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AI good and evil as portrayed in the movies, and reality

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The classic '2001: A Space Odyssey' paints HAL the computer as evil, but Meryl Streep's helpful assistant in 'The Devil Wears Prada' might be closer to how AI behaves in real life.

Whether AI is good and helpful or evil and dangerous is the stuff of endless debate in tech circles during this year's "generative AI moment."

In the movies, though, it's been pretty consistent: AI is the kind of malevolent force embodied in the HAL 9000 computer in the 1968 sci-fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey.

But CX analyst Liz Miller of Constellation Research, who recently wrote a blog post about AI in the movies and Salesforce, says AI should be seen as more like Meryl Streep's helpful assistant in the 2006 film The Devil Wears Prada.

Andy, the human assistant played by Anne Hathaway, whispers useful information about a prospective customer in the Streep character's ear -- and Miller thinks we should let AI technology do the same.

Indeed, it already is in some ways, in the form of digital assistants and generative AI-supported systems such as Microsoft's Copilot and Salesforce's various GPT tools.

"There's this fallacy that AI was going to take everything over, when in reality what AI needed to do was take over the stuff that we did not have the capacity to do in the time that we had to do it," Miller said on TechTarget Editorial's Targeting AI podcast.

"I think that's where we're starting to see AI take shape. And that's what I meant by that analogy," Miller added. "There's nothing wrong with HAL 9000. It's a great villain."

Meanwhile, beyond AI and the movies, Miller touched on other topics during the podcast, including the fast-moving saga of the X social media platform, formerly known as Twitter. For her, the AI story there is not about X itself, but about what happens with mercurial X owner Elon Musk's nascent AI venture, xAI.

Shaun Sutner is senior news director for TechTarget Editorial's enterprise AI, business analytics, data management, customer experience and unified communications coverage areas. Esther Ajao is a TechTarget news writer covering artificial intelligence software and systems. Together, they host the Targeting AI podcast series.

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