Christopher Nolan Reveals His Thoughts On The Dangers Of AI

Christopher Nolan worries AI will be used by people to abandon responsibilities .

By Sean Thiessen | Updated

christopher nolan

Artificial intelligence is here to stay. Though ChatGPT caused a stir in the media upon its release late last year, AI has been an integral part of society for years. Oppenheimer director Christopher Nolan weighed in on AI during an interview with WIRED, identifying the greatest threat posed by AI is the “abdication of responsibility.”

“It’s like the term ‘algorithm’,” Nolan said. “We watch companies use algorithms, and now AI, as a means of evading responsibility for their actions.

“If we endorse the view that AI is all-powerful …we are endorsing the view that it can alleviate people of responsibility for their actions—militarily, socio­economically, whatever. The biggest danger of AI is that we attribute these godlike characteristics to it and therefore let ourselves off the hook.”

Christoher Nolan

Christopher Nolan pointed out that the growing threat of AI, especially in its application to weapons systems, has loomed for a long time. It is only now getting media attention because now it can write articles, threatening the jobs of the very people tasked with writing about it.

Christopher Nolan may not be the first person you think of when considering the effect of AI. In the interview, Nolan self-identifies as an “old analog fusty filmmaker.” He has maintained a staunch dedication to shooting his movies on film through the digital cinema revolution, only turning to digital effects as a last resort.

christopher nolan

Still, Christopher Nolan views AI as a powerful tool. He expressed optimism about where the technology can take humanity, specifically exploring its application to visual effects in movies. When it comes to the magnitude of AI advancement as an inflection point in history, Nolan says it does not compare to the creation of the atomic bomb.

He may be biased, but he is knowledgeable. Nolan has spent the last several years making Oppenheimer, which tells the true story of J. Robert Oppenheimer – the father of the atomic bomb. 

For Christopher Nolan, AI is important, but Oppenheimer is the most important man in history. Nuclear weapons still carry greater potential for changing — and destroying — the world than anything else on Earth.

The atomic bomb was a technological achievement viewed through a different lens than AI is today. Nolan said, “The scientists dealing with the splitting of the atom kept trying to explain to the government, ‘This is a fact of nature.’ God has done this. Or the creator or whoever you want it to be.

“This is Mother Nature,” he continued. “And so, inevitably, it’s just knowledge about nature. It’s going to happen. There’s no hiding it. We don’t own it. We didn’t create it. They viewed it as that.”

Artificial intelligence, on the other hand, is not of nature, in Nolan’s view. “Artificial” is literally in the name. Christopher Nolan did point out that AI can be developed in relative secrecy compared to atomic bombs; building nuclear weapons is an intensive, physical process that requires lots of materials, laborers, and space, making production easy to spot.

It all goes back to responsibility. To Christopher Nolan, the great danger of AI is that people can use it as a scapegoat. Revering it and giving it personage creates a sense of power around it. People can pin responsibility, blame, and credit on a tool rather than incurring that responsibility themselves, and that is a dangerous world to live in.

Of course, no one really knows what the future holds for AI. The technology is on track to continue its integration as a tool in more and more jobs. Christopher Nolan is bringing a movie about technological responsibility to the masses at just the right time as people contend with the place of AI in society.

The movie has the potential to impact the world, assuming everyone doesn’t see Barbie instead.