Queering the Mother Board: Artificial Intelligence and the Singularity

Authors: Pullen, C.

Conference: Screen Studies Conference

Dates: 26-28 June 2015


The mainframe computer programme forms a central narrative archetype within many science fiction films. As an artificial intelligence that lacks a physical mobile form, it's gendered presence is complex. While the mainframe computer is often coded as maternal and/or paternal, implying artificial intelligence founded on procreation, at the same time it is inherently queer. This is evident in its potential to become the singularity, a post human queer consciousness, beyond the corporeal world.

This paper considers this representational potential within mainstream film, foregroundingg case studies such as: Forbidden Planet (1956) where the alien Krull computer replicated the psychological id; 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) where the on board computer Hal worries about death and the eternal dream state; Alien (1979) where Mother the main frame fails to protect her own; and Transcendence (2014) where the post human and the human coexist in order to save humanity.

I argue Lee Edelman’s (2004) notion of the queer death drive is central here, in denying the need for a reproductive futurity. Within these films the post human potential of the queer mechanistic world, offers a way save ‘the world’, becoming a displaced, but useful, form of queer and alien consciousness.

Source: Manual