFA5-Y
Brian and Charles 2022 10.5240/EC27-CC15-CD98-4F7C-A5DA-R
Christmas Bloody Christmas 2022 10.5240/2928-3D34-9670-BC3A-C2CC-E
Je Suis Auto 2022 10.5240/3E00-435F-772E-9F14-1BD0-9
Kimi 2022 10.5240/0816-96B1-E9CD-A112-946F-2
Moonfall 2022 10.5240/B2FE-196C-7F94-3DF1-F062-L
JUNG_E 2023 10.5240/2985-CF2F-9137-4DFA-9B32-R
M3GAN 2023 10.5240/8AFF-F6F0-C26B-2C2E-B68D-R
Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre 2023 10.5240/AD7D-C010-B0A4-E311-7E6F-8


[1] Both from the company OpenAI, established in 2015 with the goal “to ensure that artificial general intelligence benefits all of humanity.”

[2] For an opposing viewpoint, see “Why AI Can’t Replace a Client-focused Team of Dedicated Human Writers” and “AI can’t replace human writers.”

[3] Props must be given to ChatGPT for its correct use of the Oxford comma.

[4] In French, “sabotage” originally meant “to bungle,” or literally “to walk noisily” from “sabot,” a type of wooden shoe often worn by factory workers.

[5] In 1850 an article describing a threatened tailor strike over the use of sewing machines suggested that displaced workers should direct their talents to higher pursuits – advice that has been repeated with each subsequent wave of automation.

[6] The apocryphal source of “sabotage,” either when a displaced French weaver threw a wooden shoe into a mechanical loom, or when inexperienced farm workers (who wore wooden shoes, or “sabots”) were brought in to replace striking skilled textile workers. Both potential origins of the work are tied to the French textile industry, but labor dispute sabotage pre-dates the coining of the term in 1903, going back to the Luddites of 1811-1812 and their earlier destruction of textile mills in England.

[7] See “Robots Have Been About to Take All the Jobs for 100 Years” for a survey of technological unemployment over the past 100 years.

[8] Edison Studio’s Frankenstein (1910) predated Metropolis, but Frankenstein’s monster (yes, Frankenstein was the scientist – his monster had no name) features a reanimated human brain and so is technically not an artificial intelligence.

[9] See, for example, HAL’s reasoning for killing off the Discovery’s crewmen in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)