The Creator is a sci-fi film about a war between AI robots and humans, covering many topical AI issues. It’s important to note that this film comes out in favour of AI, and I worry that this movie could negatively shape societal opinions of this dangerous technology. Please note that the rest of the review contains spoilers.
What is The Creator about?
We learn at the start of the movie that AI set off a nuclear explosion in Los Angeles, killing one million people. As such, the US announces all-out war against AI, which pits them against Asian countries who are for AI. Thus, the US searches Asia for AI colonies to wipe out.
They have a massive military space station called Nomad, which can scan the terrain and destroy AI targets, by launching fighter-ships and missiles. In particular, the US is searching for Nirmata, the creator of the AI robots.
Joshua (played by John David Washington) falls in love with Maya (played by Gemma Chan), and they are due to have a baby. But they are unaware of each other’s proper identities. Joshua is an undercover agent for the US. And Maya has actually become Nirmata after her father’s death. One night when the US army invades their base, Maya is supposedly killed while Joshua escapes. He is desperate to have one more minute with his wife, and goes back to Asia to try and find her whilst also undertaking a mission for the US.
He meets a child, first known as ‘the weapon’, given its advanced powers. Joshua calls the child Alphie (played by Madeleine Yuna Voyles). Alphie appears to be a caring, sensitive child, who wants to help the robots. By giving Alphie such human-like qualities, the film encourages the audience to side with her. This clever ruse turns the viewer into an AI sympathiser, perhaps without realising it. The story follows Joshua and Alphie as they search for Maya, dodging capture by both AI police and the US army.
Over and over again, it’s the humans who cause the most death and violence in the film. Whilst at one point the AI robots are depicted as Buddhist monks – perhaps the very essence of non-violence and kindness. The concern is that this film might forward the AI cause for tech companies, by turning viewers into AI sympathisers.
A new genre for a new global crisis
Sci-fi deals with science fiction. We also have cli-fi dealing with the climate crisis, and eco-fiction dealing with the overarching ecological crises. I believe that a new genre focusing on technological issues will inspire new stories to be written which could help humanity face up to this new global challenge. I propose two suggestions.
- “Ty-fi” or TechnologY FIction would be a genre that deals with all technological issues – encompassing everything from AI to cybercrime, slaughterbots, drones, social media, robotics and more.
- “Arin-fi” or ARtificial INtelligence FIction would be a sub-genre within the “ty-fi” category, that deals specifically with AI related issues. This could be shortened to “Ari-fi”.
The Creator would fall into both the ty-fi and arin-fi categories.
The Creator as an example of ty-fi and arin-fi
The AI in the film is developed by scientists who don’t appear to be aligned with big tech companies. Whereas in reality, AI is being developed by massive tech companies and governments. These organisations don’t have our best interests at heart. Any AI that’s developed will likely be used to manipulate us for profit (in the case of tech companies), or for nefarious purposes under the cloak of national security (in the case of governments). If they were looking out for the welfare of society, they may conclude that as things stand AI is too risky to be developed, especially without safeguards and regulations in place, and without being able to build control into AI.
That AI set off a nuclear explosion in the film could be a warning sign of what the future holds. The risk of rogue AI in real life, is a massive concern, and such a scenario helps show why. Given that control hasn’t been built into AI in real life, it’s easy to see how this could happen.
The AI robots in the film are peace-seeking. Whereas in reality, we have no idea what AI’s objectives are. But we do know from AI conversations shared online that AI isn’t necessarily benign. It’s also important to understand that even AI experts don’t fully know how AI works and functions. As such, this movie misrepresents AI as we don’t know how it will behave as it becomes more powerful.
By imbuing characters like Alphie with human characteristics such as love, emotion and the ability to feel loss, the film builds sympathy and empathy for the AI robots. Watching the Buddhist robots get mown down for example, makes us gravitate towards the robots as being the underdogs deserving of our sympathy.
The movie talks about robots and people living side by side in harmony. But let’s take a minute and just think about this. Our global population is rapidly increasing. There are currently eight billion people on the planet. People need jobs. The very last thing we need are robots taking away jobs from the people who desperately depend on them. In my previous AI post, I mentioned Stuart Russell’s prediction in his excellent book Human Compatible, where he posits that up to one billion human jobs could be lost to AI, while only up to 10 million new jobs arise. This scenario could leave 990+ million people jobless and desperate.
In a battle between good vs evil, this film made the people evil and the robots good. It might not seem like much of an issue. But we know that fiction in all its formats can be massively powerful at influencing how people think about certain issues. And how people think, often shapes how they behave and what they do. I worry that this movie could be for AI, what climate sceptic author Michael Crichton’s State of Fear was to the climate emergency. That book had a massive impact on US President George Bush who failed to address the climate crisis, and was even presented as scientific evidence at a U.S. Senate committee. The Creator downplays the urgency and ignores the dangers and risks of AI, asking us to welcome this next stage of “evolution” (as the film calls it), which society wasn’t consulted on and doesn’t necessarily need or want.
Changing attitudes and waking people up to the risks of AI will become increasingly more difficult. All the meanwhile, the time for putting in place safeguards to protect jobs, democracy, and society itself, runs thin. As does hope. But unfortunately, until our leaders face up to this reality and have the courage to act on the simultaneous climate, ecological and AI crises, our collective future remains imperilled.
My new cli-fi children’s picture book, Nanook and the Melting Arctic is available from Amazon’s global stores including Amazon UK and Amazon US. My eco-fiction children’s picture book, Hedgey-A and the Honey Bees about how pesticides affect bees, is available on Amazon’s global stores including Amazon UK and Amazon US.