I’m hardly the first to notice the prevalence of image types used in media and discussions about Artificial Intelligence, invariably a humanoid robot.

Better Images of AI has summarized it so well.

Abstract, futuristic or science-fiction-inspired images of AI hinder the understanding of the technology’s already significant societal and environmental impacts.

Images relating machine intelligence to human intelligence set unrealistic expectations and misstate the capabilities of AI.

Images representing AI as sentient robots mask the accountability of the humans actually developing the technology, and can suggest the presence of robots where there are none.

Such images potentially sow fear, and research shows they can be laden with historical assumptions about gender, ethnicity and religion.


I strongly recommend use of their alternative image collection, all licensed Creative Commons.

The Sadly Robotic Metaphors site was set up to gather examples of the opposite, the representations of robots and electric brains and monsters that seem to be everywhere. This is mostly in jest but also to invite criticism of publishers that make a human decision to use sich trite imagery.

And this is open for anyone to contribute new examples- as a SPLOT (rhymes with bot!) anyone can add one directly, with no logins or needs to reveal your identity, unless you choose too. What I hope to collect here are sadly or even pathetically used AI metaphors either:

  • Observed in published media, news articles, blog/newsletter posts that use imagery to symbolize AI
  • Images generated by AI tools themselves that reinforce the stereoypes

Please share any or all, and include as much attribution for the image itself (e.g. what AI platform used to generate image).

Others Wrote About This Way Before Me

I’m old school tagging other references in Pinboard, the latest 5:

  • Humanoid robots (or simply humanoids) is often used to refer to robots whose shape is close to humans. However, this definition varies depending on people: some say that a humanoid should have a «full body» including two arms and legs, exactly like a human, but others focus more on its communication or task capacities and […]
  • Human beings have a strong tendency to attribute human form or behaviour to objects. We are used to seeing the human form expressed in art, but mechanism has also been a used as a medium for expressing our reimagined selves. This reimagining may seem a 20th century phenomenon, the natural result of a sci-fi-saturated culture, coupled […]
  • Social robots become increasingly human-like in appearance and behaviour. However, a large body of research shows that these robots tend to elicit negative feelings of eeriness, danger, and threat. In the present study, we explored whether and how human-like appearance and mind-attribution contribute to these negative feelings and clarified possible underlying mechanisms. Participants were presented […]
  • Different cultures have been imagining intelligent machines since long before we could build them. These visions vary greatly across different religious, philosophical, literary and cinematic traditions. Yet, as AI begins to fulfil its potential, many of these perspectives are marginalised. Hollywood narratives dominate the cultural sphere, while the technology itself is developed by a narrow […]
  • This write-up presents an account of how AI is portrayed and perceived in the English-speaking West, with a particular focus on the UK. It explores the limitations of prevalent fictional and non-fictional narratives and suggests how practitioners might move beyond them. Its primary audience is professionals with an interest in public discourse about AI, including […]

Also, strongly recommended references:

Mostly share the robot metaphors!


Image Credit: Artificial Intelligence & AI & Machine Learning flickr photo via www.vpnsrus.com shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license