David’s Need for Mutual Recognition: A Social Personhood Defense of Steven Spielberg’s A. I. Artificial Intelligence

Tuomas William Manninen, Bertha Alvarez Manninen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In Steven Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) a company called Cybertronics is responsible for creating, building, and disseminating a large number of ‘mechas’ – androids built specifically to address a multitude of human needs, including the desire to have children. David, an android mecha-child, has the capacity to genuinely love on whomever he ‘imprints.’ The first of this kind of mecha, he is ultimately abandoned by his ‘mother’ Monica, and David spends the rest of the film searching for Pinocchio’s Blue Fairy so that he can be made into a ‘real boy’ and gain Monica’s love. Their reunion finally occurs at the end of the film, after hundreds of years. Typically, the ending in A.I. is panned by critics, and written off as an egregrious example of Spielberg’s sentimentalism. However, we argue that the ending is essential in order to portray a certain conception of the nature of human personhood. While many science fiction films about artificial intelligence are centered on the issue of what constitutes personhood, A.I. is one of the very few films that does not regard personhood as something purely intrinsic to the biological (or, in this case, mechanical) construction of the organism. We contend that one of the many the messages of this film is that the journey to complete personhood requires social recognition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)339-356
Number of pages18
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Oct 2016


  • Hegel
  • Personhood
  • Steven Spielberg
  • artificial intelligence
  • science-fiction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Philosophy


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