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Artificial Intelligence

7 documentaries about artificial intelligence and robotics

Amelia Fort

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In the last decade, the many advances achieved in the field of artificial intelligence have captured the interest of the public , both of the more ‘geek’ and of people outside the technological field but impacted by the dimension of the changes that are coming.

And where there is demand from the public, there is usually an offer from content producers. And not only the (science) fiction cinema has been inspired by AI : also the creators of documentaries have tried to report on the screen about the favorite topic for readers in Xataka Captcha:

Plug & Pray (2010)

The German director Jens Schnaze interviews in this documentary some of the leading robotics figures of the moment to question them about the possibility (or desire) to go beyond creating complex machines and start playing to be gods creating “artificial humans” “.

The objective of the work is to explore the ethical ( and even religious ) consequences before the technical aspects of the phenomenon, including visits to robotic weapons exhibitions.

Schnaze parades on the screen, among others, the futuristic Raymond Kurzweil ( founder of the University of the Singularity ), the Italian scientist Giogio Metta (creator of the iCub robot ), the American Neil Gershenfeld (director of the Center for Bits and Atoms of MIT ) or the popular Japanese engineer Hiroshi Ishiguro (specializing in the design of ultra-realistic robots ).

Faced with the varying degrees of techno-optimism of most of the scientists interviewed, the documentary is voiced by Joseph Weizenbaum , creator of the first chatbot (Eliza) and one of the pioneers of artificial intelligence, who died several months earlier of the premiere of the documentary:

“It is disastrous that most of my colleagues believe that we can create an artificial human being. This immense nonsense is the product of a delirium of greatness. Perhaps, if I had known what I know now, I would have decided that I did not want to devote myself to this field “.

Duration: 90 minutes

You can see it in : Playstation Store & Microsoft Store

Humans Need Not Apply (2014)

This 15-minute documentary, funded by crowdfunding, is a piece of the spreader (youtuber and podcaster) CGP Gray and focuses on the integration of automation technologies within our production system, as well as on how this will affect the market of work . Yes, the documentary is from 2014, but every day that passes this debate takes on more news.

Given the argument that AI will always create, directly or indirectly, more jobs for humans who lose theirs, the documentary recalls that at the time mechanization allowed us to do without horses without creating new occupations for them .

And it reminds us that this debate is no longer science fiction : the fully autonomous car is (almost) here, and 70 million people worldwide work in that sector.

Duration: 15 minutes

You can watch it on: YouTube, legally and for free (yes, you have it above)

Roboticize me (2015)

Peter Keleghan, a Canadian actor specializing in comic roles, acts as the presenter of this documentary in the company of RoboThespian , a humanoid robot created in order to be able to interact with the public.

Throughout this work (in reality, a chapter of a series of documentaries called Doc Zone), a fun exploration is offered while provoking the imminent robotic revolution in which we are immersed.

‘Roboticize me’ shows us these partners that we have created for our use and enjoyment: domestic servants, pets and even potential sexual partners . And he reflects on how, increasingly, our advances in this field threaten to push ethical and legal boundaries.

The documentary starts, how could it be otherwise, in Japan , the country where robots have a more important role and greater social acceptance, and goes through several scenarios to show us various examples of this revolution.

Thus, we witnessed from a robotic cabaret in Tokyo to the laboratory at the UCLA (California) of Dennis Hong , the ‘Robot Wizard’ that has created more than a score of androids, from football players to rescue robots. And we also review the history of hichtBOT , the hitchhiker robot who made history by crossing ‘by finger’ Canada, Germany and Holland.

A negative aspect of the documentary is the dialogues between Peter Keleghan and RoboThespian, in which the complexity of the latter’s responses offers a tricky picture of the current level of development of artificial intelligence .

Duration: 45 minutes

You can see it: On the CBC website … but only if you access from Canada.

Lo and Behold: The Beginning of the Internet (2016)

Werner Herzog is known for directing fiction film classics such as ‘Fitzcarraldo’ or ‘Aguirre, the wrath of God’, but in 2016 he was also encouraged to direct a technology documentary called ‘Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World’ (also known in Latin America as ‘Here are the dreams of the connected world’).

This work does not focus solely on artificial intelligence, but its 10 chapters review several aspects of the new technologies (positive and negative) of them, starting from the moment of the creation of ARPANET (the first Internet) in 1969 .

The eighth chapter focuses on the creation of artificial intelligence, and the work that is being carried out to create artificial consciousness. Lawrence Krauss, theoretical physicist, friend of Herzog and ‘character’ present in several of the chapters of the documentary, remembers at one point how futile it is to try this when we are not even able to understand our own conscience .

It should be noted that Elon Musk is also dropped by this documentary , but he is too busy talking about space conquest to mention his other favorite topic: AI threats.

The documentary tries to cover many topics and may ‘know a little’ to those initiated on these issues , but offers an interesting introductory review for the most lay people.

Duration: 98 minutes

You can watch it on: Netflix

Open Source Stories: Road to AI (2017)

“How do you teach a car to drive? For many autonomous car manufacturers and artificial intelligence researchers, the answer begins by sharing data .”

‘Road to AI’ is not, by far, the shortest documentary on the list; This is a chapter of the short documentary series ‘Open Source Stories’, produced by the software company Red Hat , one of the most successful in the world ‘open source’ and owner of the GNU / Linux distribution of the same name.

The documentary tries to present a review of the current state of the autonomous vehicle industry , highlighting the role that open source could have in its future evolution. For the documentary we will see François Chollet (creator of the Keras deep learning framework) parade, Maru Cummings (one of the first women who served as a combat pilot in the US, who became head of the Robotics Laboratory of the Univ Duke) or Karl Iagnemma ( founder of nuTonomy , a startup specializing in urban autonomous driving).

Duration: 17 minutes.

You can watch it on: YouTube, legally and for free (yes, you have it above)

AlphaGo (2017)

‘AlphaGo’ is the story of five games : the plays in 2016 between the homonymous AI (created by DeepMind, a company linked to Google) and the world champion (on 18 occasions) of the ancient oriental game Go, the South Korean Lee Sedol. Fortunately, the entire tournament was recorded, and we will not see on screen any ‘reconstruction’: only what happened in those days.

It is also the story of four defeats : those inflicted by the machine on a human who is confident that the machines have nothing to do with humans in this game (which in his country is almost an art). The documentary analyzes, for example, how the South Korean public lived this unexpected defeat.

But the documentary is also a chronicle of how that tournament was held for a week at the Four Seasons hotel in Seoul: it is, in part, the story of how chess master Demis Hassabis created DeepMind in his native London and how The Go was set as a means to an end, as a challenge that allowed the application of AI achievements to fields such as medicine.

And, although the documentary shies away from immersing itself in technical details beyond a few strokes, it is also the story of how new machine learning techniques are achieving impossible victories for older AIs.

Duration: 90 minutes

You can watch it on: Netflix

Do You Trust This Computer? (2018)

“Nothing will affect humanity’s future more than an artificial superintelligence. Access Chris Paine’s new film on artificial intelligence for free until next Sunday.”

This message was disseminated by Elon Musk through Twitter in April 2018, and in reference to the documentary ‘Do You Trust This Computer?’ (Do you trust this computer?) And if it was possible to offer the work for free, it was simply because Musk himself paid for it .

Chris Paine and Musk already knew each other before: the first had directed two documentaries about electric cars (‘Who Killed The Electric Car?’ And ‘Revenge of the Electric Car’) that were attended by Tesla’s CEO. Of course, there is also a documentary fully aligned with his own perspective on artificial intelligence as a potential danger for the human species .

The film is clear from its very title: it wants the viewer to ask questions about the reliability of artificial intelligence, about the security of our data, about the possibility of technology getting out of control. And, just in case that is not enough, the beginning of the film is even less subtle : the first sentence we will hear after starting the documentary will be “Technology advances much faster than the ability to protect our citizens.”

And right after the intro we will see a user clicking on “Yes, I trust” … to then be shown a Terminator T-800 walking on human skulls . Nothing subtle, no. And the rest of the staging goes along the lines of the above.

One of the topics that are dealt with in detail in the film is the progress experienced in recent years in the field of data analysis and how much the machine learning capacity has advanced, increasing its ability to influence people’s lives. .. to the point of facilitating the performance of electoral manipulations.

However, that does not mean that the pro-AI messages have been banished from the documentary (although they are invariably presented as naive positions): several researchers appear talking about their current applications to diagnose diseases more accurately than humans, and Eric Horvitz, from the Microsoft Research Lab, defends the possibility of using automation to turn traffic accidents into something of the past.

Duration: 78 minutes

You can see it in: Amazon Prime Video