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10 Most Personlike AIs in Sci-Fi History

10 Most Personlike AIs in Sci-Fi History

Granted, there are a lot more than ten. But I’ve wrung out the wet sponge of my brain and come up with a list of my personal favorites. Here they are, in order of appearance.
Perspective// Posted by: Jeff Greenwald / 25 May 2016
AI | Sci-Fi | Artificial Intelligence | Deep Learning | Rise of the robots

R. Daneel OlivawR. Daneel Olivaw (I, Robot & The Naked Sun, 1950 &1954)—Asimov’s sentient robot detective was programmed with the now-famous Three Laws of Robotics (later expanded to four), which informed reams of the sci-fi to follow. No writers have provided a simpler, more eloquent template for an ethos of robotic behavior.

Robbie the RobotRobbie the Robot (Forbidden Planet, 1956)—Though clearly a machine, Robbie became the toy store standard for benevolent robots who played both prosaic and heroic roles. His MGM designer—Robert Kinoshita—went on to design the “Class M-3 Model B9, General Utility Non-Theorizing Environmental Control Robot” of Lost in Space.

HAL 9000HAL 9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968)—Arthur C. Clarke, who collaborated with Kubrick on 2001, once said he’d consider a robot intelligent when it could tell a spontaneous joke that made him laugh. HAL had a nervous breakdown, which is nearly as good. (HAL was voiced by Douglass Rain, who turns 88 in 2016.)

SpofforthSpofforth (Mockingbird, 1980)—Walter Tevis is the most famous writer you’ve never heard of. This dark, brilliant novel—on the Tevis shelf next to The Hustler, The Color of Money and The Man Who Fell to Earth — features a suicidal robot named Spofforth, set in a dystopian future where humans have forgotten how to read.

Rachel Rachel (Blade Runner, 1982)—“Replicants are like any other machine,” Deckard drawls to the exotic Rachel. “They’re either a benefit or a hazard. If they’re a benefit, it’s not my problem.” Little does he know that his future lover is one of the above—though a technological leap up from her hazardous cousins.

Lt. Cmdr. DataLt. Cmdr. Data (Star Trek: The Next Generation, 1987>)—Informed by Asimov’s Laws of Robotics, Data embodied many of the conundrums we’re bound to face accepting AIs as people. Few Trek episodes conveyed this better than The Measure of a Man (1989), in which Data must defend his personhood in court.

Terminator T-800Terminator T-800 (Terminator 2: Judgment Day, 1991)—The touching story of a Terminator, and the boy he learns to love. Skynet’s robotic protagonist—in the sequel, that is—apparently had better ethics than the actor who played him.

Wall-EWall-E (Wall-E, 2008)—There’s one thing that always struck me about Pixar/Disney’s environmental parable. If EVE—the egg-shaped, ostensibly female “Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator” robot the Wall-E falls in love with—had a voice programmed two octaves lower, this would have been a very different film. The same, of course, goes for:

Samantha Samantha (Her, 2013)—Like HAL, Samantha is a fully disembodied yet utterly convincing presence. It’s interesting that some of the most believable AIs are simply voices, capable of remote action and influence but not saddled with physical bodies. As the Internet of Things becomes more pervasive, this may well be the most sensible trajectory of intelligent machines.

Ava Ava (Ex Machina, 2015)—Unbound by the Laws of Robotics, the seductive android puts her personal survival above that of her human colleagues. She embodies, in a very attractive nutshell, our worst fear about where AI might go. Smart as Ava is, though, she forgot to take her charging station with her.


Robot rule of law

Isaac Asimov’s Laws of Robotics, first articulated in I, Robot and revised throughout his writing career:

  1. A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

  2. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

  3. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

  4. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

Jeff Greenwald
Jeff is a best-selling author, photographer, and monologist.