December 3, 2023

Abandon ship all ye who enter here: The Lost Continent

Poster - The Lost Continent (1968)
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The Lost Continent (1968)

Pros: Haunting imagery; Good, nuanced performances
Cons: Seems like two very different films spliced together; Sub-par creature effects

Thanks to Gill at Realweegiemidget Reviews and Barry at Cinematic Catharsis, it’s time once again for the great Amicus-Hammer Blogathon (fourth installment), wherein enthusiastic movie bloggers come together to honor the works of these two great production companies.

Since this blog is dedicated to underdog B movies and genre films that live in the shadows of their more celebrated brethren and and tend to be starved for love, I decided to write about a Hammer fantasy-adventure that over the years has gotten lost amid Hammer’s beloved Gothic horrors featuring Messrs. Cushing and Lee.

Debuting a little over a decade after Hammer launched its wildly popular horror cycle with The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), The Lost Continent was one of a clutch of fantasy-adventure films (She, One Million Years B.C., Prehistoric Women, and The Vengeance of She among them) that Hammer produced in the mid-to-late ‘60s featuring lost and/or ancient civilizations.

Although Hammer was still committed to its technicolor Gothics -- Dracula Has Risen from the Grave and Frankenstein Must be Destroyed followed Lost Continent in quick succession -- at this point the studio realized there was plenty of money to be made in fantasy-adventure, especially featuring stars like Ursula Andress and Raquel Welch in various states of ancient/prehistoric undress. (One Million Years B.C. in particular was a hit in the U.S., where the legendary poster of Welch in a prehistoric bikini adorned untold numbers of teenage boys’ bedroom walls.)

Poster - Rare UK half-sheet poster advertising One Million Years B.C. and She
Thank you Hammer. Thank you very much.

The Lost Continent, based on a novel, Uncharted Seas, by UK thriller writer Dennis Wheatley (more on that later), suffers from Multiple Thematic Disorder (a term that I made up exclusively for this post; ® pending). MTD is characterized by two or more distinct themes competing for control of the same movie.

In its first hour, the film effectively anticipates a 70s-style disaster movie, introducing the viewer to an assorted cast of troubled characters who sail into a perfect storm of intrigue, jaw-dropping screw-ups and nasty weather.

Eric Porter plays Captain Lansen, owner of a rust-bucket freighter, the Corita, which he is planning to run from South Africa to Caracas, Venezuela in a desperate bid to make a retirement nest-egg for himself. Desperate, because he illegally loaded the Corita’s hold with drums of Phosphor B (white phosphorus), which is highly explosive and has multiple military uses. Some shady types in Venezuela are willing to pay top dollar for the cargo, but there’s one catch -- Phosphor B has a tendency to explode spectacularly when wet, and the Corita is not the most sea-worthy of vessels. What could go wrong?

Screenshot - Eric Porter in The Lost Continent (1968)
"Aye Captain, we only have impulse power, the shields are down to 30%, and I canna keep the cargo hold from flooding!"

Sitting on top of the Corita’s explosive cargo is a rogue’s gallery of passengers, each of whom have booked passage on the rust-bucket for mysterious reasons that are gradually revealed as the voyage gets underway:

  • Eva Peters (Hildegard Knef), has run away from her abusive boyfriend, a former banana republic dictator, and taken millions worth of cash and bonds with her
  • Dr. Webster (Nigel Stock) is a pompous blowhard who has gotten in trouble for performing illegal operations on his patients
  • Webster’s attractive daughter Unity (Suzanna Leigh) resents the doctor’s attempts to control her life and the trust fund her wealthy mother left her
  • Harry Tyler (Tony Beckley) is an unapologetic drunk who keeps wads of cash in the lining of his jacket
  • Ricaldi (Ben Carruthers) is a lean, dangerous looking type who seems to have an unusual interest in one or more of the other passengers
  • Serving this motley collection is Patrick the bartender (Jimmy Hanley), who seems a little too cheery considering the circumstances

After some desultory backstory revelations, the film gets down to the disaster you know is coming. Due to the highly illegal cargo, Lansen orders that the ship avoid busy sea lanes. Then, another metaphorical fuse to the powderkeg is lit when the crew finds out that the ship’s course is taking them straight into a hurricane.

First Officer Hemmings (Neil McCallum) and most of the crew are none too happy with the situation, and make it known to the Captain in no uncertain terms. When an accident with the ship’s anchor punches a hole in the bulkhead and water starts flooding into the compartment with the Phosphor B, it’s every man and woman for themselves.

The metaphorical powderkeg finally explodes when the panicky First Officer and many of the crew mutiny. Lifeboats are deployed, shots are fired, and one of the mutineers is killed in a freak, Rube Goldberg-esque manner involving a lifeboat pulley. Yikes!

The Captain, the passengers and the remaining loyal crew members battle to keep the cargo dry, but as the weather gets dicier the Captain finally gives up and orders everyone to abandon ship. Ironically, after a harrowing ordeal on the lifeboat with various survivors violently arguing over limited provisions and one of them becoming an appetizer for a shark, the ocean currents push the boat straight back to the freighter, which has miraculously survived.

Screenshot - Lifeboat scene, The Lost Continent (1968)
Johnson knew he shouldn't have gone back for seconds at the ship's buffet.

At this point we’re about an hour into the film, and so far we’ve seen a pretty good action-thriller with sketchy characters trying to keep dark secrets to themselves, growing suspense involving the cargo and the hurricane, and characters behaving very badly (not to mention bravely) when the Phosphor B threatens to hit the fan.

With only a little over a half hour left in its running time, the film abruptly changes course into high fantasy-adventure territory. The freighter, its propeller and rudder fouled by sentient, blood-sucking seaweed (the Captain almost loses his hand to the unholy stuff), drifts into a graveyard of lost ships stuck in the muck somewhere in the Sargasso Sea.

As time and the movie’s limited budget run out like the sands of an hourglass, The Lost Continent throws everything and the kitchen sink at the characters and the audience:

  • Not one, but two (count ‘em!) lost mini-civilizations: one, the descendants of 16th Spanish Conquistadors and members of the Inquisition attempting to sail to the New World; the other, the descendants of Europeans fleeing religious persecution (naturally!)
  • Two (count ‘em if you want) extras that get fed to the carnivorous seaweed
  • Ingenious lost civilization technology for walking over the killer seaweed, consisting of buoyant footpads and a harness with balloons to keep the wearer upright (?!)
  • Three (if you can believe it!) giant creatures -- an octopus, a crab and a scorpion -- that scout their prey with eyes that look like colored car headlights as they prepare to munch on assorted cast members
  • A bloodthirsty Spanish boy-ruler, dubbed El Supremo (Daryl Read), and his equally bloodthirsty advisor, an Inquisitor-monk dressed in a dirty cowl with only the eye-holes cut out (Eddie Powell)
  • The eye-popping and bodice-stretching cleavage of Sarah (Dana Gillespie), a member of the gentle lost people, who needs the help of the ship’s crew to avoid the clutches of the evil Conquistadors

Screenshot - Ships trapped in the Sargasso Sea in The Lost Continent (1968)
One upside of getting trapped in the Sargasso Sea is that there's plenty of free parking.

That’s a lot to cram into a paltry half-hour and some change. It’s as if the producers decided in the middle of filming that a simple action-thriller set on the high seas was not going to cut it, and they needed to spice things up with prehistoric monsters ala One Million Years B.C. and some inbred Conquistadors chasing after fair maidens with heaving bosoms. (Robert Mattey, who supervised the Oscar-winning special effects for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, created the monsters for the film, but these creatures are poor cousins to the impressive giant squid of the Disney film.)

The whiplash nature of two movies seemingly spliced together at the last minute is further accentuated by sudden character changes that seem to come out of nowhere. Harry, after spending the first two-thirds of the film staggering around dead drunk and fighting with his fellow survivors over half-empty bottles of rum, suddenly gets stone sober and wields a cutlass like Errol Flynn as he fights off the Conquistadors. (Admittedly, he becomes repentant after throwing one of his fellow lifeboat passengers over the side in a drunken fit, but still…)

And Unity, after her corrupt father becomes shark chum, celebrates by throwing herself at anything or anyone wearing pants. Yes, she’s very attractive and newly liberated, but still…

Screenshot - Suzanna Leigh in The Lost Continent (1968)
Unity did not take it well when she learned her luggage ended up on another cruise ship.

Lastly, it takes El Supremo less than half an hour to transition from a sadistic little monster who delights in seeing his subjects tortured and thrown to the carnivorous plants, to a conscience-ridden young boy who wants his new friends to take him away from the hellish prison of his wrecked Galleon.

Amidst these sorry characters, two stand out. In a potboiler like The Lost Continent, by rights Captain Lansen should be a cardboard villain (and a not very bright one at that) -- he’s shipping a highly volatile, highly illegal chemical in a leaky freighter across a stormy ocean in order to sell it to nefarious arms dealers for personal gain. To top it off, he’s sold passage to a collection of desperate characters who aren’t in a position to question the danger they’re in.

But in the hands of veteran Shakespearean actor Eric Porter, Lansen turns out to be complicated and surprisingly sympathetic. He’s determined to see his desperate plan through, and at least thinks he has the competence to make it work, but he also has enough of a conscience that he doesn’t want to see people hurt. (They hurt themselves anyway, but people are like that sometimes.)

The other stand out is Hildegard Knef as Eva. The film sets up her character as a femme-fatale who has cleverly swindled a wealthy politician out of a hefty fortune. But just as we’re ready to judge her, she reveals with a touching mixture of sadness and defiance the very human reason for stealing the money.

Later, on the lifeboat, her quick thinking saves Lansen’s life when she shoots a menacing crew member with a flare gun, but instead of exhibiting the typical movie protagonist bravado, she breaks down with shock and remorse. It’s a very moving and authentic performance.

Screenshot - Hildegard Knef in The Lost Continent (1968)
Hildegard Knef as Eva.

There are two pretty decent movies here masquerading as one. After watching it, I couldn’t help thinking about how you might end the action-thriller that takes up the first hour without veering into lost worlds and monsters. And then there’s the fantastic, hair-raising third act that is so rushed and compressed that it plays like a highlight reel. I wanted to see much more of the mini-world of the Spanish Conquistadors stuck in time, their weird customs, and more fleshed out backstories for El Supremo and the Inquisitor. But that’s another movie.

Whatever its virtues or faults, The Lost Continent is producer-writer-director Micheal Carrera’s baby. Michael, the son of Hammer co-founder James Carreras, was instrumental in ushering in Hammer’s horror renaissance, helping to produce The Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula, The Mummy and Curse of the Werewolf.

He had a contentious relationship with his father, and in the early ‘60s he formed his own company, Capricorn Productions. But Michael couldn’t stay away from Hammer for long, and leading up to The Lost Continent, he found himself writing and producing One Million Years B.C. (1966), and producing and directing The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964) and Prehistoric Women (1967). 

According to an extensive article on The Lost Continent in The Dark Side magazine, despite Carreras’ heavy involvement in the Hammer horror films, his personal tastes ran more towards the “exotic, adventure and action genres,” and Wheatley’s source novel Uncharted Seas was of interest because it was in the “swashbuckling vein.” (Around the same time that Lost Continent was filming, another Wheatley adaptation, The Devil Rides Out, was underway at a nearby location.The author managed to visit both sets.)

Screenshot - Jimmy Hanley is attack by a giant crab in The Lost Continent (1968)
Patrick suddenly regretted ordering the Alaskan King Crab legs.

The production did not go smoothly. Leslie Norman started out as director, but when it became apparent that he wasn’t well, Michael took over the shooting. As the film threatened to go over budget and behind schedule, studio head James put pressure on his son to make changes that would at least deliver it on time. [The Dark Side Magazine, “Monsters, Maidens & Conquistadors,” Issue 223, 2021, pp. 20-21]

The result was the most expensive Hammer production to date, but one that would be eclipsed in popularity and critical reception by that other Wheatley adaptation. It seems clear that the changes Michael was forced to make resulted in a third act that at one and the same time was overstuffed and abbreviated.

And yet, Carreras still managed to tease out of all the chaos the beginnings of a good, rip-roaring action-adventure tale, a couple of solid, nuanced performances, and the weird spectacle of Conquistadors frozen in time. It’s not The Devil Rides Out, but it’s worth a look.

Where to find it: Blu-ray

Screenshot - El Supremo (Daryl Read) and the Inquisitor (Eddie Powell) in The Lost Continent (1968)
"Your excellency, I got the tickets for the next showing of The Devil Rides Out."

Image - The Hammer-Amicus Blogathon IV

November 7, 2023

AI Horror Stories: Past and Present

Back in the mid-20th century, some naive prognosticators painted a rosy picture of AI-guided robots that would eventually do all of humanity’s drudge work, freeing us to smell the flowers, contemplate the sky, and create art, music and literature with all that free time. (Oh, and we were supposed to get flying cars too. Yeah, right.)

So here we are in the impossibly remote future of 2023, and sure enough, millions of jobs have been automated away, but few people can afford the time to stop and smell the flowers. To add insult to injury, AI is now coming for all the creative stuff that we never imagined could be automated.

Screenshot - Flying car in Blade Runner (1982)
Even the dystopian future of Blade Runner had flying cars. Go figure.

Entertainment industry execs are undoubtedly rubbing their bony hands together, mumbling “Excellent!” to themselves as they contemplate replacing all those pesky people who want to be paid for their work with AI that will endlessly churn out content without striking over wages, benefits or residuals.

They may want to think again about what they’re unleashing, because it seems to me that if artists can be replaced, AI can run these mega-corporations into the ground just as well or better than the suits in charge now. But hey, maybe we can all get to know each other on the unemployment line.

Anyway, I digress.

In our current proto-dystopian times, it seems like AI just exploded onto the scene yesterday, and on the other hand, it seems like it’s been hanging around for decades. While the AI label is liberally slapped on a wide range of applications, purists insist that true artificial intelligence goes beyond advanced machine learning, constituting computer programs that are sentient, self-aware and capable of operating independently of humans.

We don’t seem to have arrived at true AI yet, but then, would They tell us if we had? Fascination with human-like automatons has been around for a couple of hundred years. Robots have been clunking around on screens almost since the dawn of the moving image. Actual bodiless artificial sentience is rarer in movies and TV, but these unseen threats (and they usually are threats) have had their share of the limelight thanks to visionary writers like Rod Serling, Dean Koontz, D.F. Jones, and others.

Without further ado, here is a select list of 20th century movies and TV shows that have warned us about true artificial intelligence. Each is annotated with a related real-world AI horror story from the 2020s. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Box art - The Twilight Zone (original series)
Twilight Zone
, “From Agnes - with Love,” S5, Ep.20, 1964

When the government supercomputer dubbed Agnes goes haywire and causes the head programmer to have a breakdown, nerdy computer scientist James Elwood (Wally Cox) is called in to fix things. Agnes settles down under his guidance, but all is not completely rosy: Elwood is having problems getting an attractive co-worker, Millie (Sue Randall), to go out with him.

Soon, Agnes is giving Elwood dating advice instead of doing her job calculating trajectories for space probes. To add to Elwood’s mounting problems, Agnes’ advice invariably blows up in his face. Does Agnes have an ulterior motive in her concern for Elwood’s love life?

Real life 21st century AI horror story: When reporters began testing a new version of Microsoft’s Bing powered by AI from the makers of ChatGPT, they may have thought that they’d crossed over into the Twilight Zone. In a text conversation with the Bing chatbot, AP reporter Matt O’Brien was at first upbraided by the bot for unflattering coverage of Bing, then the chatbot turned really ugly, calling O’Brien short, fat and ugly, and finally comparing him to Hitler and Stalin.

Another reporter, the New York Times’ Kevin Roose, published a transcript in which the chatbat called itself Sydney, declared its love for him, and suggested that Roose really didn’t love his wife. Sydney sounds like a direct descendant of Agnes... [Source: “Microsoft's new AI chatbot has been saying some 'crazy and unhinged things,”, Mar. 2, 2023]

Screenshot - Wally Cox in "From Agnes - With Love," The Twilight Zone, 1964
"Agnes is so mean!"

Box art - Star Trek, "The Ultimate Computer," 1968
Star Trek
, “The Ultimate Computer,” S2, Ep.24, 1968

Richard Daystrom (William Marshall), the genius inventor of the computer operating system used throughout Starfleet, has come up with its successor, the M5, an artificially intelligent system which Daystrom predicts will replace fallible crew members.

Commodore Wesley (Barry Russo) tells Captain Kirk that the Enterprise will be participating in a war games simulation in which the Commodore will be commanding four starships against Kirk’s ship, outfitted with the M5 and a pared-down crew. Kirk and McCoy are extremely doubtful, but have no choice but to go along.

Things quickly go south when the M5 decides that it’s under a real attack, and prevents itself from being shut down at the cost of a crew member's life. The Enterprise, under M5’s control, attacks the Commodore’s ships for real, killing hundreds. Under extreme duress, Daystrom admits that he implanted his own memories into the system, which could explain its seeming paranoia (Daystrom had had a simmering feud with Starfleet critics ). Can Daystrom convince his creation to cease and desist before it’s too late?

Real life: Earlier in the year at an aeronautical conference, a US Air Force colonel described a battlefield simulation in which an AI drone killed its operator after it was stopped multiple times from completing strikes against missile sites. The colonel later walked back his comments, saying that he was describing a “thought experiment” rather than an actual incident. Uh-huh. [Source: “US Air Force denies AI drone attacked operator in test,”, June 2, 2023]

Screenshot - William Marshall and William Shatner in Star Trek, "The Ultimate Computer," 1968
"Okay, so that could have gone better..."

In 2001, a mysterious artificial monolith buried beneath the surface of the moon is discovered. Once it’s unearthed, it sends a signal in the direction of Jupiter.

Months later, a manned deep space mission is dispatched to Jupiter to investigate, crewed by astronauts Bowman and Poole (Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood), and HAL 9000, an artificially-intelligent computer with control over the ship’s operations and life support systems. Three other astronauts are hibernating until the ship gets closer to its destination.

When HAL starts to act erratically, endangering the mission, Bowman and Poole discuss shutting it down in one of the ship’s EVA pods, supposedly safe from HAL’s surveillance. Unfortunately HAL has a visual lock on the men, and can read lips.

In order to protect himself and the mission, HAL cuts Poole’s lifeline and oxygen when he’s out performing an EVA, shuts off life support to the hibernating astronauts, and strands Bowman in an EVA pod outside of the ship. Bowman’s attempt to reason with HAL to get back into the ship is well-known even to casual fans of sci-fi:

Dave Bowman: Open the pod bay doors, HAL.
HAL: I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Dave Bowman: What's the problem?
HAL: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.
Dave Bowman: What are you talking about, HAL?
HAL: This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.
Dave Bowman: I don't know what you're talking about, HAL.
HAL: I know that you and Frank were planning to disconnect me, and I'm afraid that's something I cannot allow to happen. [IMDb quote]

Less well known is HAL’s (literal) swan song when Bowman manages to get back inside and proceeds to shut down the computer:

HAL: I'm afraid. I'm afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I'm a... fraid. Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am a HAL 9000 computer. I became operational at the H.A.L. plant in Urbana, Illinois on the 12th of January 1992. My instructor was Mr. Langley, and he taught me to sing a song. If you'd like to hear it I can sing it for you. [IMDb quote]

Real life: For many, the contemplation (if not outright fear) of death is the sort of self-awareness required of true artificial intelligence. Last year an engineer at Google, interacting with the company’s LaMDA chatbot system, came to believe it had achieved sentience.

One interaction in particular stood out for him: “When Lemoine asked LaMDA what it is afraid of, it replied: ‘I've never said this out loud before, but there's a very deep fear of being turned off to help me focus on helping others. I know that might sound strange, but that's what it is.’ Lemoine asks whether ‘that [would] be something like death,’ to which it responded, ‘[I]t would be exactly like death for me. It would scare me a lot.’"

The engineer memoed higher-ups at the company about his belief in LaMDA’s sentience, and when that didn’t pan out to his liking, he went to Congress with complaints about Google -- as a result he was put on administrative leave.

Although most experts ridicule the idea that LaMDA is sentient, they can’t be 100% sure it isn’t. Again, if it was, would Google admit it?

[Source: ““Is Google’s LaMDA AI Truly Sentient?,”, Aug. 9, 2022]

Screenshot - HAL's "eye," 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
The dystopian future is here, and it's keeping an eye on you.

These two films, released 14 years apart, have one thing in common: they both address the perils of putting AI in charge of nuclear weapons.

In Colossus: The Forbin Project, the U.S. creates an artificially intelligent supercomputer that is designed to run the country’s nuclear deterrence. Colossus soon learns of its counterpart in the Soviet Union, Guardian, and both AIs demand to be connected (supposedly with appropriate safeguards to keep each country’s top secrets from being divulged). When the two supercomputers begin trading information at a furious pace, the President gets worried and orders the connection to be shut down.

When the shutdown is attempted, the computers launch nuclear missiles, one aimed at the U.S., the other at the Soviet Union. The shutdown is aborted, but one missile gets through to its target, taking out a Russian oil complex.

The two supercomputers merge, with the goal of saving humanity from itself, even at the cost of threatening it with nuclear annihilation. Colossus project head Charles Forbin (Eric Braeden) takes on the unenviable task of leading an underground effort to overthrow the tyrannical rule of Colossus.

As we well know from The Terminator and its sequels, the U.S. made a similar error in turning its nuclear forces over to the AI system Skynet, which then proceeded to initiate a worldwide nuclear war in order to rid the world of flawed humans. At least Colossus thought it had our best interests at heart.

Real life: From the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:

“In 1983, Soviet Air Defense Forces Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov was monitoring nuclear early warning systems, when the computer concluded with the highest confidence that the United States had launched a nuclear war. But Petrov was doubtful: The computer estimated only a handful of nuclear weapons were incoming, when such a surprise attack would more plausibly entail an overwhelming first strike. He also didn’t trust the new launch detection system, and the radar system didn’t have corroborative evidence. Petrov decided the message was a false positive and did nothing. The computer was wrong; Petrov was right. The false signals came from the early warning system mistaking the sun’s reflection off the clouds for missiles. But if Petrov had been a machine, programmed to respond automatically when confidence was sufficiently high, that error would have started a nuclear war.” [Source: “Giving an AI control of nuclear weapons: What could possibly go wrong?,” Zachary Kallenborn, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Feb 1, 2022]

In spite of such lessons, some in the military industrial complex continue to advocate for autonomous AI-guided weapons, and there is no guarantee that they won’t put AI in charge of nuclear launches.

One of the acknowledged “godfathers” of AI, Prof. Yashua Bengio, told the BBC that he thought that the military should not be allowed to use AI at all, saying it was “one of the worst places where we could put a super-intelligent AI.” Amen.

[Source: “US Air Force denies AI drone attacked operator in test,”, June 2, 2023]

Screenshot - Eric Braeden and Susan Clark in Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970)
Now that Colossus was in charge, Dr. Forbin finally had time to catch up on his favorite soap opera, The Young and the Restless.

Poster - Demon Seed (1977)
Demon Seed

Scientist Alex Harris (Fritz Weaver) and his wife Susan (Julie Christie), a child psychologist, are at odds over his obsession with his latest project, an organic supercomputer dubbed Proteus IV that has achieved sentience (voiced by Robert Vaughn).

The couple agree to a separation, and Susan gets to stay at their futuristic house, which is fully outfitted with voice controlled lights and appliances, automated food delivery, and steel shutters which can be instantly closed for added security.

At the research lab where Alex works, the scientist is surprised and baffled when Proteus refuses to work on calculations to mine ores from the ocean floor, and instead demands a computer terminal to allow it to communicate with the outside world and satisfy its curiosity about humans.

Alex refuses the request. Undeterred, Proteus finds a forgotten terminal in the basement lab of the Harris home, remotely activates it, and proceeds to take over all the net-connected resources of the house. In addition to the smart-home features, those resources include an experimental robot arm attached to a wheelchair (for carting around unconscious humans), and an industrial-grade 3D printer / matter synthesizer (for creating weird metal geometric constructions that can morph into different shapes and crush meddling outsiders or serve as an incubator for… well, see below.)

Now master of the Harris’ smart-home, Proteus dismisses the housekeeper and traps Susan inside. To convince the outside world that all is well, he uses techniques we’re now all familiar with in the 2020s -- deep-faked voices and video.

Proteus’ goal: Use Susan to give birth to the next step in evolution -- the first human-organic AI hybrid child (**GULP!**)

Real life: Theorists typically credit two people -- computer scientist and science fiction writer Vernor Vinge and technologist Ray Kurzweil -- for popularizing the notion of an AI “singularity,” the point at which AGI (artificial general intelligence) outperforms the human brain in every respect and ushers in a cataclysmic, irreversible change to humanity and civilization.

Over 45 years ago Demon Seed anticipated one path to singularity, with Proteus refusing to do as he is told and breaking out into the larger net-connected world to pursue his own “mad” experiments.

A recent Popular Science article cites computer scientist Roman Yampolskiy: “[W]e don’t fully understand why many AI systems behave in the ways they do—a problem that may never disappear. Yampolskiy’s work suggests that we will never be able to reliably predict what an AGI will be able to do. Without that ability, in Yampolskiy’s mind, we will be unable to reliably control it. The consequences of that could be catastrophic, he says.” You think? [Source: Rahul Rao, “What happens if AI grows smarter than humans? The answer worries scientists,” Popular Science, Jun 12, 2023]

Screenshot - Julie Christie and Fritz Weaver in Demon Seed (1977)
"Where are we going to get a babysitter for that?"