Ironically, as played by Robert Patrick (a complete unknown at the time), the slender, smaller T-1000 looks like it wouldn’t stand a chance against the reprogrammed but still powerful (and massive) T-800. But looks are deceiving: the T-1000 can morph into just about anyone or anything it wants, which makes it even more formidable because you never really know who, what, or where it could be. There’s also a single-minded steeliness about it that, for our money, makes it the scariest Skynet android of them all.
The Matrix (The Matrix series)
Like Skynet in the Terminator films, the artificial intelligence at the heart of The Matrix films is never really seen, per se. We do glimpse the Matrix itself – all those human batteries in their cocoons, living virtual lives while the AI feeds off them – but it is mostly represented in visual form by programs like Agent Smith and his ilk, the Sentinels, rogue programs like the Merovingian, and of course, the Architect (Helmut Bakaitis), the AI that built the whole thing, introduced in The Matrix Reloaded.
As one might expect from an AI this powerful, the Architect seems to have little time for humanity and is utterly emotionless, almost alien in nature. And the way that the AI behind the Matrix are able to defeat humanity and ensconce most of us in a simulacrum that seems like the “real world” isn’t that implausible – although the recent failures of projects like Mark Zuckerberg’s “Meta” virtual reality hint that we’re not ready to submit just yet.
From the first minute you hear the seductive, soothing, almost purring voice (provided by Scarlett Johansson) of the title AI in Spike Jonze’s melancholy futuristic drama, you can easily understand why and how lonely professional letter writer Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) promptly falls in love with her…or rather, it. Samantha is smart, comforting, responsive, supportive, playful, alluring…everything an introvert like Theodore (or anyone for that matter) would want in a partner.
Except that she’s not really there. Or is she? While Samantha is largely a benign presence in Her, two things about her are unsettling: first, just how quickly a human being is ready to give themselves over to a virtual relationship with a non-corporeal, non-human consciousness, and second, that Samantha herself evolves so quickly that she and other AI all abruptly leave this plane of existence for realms and adventures unknown. Will Samantha be willing to pick up where she left off with Theodore if she comes back? Or will she and her brethren see us in a much different and far more insignificant light?
Ava (Ex Machina)
Alex Garland’s gripping, unnerving directorial debut stars Alicia Vikander as Ava, an android who might possess true consciousness, self-awareness, and the ability to think. That’s what her inventor, reclusive search engine CEO Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac), wants to find out, with the help of a randomly chosen programmer named Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson). Caleb and Ava, who seems human in so many ways, eventually draw closer, but it turns out that Ava indeed may have plans no one has foreseen.