Art, AI and figuring the future

On the coming of computer-generated creativity

Featured in

  • Published 20230207
  • ISBN: 978-1-922212-80-1
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

THE 2015 SCIENCE-FICTION film Chappie was not very well reviewed, and nor is it particularly well remembered. Director Neill Blomkamp’s Pinocchio-esque tale of a sentient robot who longs to be human has also not been ‘rescued’ from the dust-covered cupboards of zeitgeist by a fanbase adamant that critics didn’t ‘get it’. In the tradition of sci-fi productions ripe with interesting ideas but lacking in execution, however, the film evokes fascinating concepts that – less than a decade since its release – have become major talking points in the real world. One scene in particular represents something that, as history would demonstrate, was just around the corner: the creation of AI-generated art. 

The chirpy titular character is a robot (voiced by Sharlto Copley) created by a British tech whiz, Dev Patel’s Deon, who believes he’s discovered how to build the ‘world’s first proper, full artificial intelligence’. Blomkamp, best-known for his Oscar-nominated apartheid analogy District 9, sets the story in another dystopian future, where policing has been outsourced to an army of robocops. But the sweet and naive Chappie – who takes seriously Deon’s instruction to never misuse his power – is a lover not a fighter with a fondness for dabbling in art. The scene begins forty minutes in when the robot does something we have rarely seen any machine do in the history of pop-culture representations. He picks up a paint brush. 

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About the author

Luke Buckmaster

Luke Buckmaster is the film critic for The Guardian Australia and a contributor to publications including and NME. He is the author of...

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