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My favorite TV Shows and Films that foresaw the future of AI

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As a boy, I was captivated by movies and TV series like “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes” (1968), “Knight Rider” (1982), “The Terminator (1984), “Team Knight Rider” (1997), “Viper.” (1994), and “Knight Rider II” (2008). These shows sparked my fascination with futuristic technology, especially Artificial Intelligence (AI). Now, as an adult in an age of astounding technological progress, I’m amazed to see those once-distant dreams from the era in-between the 60s and 90s become our reality. AI seamlessly integrates into our lives, transforming how we work and interact. Today join me on this personal and deeply sentimental journey as I walk down the memory land revisiting the fascinating worlds of these shows. In this blog post, I’ll rediscover the prophetic elements in these decades-old gems, foreseeing the rise of AI in our modern lives. AI-powered vehicles, virtual assistants, and more—the shows envisioned it all.

The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes

I was inspired to write this post after receiving a YouTube link from my friend and colleague at work, Mishal Senapatiratne. The video showcased AlterEgo, an AI-enabled headset device developed by Kapur, a researcher from MIT Media Lab. Kapur demonstrated this device on stage at TED 2019 in Vancouver last month. You can watch the video of the device in action here. The AlterEgo headset is capable of many impressive things, including allowing you to “google” the internet for answers to any question silently by simply thinking about it, similar to how Dexter Riley the protagonist in the movie “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes” gains access to the entire internet in his brain after a computer mishap. At that time Sri Lankan households didn’t have access to the Internet, and I couldn’t have imagined that the idea portrayed in the movie would ever become so close to reality. However, it’s now evident that what once seemed impossible has become possible.

Knight Rider and Knight Rider II

Knight Rider and Knight Rider II were two TV series that made a profound impact on me. The first show aired in 1982, starred David Hasselhoff and KITT, an advanced, artificially intelligent, self-aware, and almost indestructible car. The second show featured Justin Bruening with an even more advanced version of KITT. Both cars boasted incredible and imaginative capabilities, with self-driving being one of the most remarkable features. What’s fascinating is that the self-driving car concept portrayed in these shows is gradually becoming a reality. Tesla’s vehicles, for example, come equipped with autopilot features, leveraging artificial intelligence to enable semi-autonomous driving. Although full self-driving is not yet realized, it represents a significant step towards that ambitious goal. It’s awe-inspiring to see how these imagined capabilities are gradually transforming into tangible innovations that have the potential to reshape the way we travel and interact with vehicles.

The Terminator Film Franchise

Don’t be alarmed. The predictions of future events depicted in The Terminator film franchise and TV series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles have not come true, at least not as of now. However, various states are actively exploring the use of AI for military purposes, similar to how the US Military created “Skynet” in The Terminator film. (Meanwhile, with the creation of ChatGPT, a group of experts, including Elon Musk, wrote an open letter urging the AI community to stop training such advanced AI systems due to concerns about potential risks to humanity.) Could there ever be an AI that becomes self-aware and seeks to destroy humanity? Only time can tell. However, the situation becomes more concerning considering that nine countries currently possess nuclear weapons while AI the one crucial ingredient needed for a Terminator-style nuclear apocalypse is progressing faster than anticipated.

Viper (Blackbox: S02E21 – 1997)

I loved the TV series called Viper, which featured a car powered by artificial intelligence. I can’t recall if the AI in the car could speak like KIT in Knight Rider and its spinoffs, but I do remember that the show was thrilling and exciting. The most memorable episode for me was the twenty-first episode of the second season. It was titled “Blackbox,” referring to an encrypted storage device that held an interactive Artificial Intelligence similar to Siri on our MacBooks, iPhones, and iPads. I was amazed as I watched the AI take control of the Mainframe when the lady technician on the team connected it to the system and it started explaining its origins. Even though Siri may not be as advanced as the fictional AI in that TV show, it astonishes me to realize that when I watched that specific episode 26 years ago, I was indeed glimpsing into the future.

Wrap Up

In conclusion, my journey down memory lane revisiting classic movies and TV shows like “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes,” “Knight Rider,” “The Terminator,” “Team Knight Rider,” “Viper,” and “Knight Rider II” has been a profound experience. As a young boy, these shows ignited my fascination with futuristic technology, especially Artificial Intelligence (AI). Now, in this age of remarkable technological progress, it’s incredible to witness many of the once-fantastical ideas from these shows become our reality. This journey down memory lane highlights how fiction can often foresee the future. It also reminds us of the responsibility we have in shaping AI’s development for the betterment of humanity. As science fiction converges with reality, we must approach these advancements with cautious optimism. The future holds boundless possibilities, and I eagerly await the continued impact of AI on our lives.

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