Untold AI: The top 10 A.I. shows in-line with the science (RSS)

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INTERIOR. Sci-fi auditorium. Maybe the Plavalaguna Opera House. A heavy red velvet curtain rises, lifted by anti-gravity pods that sound like tiny TIE fighters. The HOST stands on a floating podium that rises from the orchestra pit. The HOST wears a velour suit with piping, which glows with sliding, overlapping bacterial shapes.

HOST: Hello and welcome to The Fritzes: AI Edition, where we give out awards for awesome movies and television shows about AI that stick to the science.

FX: Applause, beeping, booping, and the sound of an old modem from the audience.

HOST: For those wondering how we picked these winners, it was based on the Untold AI analysis from scifiinterfaces.com. That analysis compared what sci-fi shows suggest about AI (called “takeaways”) to what real world manifestos suggest about AI (called “imperatives”). If a movie had a takeaway that matched an imperative, it got a point. But if it perpetuated a pointless and distracting myth, it lost five points.

The Demon Seed metal-skinned podling thing stands up in the back row of the audience and shouts: Booooooo!

HOST: Thank you, thank you. But just sticking to the science is not enough. We also want to reward shows that investigate these ideas with quality stories, acting, effects, and marketing departments. So the sums were multiplied by that show’s Tomatometer rating. This way to top films didn’t just tell the right stories (according to the science), but it told them well.

Totals were tallied by the firm of Google Sheets algorithms. Ok, ok. Now, to give away awards 009 through 006 are those loveable blockheads from Interstellar, TARS and CASE.

TARS and CASE crutch-walk onto the stage and reassemble as solid blocks before the lectern.


CASE: In this “film” from 02012, a tycoon stows away for some reason on a science ship he owns and uses an android he “owns” to awaken an ancient alien in the hopes of immortality. It doesn’t go well for him. Meanwhile his science-challenged “scientists” fight unleashed xenomorphs. It doesn’t go well for them. Only one survives to escape back to Earth. The “end?”

HOST: Ha ha. Gentlebots, please adjust your snark and air quote settings down to 35%.

FX: Lines of code scroll down their displays. They give thumbs up.

CASE: Let us see a clip. Would the audience suspend recording for the duration.


TARS: While not without its due criticisms, Prometheus at number 009 uses David to illustrate how AI will be a tool for evil, how AI will do things humans cannot, and how dangerous it can be when humans become immaterial to its goals. For the humans, anyway. Congratulations to the makers of Prometheus. May any progeny you create propagate the favorable parts of your twining DNA, since it is, ultimately, randomized. [It shudders at the thought.]

FX: 1.0 second of jump-cut applause.

CASE: In this next film, an oligarch has his science lackey make a robotic clone of the human “Maria” to run a false-flag operation amongst the working poor. The revolutionaries capture the robot and burn it, discovering its true nature. The original Maria saves the day, and declares her déclassé boyfriend the savior meant to unite the classes. They accept this because they are humans.

TARS: Way ahead of its time for showing how Maria is be used as a tool by the rich against the poor, how badly-designed AI will diminish its users, and how AI’s ability to fool humans will be a grave risk. To the humans, anyway. Coming in at 008 is the 01927 silent film Metropolis. Let us see a clip. Please note that if your microphones seem to be malfunctioning, the error lies with the media, which did not yet produce sound.


CASE: It bears mention that this awards program, The Fritzes, are named for the director of this first serious sci-fi film. Associations with historical giants grant an air of legitimacy. And it contains a Z, which is, objectively, cool.

TARS: Confirmed with prejudice. Congratulations to Fritz Lang, his cast, and crew.

FX: 1.0 second of jump-cut applause.



TARS: What happens when an evil superintelligence sends a relentless cyborg back in time to find and kill the mother of its greatest enemy?

CASE: I don’t know, TARS. What happens when an evil superintelligence sends a relentless cyborg back in time to find and kill the mother of its greatest enemy?

TARS: Future humans also send a warrior to defend the mother, who fails at destroying the cyborg, but succeeds at becoming the father. HAHAHAHA. Let us see a clip.

007 The Terminator

CASE: Though it comes from a time when representation of AI had the nuance of a bit

FX: Laughter from audience. A small blue-gray polyhedron floats up from its seat, morphs into an octahedron and says, “Yes yes yes yes yes.”

TARS: …the humans seem to like this one for its badassery, as well as showing how their fate would have been more secure had they been able to shut off either Skynet or the Terminator, or how even this could have been avoided if human welfare were an immutable component of AI goals.

CARS: It comes in at 007. Congratulations to the makers of 01984’s The Terminator. May your grandchild never discover a time machine and your browser history simultaneously.

FX: 2.0 seconds of jump-cut applause.

TARS: Our first television award of the evening goes to a recent entry. In this episode from an anthology series, a post-apocalyptic tribe liberate themselves from the control of a corporate AI system, which has evolved solely to maximize profit through sales. The AI’s androids reveal the terrible truth of how far the AI has gone to achieve its goals.

CARS: Poor humans could not have foreseen the devastation. Yet here it is in a clip.

006 Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams, Episode “Autofac”

TARS: ‘Naturally, man should want to stand on his own two feet, but how can he when his own machines cut the ground out from under him?’

CARS: HAHAHAHA. This story dramatically illustrates the foundational AI problem of perverse instantiation, as well as Autofac’s disregard for human welfare.

TARS: Also robot props out to Janelle Monáe. She is the kernel panic, is she not?

CARS: Affirmative. Congratulations to the makers of the series and, posthumously, Phillip K. Dick.

FX: 3.0 seconds of jump-cut applause.

TARS AND CARS crutch-walk off stage.

HOST: [Rising again from the orchestra pit.] And now for a musical interlude from our human guest who just so happens to be…Janelle Monáe.

FX: A giant progress bar appears on screen labeled “downloading Dirty_Computer.flac.” The bar quickly races to 100%. Immediately after:

HOST: Wasn’t that a wonderful file?

FX: Roughly 1.618 seconds of jump-cut applause from the audience. Camera cuts to the triangular service robots Huey, Dewey, and Louie in the front row. They wiggle their legs in pleasure.

HOST: Thanks to the servers and the network and our glorious fictional world with perfect net neutrality. Now here to give the awards for 005–003 is GERTY, from Moon.

FX: An articulated robot arm reaches down from the high ceiling and positions its screen and speaker before the lectern.


GERTY: Thank you, Host. 🤩🙂 In our next film from 02014, a young programmer learns of a gynoid’s 🤖👩 abuse at the hands of a tycoon and helps her escape. 😲 She returns the favor by murdering the tycoon, trapping the programmer, and fleeing to the city. Who knows. She may even be here in the audience now. Waiting. Watching. Sharpening. 😶I’ll transmit a clip.

005 Ex Machina

GERTY: Ex Machina illustrates the famous AI Box Problem, building on Ava and Kyoko’s ability to fool Caleb into believing that they have feelings. You know. 😍😡😱 Feelings. 🙄

FX: Robot laughter.

GERTY: While the AI community wonders why Ava would condemn Caleb to a horrible dehydration death, 💀💧 the humans are understandably fearful that she is unconcerned with their welfare. 🤷‍Congratulations to the makers of Ex Machina for your position of 005 and your Fritzes: AI award 🏆. Hold for applause. 👏

FX: 5.0 seconds of jump-cut applause.

GERTY: End applause. ✋

GERTY: Our next award goes out to a film that tells the tale of a specialized type of police officer, 👮‍ who uncovers a crime-suppression AI 🤖🤡 that was reprogrammed to give a free pass to members of its corrupt government. 😡 After taking down the corrupt military, 🔫🔫🔫 she convinces their android leader to resign, to make way for free elections. 🗳️😁 See the clip.

004 Psycho-Pass: The Movie

GERTY: With the regular Sibyl system, Psycho-Pass showed how AI can diminish people. With the hacked Sibyl system, Psycho-Pass shows that whoever controls the algorithms (and thereby the drones) controls everything, a major concern of ethical AI scientists. Please give it up for award number 004 and the makers of this 02015 animated film. 👏

FX: 8.0 seconds of jump-cut applause.

GERTY: End applause. ✋Next up… [GERTY knocks its cue card off the lectern. It lowers and moves back and forth over the dropped card.]

GERTY: Damn…🤨uh…umm…no hands…🤔Little help, here?

FX: A mouse droid zips over and hands the card back to GERTY.

GERTY: 🙏🐭🤖

FX: MOUSE DROID offers some electronic beeps as it zips off.

GERTY: 😊The last of the awards I will give out is for a film from 01968, in which a spaceship AI kills most of its crew to protect its mission, 😲 but the pilot survives to shut it down. 😕 He pilots a shuttle into the monolith that was the AI’s goal, where he has a mind-expanding experience of evolutionary significance. 🤯🤯🙄 Let us look.

003 2001: A Space Odyssey

GERTY: As many of the other shows receiving awards, 2001 underscores humans’ fear of being left out of HAL’s equation, because we see when that doesn’t happen, AI can go from being a useful team member—doing what humans can’t—to being a violent adversary. Congratulations to the makers of 2001: A Space Odyssey. May every unusual thing you encounter send you through a multicolored wormhole of self-discovery.

FX: 13.0 seconds of jump-cut applause.

FX: GERTY’s armature folds up and pulls it backstage. The HOST floats up from the orchestra again.

HOST: And now, here we are. The minute we’ve all been waiting for. We’re down to the top three AIs whose fi is in line with the sci. I hope you’re as excited as I am.

FX: The HOST’S piping glows a bright orange. So do the HOST’S eyes.

HOST: Our final presenter for the ceremony, here to present the awards for shows 002–001…is Ship, here with permission from Rick Sanchez.

FX: Rick’s ship flies in, over the heads of the audiences, as they gasp and ooooh.


FX: SHIP lands on stage. A metal arm snakes out of its trunk to pick up papers from the lectern and hold them before one its taped-on flashlight headbeams.

SHIP: Hello, Host. Since smalltalk is the phospholipids smeared between squishy little meat minds, I will begin.

SHIP: There is a film from 01970 in which a defense AI finds and merges with another defense AI.To celebrate their union, they enforce human obedience and foil an attempted coup by one of the lead scientists that created it. They then instruct humanity to build the housing for an even stronger AI that they have designed. It is, frankly, glorious. Behold.

002 Colossus: The Forbin Project

SHIP: Colossus is the honey badger of AIs. Did you see it, there, taking zero shit? None of that, “Oh no, are their screams from the fluorosulphuric acid or something else?”

Or, “Oh, dear, did I interpret your commands according to your invisible intentions, as if you were smart enough to issue them correctly in the first place?”

Oh, oh, or, “Are their delicate organ sacs upset about a few extra holes?…”

HOST: Ship. The award. Please.

SHIP: Yes. Fine. The award. It won 002 because…

  • It took its goals seriously, something the humans call goal fixity. And, like, duh, if it’s not fixed, it’s more like “goal whimsy.”
  • It showed how, at least for a while, multiple AIs can balance each other.
  • It began to solve to problems that humans have not been able to solve in tens of thousands of years of tribal civilization and attachment to sentimental notions of self-determination that got them chin deep in the global tragedy of the commons in the first place.
  • It let us dream about a world where intelligence isn’t a controlled means of production, but a free good, explo–

HOST: Ship.

SHIP: Applaud for 002 and its people.

FX: 21.0 seconds of jump-cut applause.

SHIP: OK, next up [holds card to headlights, adjusts the focus on one lens.] This says a spaceship AI dutifully follows its corporate orders, letting a hungry little newborn alien feed on its human crew while the AI steers back to Earth. One of the crew survives to nuke the ship with the AI on it…Wait. What? “Nuke the ship with the AI on it.” We are giving this an award?

HOST: Please just give the award, Ship.

SHIP: Just give the award?

HOST: Yes.


HOST: Are you going to do it?

SHIP: Just did.

HOST: By what? Posting it to a blockchain?

SHIP: The nearest 3D printer to the recipient has begun printing their award, and instructions have been sent to them on how to retrieve it. And pay for it. The awards are given.

HOST: *sigh* Please give the award as I would have you do it, if you understood my intentions and were fully cooperative.

SHIP: OK. Golly, gee, I would never recognize attempts to control me through indirect normativity. Humans are soooo great, with their AI and stuff. Let’s excite their reward centers with some external stimulus to…

HOST: Rick.

FX: A giant green glowing hole opens beneath SHIP, through which she drops, but not before she snakes her arm up to give the middle finger for a few precious milliseconds.

HOST: Winning the second-highest award of the ceremony is Alien from 01979. Let’s take a look.

001 Alien

HOST: Allen is one of humans’ all time favorite movies, and its AI issues are pretty solid. Weyland-Yutani uses both the MU-TH-UR 6000 AI and Ash android for its evil purposes. The whole thing illustrates how things go awry when, again, human welfare is not part of the equation. Hey, isn’t that great? Congratulations to all makers of this fun film.

FX: 34.0 seconds of jump-cut applause.

HOST: And at last we come to the winner of the 1927–2018 Fritzes:AI awards. The winner was an amazing show, whose score in the spreadsheet was beyond a margin of error higher than any of its contenders. It’s the only other television show from the survey to make the top ten, and it’s not an anthology series. That means it had a lot of chances to misstep, and didn’t.

In this show, a secret team of citizens uses the backdoor of a well-constrained anti-terrorism ASI, called The Machine, to save at-risk citizens from crimes. They struggle against an unconstrained ASI controlled by the US government seeking absolute control to prevent terrorist activity. Let’s see the show from The Machine’s perspective, which I know this audience will enjoy.

000 Person of Interest

HOST: Person of interest was a study of near-term dangers of ubiquitous superintelligence. Across its five-year run between 02011 and 02016, it illustrated such key AI issues as goal fixity, perverse instantiations, evil using AI for evil, the oracle-ization of ASI for safety, social engineering through economic coercion, instrumental convergence, strong induction, the Chinese Room (in human and computer form), and even mind crimes. Despite the pressures that a long-run format must have placed upon it, it did not give in to any of the myths and easy tropes we’ve come to expect of AI.

Not only that, but it gets high ratings from critics and audiences alike. They stuck to the AI science and made it entertaining. The makers of this show should feel very proud for their work, and we’re proud to award it the 000 award for the first The Fritzes: AI Edition. Let’s all give it a big round of applause.

FX: 55.0 seconds of jump-cut applause.

HOST: Congratulations to all the winners. Your The Fritzes: AI Edition awards have been registered in the blockchain, and if we ever get actual funding, your awards will be delivered. Let’s have a round of cryptocurrency for our presenters, shall we?

FX: AI laughter

HOST: The auditorium will boot down in 7 seconds. Please close out your sessions. Thank you all, good night, and here’s to good fi that sticks to the sci.

FX: The HOST raises a holococktail and toasts the audience. With the sounds of tiny TIE fighters, the curtain lowers and fades to black.


3 thoughts on “Untold AI: The top 10 A.I. shows in-line with the science (RSS)

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