Deon, a fictional engineer in the 2015 sci-fi film Chappie, wants to create a machine that can think and feel. To this end, he writes an artificial-intelligence program that can learn like a child. Deon’s test subject, Chappie, starts off with a relatively blank mental slate. By simply observing and experimenting with his surroundings, he acquires general knowledge, language and complex skills—a task that eludes even the most advanced AI systems we have today.