In the prior post we spoke about the tone of AI shows. In this post we’re going to talk about the provenance of AI shows.
This is, admittedly, a diversion, because it’s not germane to the core question at hand. (That question is, “What stories aren’t we telling ourselves about AI?”) But now that I have all this data to poll and some rudimentary skills in wrangling it all in Google Sheets, I can barely help myself. It’s just so interesting. Plus, Eurovision is coming up, so everyone there is feeling a swell of nationalism. This will be important.
So it was that I was backfilling the survey with some embarrassing oversights (since I had actually had already reviewed those shows) and I came across the country data in imdb.com. This identifies the locations where the production companies involved with each show are based. So even if a show is shot entirely in Christchurch, if its production companies are based in A Coruña, its country is listed as Spain. What, I wonder, would we find if we had that data in the survey?
So, I added a country column to the database, and found that it allows me to answer a couple of questions. This post shares those results.
So the first question to ask the data is, what countries have production studios that have made shows in the survey (and by extension, about AI)? It’s a surprisingly short list.
Which countries have made shows about AI?
- China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
- United States of America
If it didn’t jump out at you, this list is sorted alphabetically. If your country is on here, good job go team! You’re involved in the conversation. Though now, we have to admit that the conversation being had is not equal. Some countries contribute to this conversation more than others, some are more obsessed, and some are better at it than others. Let’s look at each of these in turn.
Which country makes the most shows about AI?
It’s the USA. Muuurrrrka! The Day the Earth Stood Still. Wall•E. Rick & Morty. Of the 120 shows currently in the survey, the USA is by far the outstanding maker, with 103 produced at least, in part, in the USA.
Now, this may not feel surprising at first. But it is. If the USA made the most total films, then also making the most AI shows would just be a subset of that fact. But the USA is not the world’s most prolific filmmaker. The USA is the world’s third most prolific filmmaker, behind India and Nigeria, followed by China and Japan. Note that India produces more than double its runner-up.
So what’s surprising is that the USA wins for sheer numbers of AI even though India produces nearly triple the number of films that the USA produces. It seems India (with 4) and Nigeria (with none) are just not as interested in AI as a topic as the USA is. The same goes with those other countries from those top producers who just didn’t show up as being interested in AI (per my definition): South Korea, Argentina, Mexico, Turkey, and Brazil.
So that’s interesting. I wonder if we could rate how interested each country seems to be in telling stories about AI? To do that, we need to find the total number of shows each country makes, and then measure what proportion of their films are AI. And for that, we need some bigger data than just IMDB. Where does the Wikipedia article data come from? Aha!
Awesome data…with some problems.
Turns out the UNESCO Institute for Statistics has an online database with so much amazing information that includes, you guessed it, worldwide information about movies. It can get us the information we would need to build a big picture, but it is partially incomplete, as only goes back to 1995 and stops at 2015. Contrast that with the AI survey, which goes all the way back to 1927. If we discarded the AI shows before 1995, we’d be losing 2/3 of our survey!
Additionally, UNESCO data is only for film, but the survey includes some television shows. So while it’s the best I know of, I have to acknowledge there’s a mismatch of available data there.
Then there’s bias. My little survey, IMDB.com, and Rottentomatoes.com will most likely have an English language bias. If anyone knows of more complete sources, as usual, pipe up.
So when reading these results, keep in mind there is incompleteness, bias, and some data mismatch. Fortunately, the standouts for each question stand out so much, I suspect that if we had perfect data, it might not change the rankings much.
So, caveats done, with the UIS data we have not just the rankings, but some actual numbers to work with. All we have to do is compare the number of shows in the survey and divide by the total number of films produced to find out…
Which countries are most obsessed with AI?
And our clear winner is…Australia!
Sure, Australia is only representin’ with 5 shows (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions, Resident Evil: Extinction, and Resident Evil: The Final Chapter) but those account for the highest percentage of its total films produced. What’s up with that obsession, Australian mates?
Now, anyone familiar with those five shows may understand what led me to the final geo question, because neither productivity nor obsession necessarily equate to quality.
Which countries have made the best and worst shows about AI?
Now, this will be sensitive. But we must face the facts. I ran the average tomatometer ratings for each country. The winner, with the highest average tomatometer ratings for its AI movies, is Hungary, at 87.
Thanks, entirely, to this film.
Here’s how the whole thing played out.
The rest of the data, should you want it, is on the live document.
Now, reader, if your country wound up in the red, don’t be too upset. We all have embarrassing moments from our past. Anyway, this is just about your country’s AI shows. Your other movies probably more than make up for this. The main thing is to learn lessons and move forward.
If your country is in the green, don’t get too cocky. You’ve done well, padawan, but this was just a measure of pleasing the audience, not a measure of whether you’re telling the stories we ought to be. And more shows are being made all the time, with everyone still looking to catch up. Do not rest on your laurels.
Note that the countries in the top and bottom spots each produced only one film, so they were each placing all their betting chips on one spot. Blade Runner 2049 did well, putting Hungary on top. Automata did, uh, not so well, leaving Bulgaria in last place. If either had produced more movies, the odds are their averages would probably drift toward the middle.
With that in mind, if you were looking for some country to place your bets on for reliably quality sci-fi, the combination of lots of experience and lots of high quality points us most strongly to the UK.
And here’s a geoplot. Note that Google Sheets’ conditional formatting features have a more powerful color range features than their geoplots, so the colors between the screen shot above and the graphic below won’t agree exactly. But the geoplot winds up being a little more favorable, coloring things near the middle of the pack more green than red. Sorry if the Mercator projection makes any pain feel more painful.
And here’s a close up of the top country and bottom country, weirdly, very close to each other on the world stage. Hungarian-Bulgarian relations have seemed to be very warm until this point. Forgive me.
So now we have some standings across various criteria. Let’s all be good sports and encourage each other to excellence, especially as we put aside the national borders and turn our Untold AI attentions towards the types of stories we are telling, in the next post.
While I’m not competent enough to expand the data body with all Eastern Block material, I can present one impactful example (putting Poland and [Soviet] Estonia on the map).
“Navigaator Pirx” / “Pirx the pilot”
Oh, and this reminds me of another example with sentient androids (those androids come along with an extraterrestrial expedition, so not sure if it qualifies – but the tone and questions raised by human characters somewhat resemble those presented in “Pirx”): “Dead mountaineer’s hotel”
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