Artificial intelligence, cause for hope or fear? A comparative research on representations of artificial intelligence in past science fiction films and the more recent film Her
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Current artificial intelligence research seeks to construct intelligent systems that perceive and act at a human level. This research is advancing quickly and forecasts a growing impact of the technology on society; a great responsibility is attached to the immense potential and power of artificial intelligence since the technology can help, but also damage humanity. Hence, many discuss the ethics of intelligent machines. This specific study focuses on depictions of artificial intelligence in science fiction films as they put forward speculative future scenarios that, at a societal level, can help prepare to make up one’s mind and actions. In effect, filmic representations influence the development of the actual technology, which is why this kind of research is important. Since this study explores the way that people react to depictions of artificial intelligence in films, it relates to the fields of study of ethics, the psychology of aesthetics, and cognitive film theory. This thesis concerns the question of how the portrayal of artificial intelligence in the more recent film Her (2013) relates to depictions in science fiction films from the 20th century in aesthetical terms. The latter was studied through a scholarly literature review that enabled me to reflect on the common themes in, and emotional responses to, depictions of artificial intelligence in past science fiction film. I reflected on my aesthetical response to the relatively new film Her (2013) through a cognitive film analysis, in which I used the sublime, the uncanny and the monstrous as analytical means. In comparing Her with older films, I found a difference in the filmic depictions of artificial intelligence and the way that they are perceived by the viewer. Past filmic representations mainly portrayed the technology as a threat to externalize our repressed fears, while Her depicted artificial intelligence as an important means to bring positive change, to review our desires of technologies to re-socialise humankind in a near future disenchanted world.