Were the beings in the movie A.I. aliens or robots?

This was brought up in the topic Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon To keep from going off topic in that discussion I’m raising it up here.

When I first saw Artificial Intelligence: AI by Stephen Speilberg I thought the beings at the end of the movie were aliens who had been studying humans for thousands of years with the intention of using us to unlock the secrets of the universe. Indeed, whatever the beings were, they ended up using humans to unlock time and space relationship. But there are those who say they were robots and not aliens. Those who say this, where did you hear this? Did Spielberg say it, or did you just automatically assume this while watching the movie. Some said that there is visible circuitryin their heads. I didn’t see it as visible circuitry. I saw it as a circulatory system like the beings in The Abyss. In fact I just watched the end of A.I. I saw no positive “proof” that the beings were robots. But I saw evidence that could be interpreted that they were highly advanced robots. Which will make it difficult for those people who are convinced that they are robots to watch this from the perspective that they are aliens. If you are capable of doing so though, if you can watch the end of the movie and totally do not think that the beings are robots, but that they are aliens, then you will see what I saw. The instant I saw them I thought they were aliens. Every sentence I read on screen or heard from them said to me that they had been studying humans for a very long time. Every sentence made sense to me. They had been thinking that humanity would help them to unlock the secrets of the universe. They never admitted to being robots, nor aliens.

If Spielburg had intended them to be robots, he didn’t make it clear, which is a pretty big mistake. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who thought they were aliens.

This will help me make up my mind as to whether A.I. is a hard sci-fi story or a fantasy. If you want to discuss this argument please do so in this thread… Coming up as I haven’t started it yet.

Aliens in stories: Sci-Fi or Fantasy?

It makes more sense for them to be robots. Discovering the secrets of their creators (or the creators of their ancestors) would make a lot more sense than some alien species just randomly wanting to know all about humans.

Well, I thought that the beings were descendents of the same aliens that are supposedly visiting us today. What I got was that they were studying us for the same reasons we would study an advanced civilization on Mars. And after watching the ending again I thought they saw in us a possibility to unlock the mysteries of the universe. And it was through us that they unravelled the time/space relationship.

I always thought that they were robots also. When humanity died out all that was left were their robots. Those robots continued to evolve into the beings at the end. They may have, along the way, added organics to their make up.

I didn’t see any evidence for this in the movie but I thought it fit the story better. Just my interpretation.

I agree. The movie is about artificial intelligence. It would stand to reason that what we see in the future is the ultimate expression of AI - a thinking, evolving robot species that has replaced humans.

It is not clear to mewhat exactly they are searching for in the AI kid. I think it’s that spark of human creativity or emotion or whatever.

Whatever they were looking for, what they found was pure sap. :stuck_out_tongue: Damn you, Spielberg…

Anyway, I thought they were aliens too, and I saw the movie twice and have seen bits on TV since. But apparently, they ARE supposed to be robots. It does make sense to me, and it explains why an intelligent ‘race’ would think there was something so unique about humans, loopy premise though it was.

It would make no sense for them to be aliens. There are no aliens in the rest of the movie, only robots. Gigolo Joe even mentions that after all the humans are gone, only robots will be left. It’s clear that the beings at the end were super-highly-evolved robots that inherrit the earth. They were doing some archeology when they found whats-his-face, the only robot still alive who remembers humans. They observe him to learn about their long-dead creators.

What a dissapointing butchering of a movie. It had so much promise.

also the kid’s shadow is shown looking the same as the future robots near the start of the movie.

of course they are robots. its a pretty crappy story otherwise.



Up until now, there had never been a doubt in my mind that the creatures at the end were aliens, who had taken over a planet that had the remnants of a lost civilization they knew nothing about. Their fascination even seemed acceptable: after all, we would be very interested if there had been a race of more or less intelligent creatures on earth long before man came to exist, even if they were less advanced than we are. But robots? I had never thought of that, and it’s hard for me to think of them that way (since, you know, they look so darn much like aliens). Yet, it makes sense, and I see how it would (ever so slightly) make the movie suck less.

To me, they’ll always be aliens though, and AI will always suck. If only they could have built an entirely different movie around the character of Gigolo Joe…

I thought they were aliens too. However, every article I’ve read says robots, so I guess they are.

The part the convinced me they are robots: After they pull David from the ice, I seem to recall one of them touching him. After this, I do know that the things then share the information by touching one another in turn, with little lights blinking in their “faces.” Looked like computers networking to me.

I suppose this scene could be explained as alien telepathy or some such, but IMO, that requires a lot more of a leap than the networking parallel.

I thought they were robots as well. The entire movie was about artificial intelligence and the fear that AI would take over the world, so I thought it was fitting that when the boy was discovered in the future, only aliens still existed.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie until the last 10 or 15 minutes. If Speilberg had just ended the thing before the robots in the future showed up, I think I might have thought of it as a really good movie.

There was a long interesting thread about A.I. a while ago:
I think I am going with the interpretation that Number Six offered:

But I really wish that Spielberg had made this much clearer, like in the very last moments of the film, as David falls asleep, we “back up” to actually see the Ben Kingsley mecha finishing the story.

Per my comments in the thread AV8R linked, I believe it’s pretty much impossible to conclude, given the evidence in the film, that the beings at the end are anything but super-advanced robots. There’s just too much thematic cross-referencing, foreshadowing, and so on to reasonably support any other interpretation.

One of these is the “shadow” mentioned by owlofcreamcheese, which in point of fact isn’t a shadow at all. It’s the shot where David first enters the apartment; he’s a backlit silhouette, out of focus and overexposed, so the light encroaches on his shape. On the DVD, it’s the beginning of chapter three, time count 10:37 (I’m looking at it right now). Consider also the symbolic link between the shots at 18:30 and 2:04:14, among others. (And listen to what the Blue Fairy says on the reveal of that second shot, by the way.)

And finally, per my lengthy comments in that other thread, if you think the ending of the movie is “sappy and sentimental,” you missed a big part of the movie’s point. I still don’t think I’d classify the movie as a success, but it’s a lot more complicated than just being a straightforward failure.

I have to agree with Cervaise and the rest that think the beings were robots. Aliens doesn’t make any sense. I thought they were aliens at first until the scene progressed. I had to explain it to my still confused wife later.

I got the impression that the robots were looking for the “missing link”, i.e. a robot that had developed real feelings and had direct memory of their makers (humans). It would be the equivalent of an evolutionist discovering the exact moment and circumstances that life first crawled from the primordial goo, or when early man accidently discovered and used the first tool. The “spark of life” or “spark of intelligence”.

Maybe obvious by this point, but SPOILERS!

I think A.I. was a fascinating film. It seems plain to me that the creatures at the end are robots; it only makes sense that robots would survive on earth long after humans were extinct. As the film made clear, robots were smarter and tougher than humans – they also never get distracted. This is perfectly illustrated in the chilling final scene (which, unfortunately, nobody gets because Spielberg did such a masterful job of misdirection, making it feel like pablum). At the very end of the movie, the superrobots basically say to David: “We can give you a couple hours to hang out with your mom, who you purport to care about, but if we do it will destroy her soul forever.” And his response is “So? I want what I want.”

Prior to this scene your sympathy is with David – every time he hurts someone, you chalk it up to humans simply not understanding him. Which is correct – they don’t. But here you have to face that David is a time-bomb waiting to go off – he has no facility to modify his goals in light of greater wisdom. No human could ever achieve such singularity of purpose, which is why humans will never be as good at anything as robots will eventually be at everything.


The other interpretation is that the beings are a fusion of the lines of genetic and synthetic engineering – and a sufficiently evolved, changed, augmented and/or adapted branch of humans may be different enough to be considered alien by certain definitions of the word.

I guess this is the part where someone makes a comment about how they are amazingly advanced techno-zombies.

They sure looked like aliens. But I only saw it the one time, and I had checked out long before the ending.