Fictional AI futures

This page is an incomplete collection of fiction about the development of advanced AI, and the consequences for society. Entries are generally included if we judge that they contain enough that is plausible or correctly evocative to be worth considering, in light of AI futurism. The list includes works created for the purpose of better understanding the future of AI, as well as those intended for other purposes such as mainstream entertainment. We welcome further submissions here.

Stories intended as AI futurism

These are stories intended to clarify, explore or appreciate possible future AI scenarios.

Vignettes for iterative improvement

These stories are written by people known to us—largely AI Impacts staff and participants at our workshops—with the intention of incrementally improving their realism via comments. All are in commentable form, and we welcome criticism, especially of departures from realism.

Slow takeoff + value drift

Asya Bergal

In which slow development of robotics serves as a bottleneck to full automation of human labor, and a slow takeoff eventually leads to a future in which values substantially different from current human values are optimized.

#slow-takeoff #robotics #long-term-value-loss

Daniel’s randomly generated future

Daniel Kokotajlo

In which early automation of R&D leads to near-term AGI takeoff, but robust tools for prediction and AI interpretation lead to a not-clearly-catastrophic outcome.

Generated using Daniel’s “Generate Future” widget.

#narrow-tools #prediction #interpretability #hardware-boom #intelligence-explosion #race

Winning the Corporate Minigame

Ben Goldhaber

In which transfer learning allows game-playing AI to take over parts of middle management and eventually capture the entire economy in a way that is misaligned with human values.


A compelling story

Katja Grace

In which our internal narrativizing is automated. (Not well fleshed out.)

#language-processing #non-detailed

Skin Deep

Ben Goldhaber

In which the epistemic world is transformed by non-agentic persuasion AI.

#persuasion-technology #social-epistemology-disaster

Other realism-oriented stories

These are stories from elsewhere in the AI or AI risk community, e.g. LessWrong.

What Failure Looks Like

Paul Christiano

1) A slow-rolling catastrophe from getting what we measure, and 2) a rapid catastrophe from influence-seeking behavior.


Another (outer) alignment failure story

Paul Christiano

“This is a story where the alignment problem is somewhat harder than I expect, society handles AI more competently than I expect, and the outcome is worse than I expect. It also involves inner alignment turning out to be a surprisingly small problem.”


The production web v1a, b, c and d and Flash War, v.1

Andrew Critch

Five scenarios in which competitive pressures force automation across the economy, at a pace that does not allow for sufficient safety. Illustrative of hypothesized existential risk arising from coordination failures, regardless of individual alignment.

#multi-polar #doom #slow-takeoff

April 15, 2040


Tax evasion is attempted in a future with AI-facilitated cooperation.


Forward Pass

Andrej Karpathy

Consciousness arises in GPT-3.

#consciousness #GPT-3

Mainstream AI fiction

These are works of fiction not (as far as we know) designed primarily to contribute to AI futurism. We include both prominent works, and those which we think contain at least something of interest in thinking about the future of AI. This list is incomplete. We have not necessarily read or watched all of them.


Isaac Asimov, 1942
Introduced explicitly Asimov’s influential ‘three laws of robotics‘. Subsequent spinoffs include 2004 film I, Robot.

Colossus: The Forbin Project

Universal Pictures, 1970
Superhuman defense system attempts to take global power.

#takeover #military-action #superhuman-agent #singleton

The Terminator (and franchise)

Various media and authors, 1984-present
A military AI system attempts to exterminate humanity for reasons of self-preservation. People and cyborg assassins travel through time.


Written by Jack Paglen, directed by Wally Pfister, 2014
A scientist uploads his mind to a computer and becomes vastly more capable than any human.

Ex Machina

Written/directed by Alex Garland, 2014
A software engineer is tasked with performing a Turing test on an artificial general intelligence with a humanoid body.

Pandora Sequence

Frank Herbert and Bill Ransom, 1965-1988
Four novels in which an AI that is created out of necessity during space travel shapes the future of a human colony on a planet called Pandora.


Written and directed by Spike Jonze, 2013
A man falls in love with his virtual assistant.

This Perfect Day

Ira Levin, 1970
Residents of a future world controlled entirely by a central computer attempt to gain freedom.

Do Android Dream of Electric Sheep? (and associated works)

Philip K. Dick, Ridley Scott, Denis Villeneuve, 1968-2017
A bounty hunter is tasked with tracking down synthetic humans in a dystopian future.


Ted Chiang, 1991
An experimental drug makes a man superhumanly intelligent.

A fire upon the deep

Vernor Vinge, 1992
Superintelligences occupy some parts of the universe. Creatures with various other kinds of minds persist.

The metamorphosis of prime intellect

[Content warning: we haven’t read this but hear that it contains intense torture scenes and maybe other extreme things.]

Roger Williams 1994
According to Wikipedia, ‘deals with the ramifications of a powerful, superintelligent supercomputer that discovers god-like powers to alter reality while studying a quirk of quantum physics discovered during the prototyping of its own specialised processors, ultimately heralding a technological singularity.’

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