Cyborgs, Big Tech, Big Data, Big Muscles: Artificial Intelligence in Popular Film

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Taylor, Mio
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Cinema “intersects and interacts with other formations of public life, which fall into the areas of social and cultural history.” As such, it can provide a bridge between the histories of technological development, which have been numerous and well documented, and their social and cultural associations. This is why I have chosen to use two prominent films that represent artificial intelligence, Ex Machina and Terminator, as lenses through which to better understand not simply the technologies to which they are related, but the historical and ideological positioning of those technologies. These movies explore imagined futures of data and artificial intelligence within realist contexts, on the level of the personal and the social, drawing significant connections between the two. I have selected Ex Machina for the insight it provides into the corporate and regulatory end of data processing, analyzing it in conjunction with events such as Facebook’s acquisition of What’sApp, the rise of the Big Tech CEO trope, and the evolution of the capitalist logic of accumulation within a data-saturated society. Terminator, on the other hand, provides a framework for examining various aspects of the ongoing imperialist project, in a corporate, governmental, and militaristic sense (though these distinctions will prove to be quite permeable). I have focused on the development of lethal automated weapons systems, private military contractors, and landscaping. I will be using a cultural studies approach, by first carrying out a filmic analysis of both film texts, and then pairing them with technological, historical, and theoretical texts. Another value of viewing artificial intelligence, data collection, and data processing through these films is for the particular aspects of these processes that they simulate. By representing artificial intelligence in physical form, they produce a rendition of a mostly immaterial thing in a material form. Thus, they partake in meaningful simulation on two levels. The first is that which is true of all film, regardless of topic matter, a reproduction of the real that is real in itself, but unreal in relation to that which it simulates. Secondly, the cyborgs of Ex Machina and Terminator portray the real processes that have been deemed artificially intelligent in unreal forms. These forms are unreal in that they are mere illustrations, and they possess levels and combinations of processes that have not yet been reached or assembled. And yet, these unreal forms, to civilians, private individuals, and societies at large, become a significant way of knowing those real processes. The image of the cyborg has become culturally synonymous with artificial intelligence, and as such, is rich with deconstructable meaning. The cyborg has greatly influenced our imagination of digital technology’s future and role within our lives, and by shaping our outlook, has affected the reality of it. Film can only be made meaningful through spectatorship, which, for the purpose of my undertaking here, is positioned “from the perspective of the public sphere, as a critical concept that is in itself a category of historical transformation.”
x, 73 p.
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