Top 5 Tech Films to Watch

I started my selection for this post and found it incredibly difficult to narrow down just five films. My selection process limited me to movies that were made after the year 2000. And I personally chose movies that may not be the ‘best’ or most popular but have cultural relevance and raise questions about the way technology is being weaved into our society.

Keep in mind that most movies, especially those based in the future or fictional places much like the following films are a hyperbolic account… so no the world probably won’t be taken over by robots any time soon, but still, the questions are raised!

[Spoilers ahead] 

5. The Circle

The Circle is a movie about a girl who lands a job at one of the most renowned (and powerful) technology and social media companies in America. The premise mirrors our current societies obsession with social media and sharing everything we do. In the film, Mae, the protagonist, undergoes an experiment where her whole life is a ‘live video’ streaming for all her followers to see. Eventually, this starts to affect her family and friends as well as taking a huge toll on herself. It raises questions like: Do we share too much via social media? Is it an inevitable trend? Will true privacy exist in the future? Are big tech companies the next leaders of the world… or are they already?

4. Her

Her might be more of a love story than anything else. It’s a story about a broken-hearted man who develops a romantic relationship with an operating system (like Siri or Alexa for example). In the film, Samantha, the operating system advances, and her character becomes inquisitive and unique in her own right. It raises questions like: Will AI be able to evolve to the point of feeling one day? Is it inappropriate to have feelings for an entity that is technically just coding and robotics? What will our relationships be like with advanced AI?

3. I, Robot

Based in 2035 (only 17 years away) I, Robot is set in a world where robot helpers are everywhere, and even newer ones are being rolled out. It gets problematic when the internal system at the company where all the robots were created advances past her initial intelligence. She basically makes the robots evil so that they can control the human race ‘for their own good’. However, one of these robots stands out from the rest and helps save the humans because of his friendships with them. This is a film based on a series of short stories by Isaac Asimov who created the Three Laws of Robotics:

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

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

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

This film raises a lot of questions, here are some: Even if AI is built with good intention, can that intention later be misinterpreted by the self-learning system? If we make updated robots is it ethical to lock up, ignore or destroy outdated robots? Will robots develop human relationships/friendships? In 17 years’ time will we have robot assistants? (In a way we already have AI assistants for particular jobs, just not in the classic body of a robot).

2. Ex Machina

A personal favourite, Ex Machina explores questions of a robot’s consciousness by having a man interact with her in an experiment to figure out her true capabilities. It is revealed by the end that the robot is far more self-aware than the men in the film and takes advantage of their belief that she is not as intelligent as they are. This movie raises questions like: Will AI ever be able to outsmart the humans that make them? Is this only possible by intervention by other creators? Will developed and social AI ever have its own wants and needs?

1. Black Mirror

Okay, it’s not a movie. It’s an entire series where each episode reflects on a different kind of technology. A lot of the tech involved is completely fictional however still reflective of the possibilities and consequences of certain tech that we are trying to develop. It takes on a very dark and twisted view of how these fictional technologies can wreak havoc. If not to make you think about how we are affected by technology, it’s simply great entertainment. (My favourite episode is The Black Museum, but my warning is that it has a 10/10 creepy rating).

Bonus movie (okay, so I couldn’t JUST pick five).

Wall-E is not just for the kids. When you really think about the state of Earth in Wall-E it makes you think twice about the environmental issues that have to be considered when building a world that revolves around tech. It also considers the issue that humans are being made lazy (in a very dramatic way) by the excessive use of technology. Lastly, it makes us feel compassion for a little rubbish man robot and raises the question of how to treat robots.

Some other recommendations include Mr. Robot (TV Series, predominantly hacker focused), Big Hero 6 (Another Disney flick), and of course The Matrix (Pre 2000).