What does it mean to live in the age of intelligent machines? Recently, Doc Edge Schools, (a division of the Doc Edge Documentary Film Festival) screened More Human Than Human, a documentary that explores the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in modern society.
In the film, Tommy Pallotta builds his own robot to see if it can replace him as a filmmaker. Alongside his design team, he helps build and programme the robot to think autonomously. It is then tested to see if it can direct and interview him. More than just an exposé on the pro and cons of AI, the investigation takes them to the world’s leading AI experts and robot pioneers, confronting them with the existential questions that AI begs us to ask. What are the values and ideas scientists build into their creations? How are our lives changing by these smart machines and will AI render humanity obsolete?
The documentary was easily the most popular film in the Doc Edge Schools programme with eight screenings to over 1000 students, proving that AI and robotics is of great interest to the younger generation, says Doc Edge Schools Manager, Matthew Donaldson.
As with other films in the programme, Doc Edge Schools aim to maximise the educational experience for the students by engaging film makers and experts from relevant fields for Question and Answers sessions after each film.
“When Doc Edge Schools reached out to the AI Forum and the Tech Alliance to enquire about possible speakers, we were lucky enough to be in contact with Ben Reid the Executive Director of the AI Forum who put the word out to the New Zealand AI community.”
“The generosity of this community was quickly evident, as Doc Edge Schools started receiving offers and suggestions from all over the country for speakers, which quickly turned into confirmed speaking engagements,” says Matthew.
“At each screening, all of the students (and teachers) were engaged at a level above many of the other films on the programme, which resulted in interesting, informative and sometimes even challenging Q&A sessions,” he says.
“Deftly handled by the speakers, questions ranged from the fearful ‘how long before the terminators come for us?’, the pragmatic ‘which jobs will the robots take?’, the philosophical ‘as we advance into a new world of AI, will we evolve into a new species, and at what point to we stop being human?’ to ‘what is the singularity?’. This shows that students were soaking up the information and conceiving visions of a future for which they will ultimately be responsible,” says Matthew.
Following each screening, teachers were provided with an education kit to continue discussion in the classroom.
“It was our sincere pleasure to be in contact with everyone associated with the AI Forum and the Tech Alliance. The generosity in terms of time and good will from every organiser and speaker was much appreciated,” says Matthew, who is looking forward to next year’s festival and more documentaries that tackle the big questions associated with AI, robotics and our shared future as a society.”