Robert Downey Jr.’s New A.I. Documentary Series is Excellent

YouTube and Robert Downey Jr. dropped a trailer for their limited-run documentary series, The Age of A.I., a few weeks back, and now that three episodes have been released to YouTube Originals, it’s safe to say that the show delivers exactly what was hinted at: a 360° look at the state of artificial intelligence that delves just deep enough into the topic to educate novices, as well as entice those who’ve been following the field closely.


The three non-premium episodes that have already been released as of this writing cover a general overview of A.I., A.I. in relation to medicine, and A.I. in relation to building “a better human.” At about 35-45 minutes apiece, each episode doesn’t unpack their respective topics in extensive detail, but they do give a reasonable amount of insight into some of the most cutting-edge technologies. Unless you know everything about A.I., odds are you’ll be surprised as to how widespread its use has become; everybody from doctors to musicians to NASCAR team members utilize it, and it’s obviously already invaded everyday smart devices like Amazon’s Alexa.

While the topics in the videos are disparate, there is one conceptual model of A.I. that pops up again and again. That model is the use of machine learning in conjunction with big data to identify patterns in whatever subject is being studied. For example, the episode covering A.I. in relation to medicine discusses the possibility of treating depression and anxiety by collecting extensive amounts of data on the “facial and vocal biomarkers of these disorders” and then using that data to identify who may be depressed or anxious. It’s mentioned that these facial and vocal biomarkers would be collected from people’s phones, as they check them 15 times an hour, thusly providing ample opportunity to capture their facial expressions.

There are still five episodes left—four if you’re a premium subscriber—and it’ll be interesting to see where the series goes. That fourth episode is titled “Love, art and stories decoded,” which sounds like it will cover what emotions will be programmable in regards to machines, as well as what emotions machines can elicit from their biological creators. (Shout out to Ex Machina, one of our 66 best films of the last decade for doing a great job covering that topic.)

No matter what topics are forthcoming, the more we all know about A.I., the better. Kudos to RDJ, his wife, Susan Downy, who is an executive producer on the series, and everybody else involved in the project for helping to enlighten people about the quickly evolving field. After all, no real life Iron Man will be here to save us if the machines do decide to go rogue, so we should be as prepared as possible.


What do you think about The Age of A.I.? Are you excited to see an educational series covering A.I. with a big name attached, or do you think these topics need to be unpacked way more than they are here to be understood even somewhat decently? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Feature Image: YouTube Originals 

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