Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Liberal Arts (M.L.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Humanities and Cultural Studies

Major Professor

Benjamin Goldberg, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Amy Rust, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Paul Hillier, Ph.D.


science fiction, artificial intelligence, film, identity and alienation


Artificial intelligence is an emerging technology; something far beyond smartphones, cloud integration, or surgical microchip implantation. Utilizing the work of Ray Kurzweil, Nick Bostrom, and Steven Shaviro, this thesis investigates technology and artificial intelligence through the lens of the cinema. It does this by mapping contemporary concepts and the imagined worlds in film as an intersection of reality and fiction that examines issues of individual identity and alienation. I look at a non-linear timeline of films involving machine advancement, machine intelligence, and stages of post-human development; Elysium (2013) and Surrogates (2009) are about technology as an extension of the self, The Terminator franchise (1984-2015), Blade Runner (1982), and Bicentennial Man (1999) portray artificial intelligent androids and cyborgs, Transcendence (2013) is a contemporary depiction of human consciousness fusing with technology, and Chappie and Ex Machina are both released in 2015 are situated in contemporary society with sentient artificial intelligence. Looking at these films portrayals of man’s relationship with machines creates a discourse for contemporary society’s anxiety surrounding technology. I argue that recent film’s depiction of artificial intelligence signals a contemporary change in our perception of technology, urging that we reevaluate the ways that we define our identity.