Critiques w/ Pop Culture References: AI & Robots

I had a conversation awhile back with two awesome followers of this blog. It sparked an idea for a series discussing pop culture references in critiques.

Last round, I discussed how it was useful when describing a world using hi-fantasy examples but today, I want to use this avenue to discuss a type of story element. Robots and A.I are closely linked so I put them together here.


Artificial Intelligence Platforms



Sometimes, in stories there aren’t robots just really sophisticated A.I. networks. These three examples are radically different which is why I chose them.

The Matrix code is almost invisible to the people interacting with it while inside the Matrix. Glitches are described as Deja Vu. Agent Smith can shapeshift using the people plugged in but overall it is a pretty seamless interface and prison.

Skynet is a global network that is seated in the real world. When Skynet goes online it doesn’t like what it sees and BOOM death to all humans. Although Skynet does end up being integrated with robots at its birth it’s only a system that sets off a bunch of nukes, destroying the world.

Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey is a different type of system controlling a spaceship while he creates havoc for those on board, namely Dave.

These different types of AI work on a premise of integration with world elements but they all have different things to offer. They all have different functions too.

With this category, I would like to also mention Orwell’s 1984 because I’ve used that reference a few times.

When comparing an author’s work to a pop culture reference like this it gives them an idea of the scope and function you imagine a the element to be.


A.I. Platforms with Robotic Integration



Another thing to consider is whether or not an AI system is integrated with robots. There are a few different ways I’ve seen this done as well.

Edi from the Mass Effect universe starts out a lot like Hal and so does Max from Flight of the Navigator. Max and Edi, however, both have robotic interfaces that can interact with the characters as opposed to just a voice of the ships network.

Terminator is another example I want to talk about. There was some hot debate at my house over this one today… In some mythologies the robots are linked into Skynet and in others they are just programmed with specific orders.

If the author is building an AI platform does it have a robotic counterpart?


Robots with Humanity



Do your robots have philosophical quests?

Sonny from I Robot, Wall E, and David from A.I.  all serve a greater philosophical purpose to the story. These robots have features that make their intelligence almost human.

Do the writer’s robots seem almost human? If so, sometimes a pop reference will help the writer understand how you see their personalities. You could even use references in this category that aren’t robotic.


Artificial Intelligence? Maybe, maybe not.



How smart is the technology?

Robots have varied levels of intelligence in the Science Fiction world. This can apply to AI platforms too… what comes to mind there is I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E. from Team America.

These robots are all examples of the different degrees of ability and problem solving skills.

Bender from Futurama, J5 from Blankman, and the great number of different types of robots in the world of Star Wars just to name a few.

If the technology in a book reminds you of something in popular culture make sure to highlight which technology it is and what about it is comparable.





Do the robots resemble humans physically? Did they start out human or were they built to resemble a human?

I chose these three examples because of how vastly different they are. I doubt someone would reference Data from Star Trek and the Fembots from Austin Powers, in the same breath and referring to the same work. Although, I would love to see it.. LOL.

When pointing out a similarity in a human like character with robotic features make sure that you let the writer know what aspect of the character you are relating it to.




There are always a lot of things to consider when developing a technology or even magic in a world. If it is something that’s sentient hopefully this fun exercise is helpful!

I want to thank again my friends that inspired my latest obsession:

The Kats Mews

Follow Her on Twitter @TheKatsMews

Kat’s Blog

Rachel Lenzi

Follow Her on Twitter @LenziWrites

Rachel’s Writing Blog





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