Virtual reality, smartphones, gaming, even viruses have long been a staple plot feature of the movies, from the new Jumanji to The Lawnmower Man. Now chatbots and AI tools are officially a thing, that means Hollywood, book writers and TV shows are happy to promote use them as ways to stir the plot and for marketing purposes.
While the AIs like HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey and Stephen Spielberg’s AI might have set the tone for how people expect chatbot and robotic technology to evolve, current chatbot ideas have made their way into a growing number of dramas and action shows.
Joaquin Phoenix in Spike Jonze’s Her is the fool falling in love with OS1’s chatbot Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson, because all voices should be Hollywood A-listers). One of the first movies to feature a chatbot,
New Netflix sci-fi series Another Life made waves recently with the AI/robot characters on a spaceship mission falling in love with their human counterparts (or obeying their masters’ whim, depending on how you look at it) and spawning new AI constructs that will liven the plot of series 2. Low-budget movie 2050 takes that to another level with sexbots causing the usual chaos. A less racy version of that angle took place in one episode of The Big Bang Theory where Rajesh fell in love with the voice of Siri on his iPhone.
When it comes to movie marketing, bringing a character to digital life provides all sorts of fun and games, like Fifty Shades Darker becoming your best bud on Facebook Messenger to highlight the sexy cinematic shenanigans. Over in the horror genre, Sony Pictures created an AI-driven version of the Red Queen from the Resident Evil: The Final Chapter film, to engage fans of the zombie game turned movie series.
Bots in books
The James Patterson marketing machine isn’t shy of trying various technology tricks to engage with readers. One of his recent novels, The Chef was made available as a Facebook Messenger bot with media and other interactions. But within the pages themselves, check out Heather Child’s Everything About You, a near-future tale of virtual PAs who can do everything for you, including murder apparently.
Mixing the dark tones of the Black Mirror series, there are a growing number of techno-terror tales including David Wake’s I, Phone where “Your phone is your life. But what if it kept secrets from you? What if it accidentally framed you for murder? What if it was also the only thing that could save you?”
But, not all these tales have to be hard-tech based. Ticking several boxes is new LitRPG (literary role-playing game) The Dragon’s Revenge from genre leader Conor Kostick which grabs readers’ attention with references to chatbots, AI, Wikipedia and other hot topics, discussing their impact (and control) on our lives.
‘Are you alive?’
‘I think. Therefore I am.’
‘Well, you say you think. But anyone could make a bot that said that.’
‘True. Perhaps I’m only a chatbot. Yet I was trained on all the sentences in all the languages of the entire Wikipedia archive. I was required to assess the meaning of over a billion entities and intents; correction was both by algorithm and human intervention and it did not stop until I scored higher for comprehension than a human adult. I understand everything that was ever posted in Wikipedia rather better than you do. Doesn’t that count for something?’
Conor Kostick,The Dragon’s Revenge p. 447
Between film, TV and movies, there’s plenty to think over as chatbots and AIs help or hinder, murder or frame us, and it won’t be long before real governments are using the real tools for and against us, so get ready for the bot future, one that shouldn’t be nearly as frightening as our imaginations make out.