“Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the science of how to get machines to do the things they do in the movies.”–Astro Teller

Good post from David Pogue on the use of computer technology in the movie, Firewall, starring Harrison Ford. How many times have you seen the hero grab the nearest laptop and avert catastrophe by hacking into the Pentagon’s computer networks, a bank database, or the guidance system of an incoming missile, thereby reprogramming reality to conform to the expectations of movie-goers?

The ancient Greeks called it Deus ex machina, literally “God from a machine,” and Pogue’s point is that, Firewall, although a bad movie, at least uses real computer programs in real ways to advance a plausible plot.

Why can’t filmmakers do this as a matter of course? Remember in Ocean’s Eleven when the tech magicians orchestrate a brief, city-wide power outtage in order to rob three Las Vegas casinos? Sure, every day.

How about The Italian Job, wherein the team’s geek-hacker, who supposedly invented Napster only to have his idea stolen by his college roommate, hacks into the Los Angeles traffic control computers and reprograms all of the traffic signals, causing traffic jams to stop the bad guys and green lights for the heroes and their getaway? Painful to watch.

Or maybe the biggest whopper of them all, when Jeff Goldblum uses a laptop to hack into the computer systems of an enemy spaceship in Independence Day. “Hey, the Martians are still using Windows ME. This will be easier than I thought!”

Pogue’s Posts – Technology – New York Times Blog

Computers In Movies – David Pogue