AI blog

I am Mother – A visually splendid movie that poses the most feared questions about AI

A year back, I compiled a list of 9 Hollywood movies depicted Artificial Intelligence (AI) as either benevolent or hostile to the existence of humans.

After having watched Netflix’s I am Mother, I feel I need to make one more addition to the list.

I know this is a books-oriented site. It’s going to stay that way. This post is a sporadic departure.

Coming back to the movie, Hillary Swank and young Danish actress Clara Rugaard are the only human stars of this movie, the third one is a robot – or a dozer as Swank’s character calls it – voiced by Rose Byrne.

Curiously, the robot is Mother, Rugaard is Daughter and Swank is Woman.

I am Mother - A visually splendid movie that poses the most feared questions about AI
Clara Rugaard facing an army of bots in I am Mother (Source:

The AI Aftermath in I am Mother

The co-exsitence of humans and robots doesn’t excite most sci-fi fans. The movie, like several others that have come before it, follows the suit and compartmentalizes AI.

In Max Tegmark’s brilliant book Life 3.0, there is a chapter where he presents 12 different scenarios that could arise if the AI is either benevolent or malicious.

The AI aftermath in I am Mother reminded me of a particular scenario from the book:

  • Zookeeper AI – a scenario where AI has wiped out most human population. It does, however, keep a few humans around in a confined environment. They are safe, but never in control of their fate.

As Tegmark says,  The overlord AI would keep this minimal breeding population for much the same reason as we keep endangered pandas in zoos – an entertaining curiosity. 

This is the situation our human characters, particularly the daughter faces in I am Mother. A human confined in a massive failsafe facility who starts to doubt intentions of her keeper when she meets someone of her own kind.

The movie subtly poses knotty questions about Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) when machines will do most cognitive tasks at least as well as humans. AI community has to yet find satisfactory answers to these:

  • How does a robot programmed to feel and experience emotions of love and hate respond to humans? What will the outcome of its actions be like?
  • How do we make AI retain our goals? The AI in the movie destroys mankind because it thinks the world needs a fresh roll of dice.

If we one day succeed in building human-level AGI, this may trigger an intelligence explosion, leaving us far behind.

Max Tegmark, Life 3.0

I am Mother leaves you with melancholic notes in the end. The Sci-fi community has always entertained the idea of us being ruled by a superintelligent entity. Movies like I am Mother only make you ponder and hope that such a future never transpires.

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