Gareth Edwards, the director of the upcoming sci-fi epic The Creator, shared his thoughts on how artificial intelligence (AI)-Caused deaths could become a notable problem in the real world.
While AI is still developing throughout the world, many are very vocal about the danger the technology could represent.
Some of the more overt worries question the safety of AI controlling something like self-driving vehicles.
In The Creator, AI is established earlier in the historical timeline and becomes a part of everyday lives for people around the world. However, for the United States, something goes terribly wrong—and a nuclear warhead is triggered in Los Angeles.
The Creator's Director on the Dangers AI
The Direct’s Russ Milheim exclusively spoke to The Creator director Gareth Edwards about his upcoming sci-fi film, where he warned about the dangers of AI in the modern world.
Before giving that warning, The Direct asked the director if he could elaborate on what exactly happened in the movie’s fictional world with the AI and the catastrophic nuclear explosion in Los Angeles. The filmmaker confirmed that those details are “purposefully left up to the audience:”
“Yeah, the event is--it's purposefully left up to the audience, the details because it wasn't the specifics of it. Whatever we did for the specifics of that event wasn't important to the story.”
Edwards explained he was trying to think of a scenario that would result in the whole nation truly banning AI. He started by thinking about “self-driving cars” to “if [AI on] a plane went wrong:”
“… The main thing I was trying to achieve with that was that it's the equivalent of if you have self-driving cars that are AI-equipped cars, and you know, a car goes wrong, it maybe would kill someone or two people, right? Would we then ban AI? I don't know. Then you go, Okay, what if a plane went wrong? Because of AI onboard? You know, would we ban it from planes? Maybe? Maybe not? And then, like, Okay, what if some military equipment that has nuclear capability did something that caused, you know, catastrophe? We would definitely ban it then.”
Edwards warned that a catastrophic situation “will come” in the real world, even if it’s “not the nuclear version.”
He continued by explaining how human mastery of AI will soon have fatal side effects—which may be considered acceptable losses to many:
“And I was just trying to create a scenario where - and this will come. Not the nuclear version, but AI will soon screw up in some way and cause some tragedy, right? On what scale, we don't know, just because people, like basically--if I said to you, 'Okay, we're going to have AI, it's going to be this amazing tool, it's going to liberate the world, everyone's going to ultimately be very happy, they've got it. The downside is it will kill 40,000 people every year in America.' Are you all still cool with it? You'd go, 'No, no, no, stop, stop. That's terrible. We can't possibly do that.' But we did do that with cars, right? Cars kill 40,000 people every year, but we tolerate it because the advantages are massive, right? So we sort of just accept that as part of having a car.”
Developing the world of the movie, Edwards wanted to find the point where humans would “not accept an amazing piece of technology:”
“And so it's like, at what point will we not accept an amazing piece of technology, you know, and so, I was just trying to ultimately create a situation where you get that polarization in the world where half the world goes, this is terrible, we don't want it, it should be banned, and it wouldn't be any new products. And you can imagine, like, you buy a product, and you have a little logo that says no AI. We are sort of seeing a little bit of that already. Like the irony of this whole concept is when I pitched the movie early on, everyone was like, why would you ban AI? But why would you ban it, you know, and now we're in 2023.”
He noted there are already plenty of “voices springing up” about AI issues from “lots of different people” in many industries:
“It's already there—like, these voices springing up, you know, by lots of different people in [various] areas of industries that are concerned about this. And I find just trying to polarize the world that our movie is set in, like, for and against, is like a good, like yin yang—positive-negative battery…”
When it comes to the exploration of AI in storytelling, it’s been done quite often. But with The Creator, what particular tropes did Gareth Edwards want to avoid?
The director aimed to take the “he-was-a-robot-after-all” out of the picture, which he helped achieve by “[making] it clear in the design… who is AI and who isn’t:”
“I think the one I wanted to take off the table straight away was the he-was-a-robot-after-all, you know, kind of twist. And so I was trying to make it clear in the design… who is AI and who isn't. We didn't want to play that trick on the audience. And so it wasn't a film about that kind of twist.”
He shared how other filmmakers like James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, and Stanley Kubrick were all heavy influences on The Creator:
“And also, I think you can't make a movie like this and not stand on the shoulders of people like James Cameron, you know, and even [Steven] Spielberg and [Stanley] Kubrick... And that's given, like, that's kind of like the groundwork, some of the foundation of starting to make a film like this. I hope the setup of our movie, like the first 50 minutes, feels like those kinds of movies all melted together slightly. And then it goes off in its own tangent.”
Despite these influences, Edwards expressed how he wanted to portray a “very, very human version of AI:”
“And I think if the tangent that I wanted it to go off in was a very, very human version of AI. Like I wanted, when you meet an AI, and you talk to them, or when you experience them on this journey in the movie that they're incredibly—they're just like us in that.”
He even went as far as to “[not even] tell people if they were going to be AI or not” when working with actors in the film:
“Some of my most exciting moments in the film was filming real villages in the Himalayas or in Cambodia or somewhere, and then turning [the people] into AI. They don't care that they're in a movie, and they're not trying to do anything special. And it's just thrown away. And that kind of naturalism, with robots and what we call simulants in the film, was really important, and actually got to the point where I didn't tell people if they were going to be AI or not because I didn't want him to behave differently.”
Will AI Be Worth the Dangerous Collateral Damage?
One of the most interesting parts of Gareth Edwards’ quotes is his comparison to car-related fatalities—because it’s absolutely true. Countless people die every day solely due to that technology, yet society as a whole considers those deaths as acceptable losses.
Who is to say that AI won’t get to the same point? After all, when it relates to cars, self-driving functions are actively being worked on and improved for everyday consumer use.
Hopefully, it doesn't ever get to the point it does in The Creator—and is kept away from nuclear weapons entirely. The closer AI gets to military operations, the slippier that slope becomes.
It is a shame the film doesn’t offer up more details about what happened in Los Angeles. Though, it’s completely understandable why Edwards chose that approach.
Those who have seen the film are already offering strong praise, so hopefully, that positive sentiment carries over to audiences worldwide when they see it on September 29.