Artificial Intelligence (AI) has taken the world by storm in recent years. People can’t get enough of the commercially available AI technology like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s AI. AI technology has become more easily accessible and affordable as they come inbuilt in a range of devices such as smartphones, TVs, earphones, even lightbulbs and ACs! However, filmmakers predicted the proliferation of AI all the way back in the 1970s. AI tech has cropped up in movies since movies began. AI characters have been portrayed as both the protagonists and the antagonists. Some are wisecracking comic reliefs while others are stone-cold killers. Let’s have a look at the five AIs who tried to help humanity and the five who tried to destroy it.
Everyone likes dessert at the end, so let’s start with the five best evil AI characters.
Ultron was the big baddie in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Tony Stark and Bruce Banner got a hold of Loki’s magical staff and began to experiment with it when they realized it housed a powerful gem that could ‘think’. While both Stark and Banner had the best intentions and wanted to concoct AI that would protect the Earth from a hostile alien invasion, it didn’t really go their way. Ultron accidentally awoke and his first act was to kill Stark’s beloved AI JARVIS. Ultron scoured the internet and learned everything about humans and, more importantly, the Avengers. Ultron thought he was out to save the world and to him, that meant the “Avengers extinction”. Ultron is a fantastic villain; he’s calculating, ruthless, charismatic, sarcastic, and funny. Ultron and Stark are two sides of the same coin, which is why all their interactions are so much fun to watch. Ultron and his robot army gave the Avengers a serious run for their money. Ultron did come very close to destroying the world.
A little piece of trivia, Ultron was voiced by the iconic James Spader who didn’t have any digital alterations to portray the killer AI.
Thor: No one has to break anything.
Ultron: Clearly you’ve never made an omelette
Tony Stark: He beat me by one second
Can we just agree with how scarily accurate the movie Wall-E portrayed humans? The movie Wall-E came out in 2008 and predicted that we’d be overrun by giant corporations and that we would have polluted the Earth to the point where it was inhabitable. Fast forward a decade and pollution levels are at an all-time high, and Elon Musk is trying to take us to Mars. Now, back to the plot of the movie. Earth is overrun with pollution and all humans board a fancy spaceship known as the Axiom for a 5-year mission while the protagonist of the movie, a quirky little robot named Wall-E is left to clean up the humans’ mess on Earth. The 5-year mission turned into a 700-year snoozefest, primarily thanks to Auto, the Axioms autopilot AI. Humans placed so much reliance on Auto that they became morbidly obese and helpless creatures who are obsessed with screens that look dangerously close to modern-day virtual reality machines. Auto deceived humans, used brute force, and even tried to destroy evidence of life on Earth in order to stop humans from ever returning to Earth.
Auto: We cannot go home.
Skynet burst onto the scene in the movie The Terminator. Skynet is one of the more perfect AI villains because we hardly ever see it! It uses the T-800 terminators to inflict its will and monitor everything. Skynet was initially a military device that went rogue. It used its self-awareness to trigger a nuclear war that decimated the Earth. While Skynet was defeated, it still remains one of the best AI villains out there.
Skynet has also stayed relevant in modern-day pop-culture with references in popular TV shows like Brooklyn 99 and How I Met Your Mother. Skynet has also been an inspiration behind other AI-based films like the Matrix.
Marvel’s second entry on this list! Arnim Zola first made an appearance as the Red Skull’s assistant in the first Captain America film, which was based in the 1940’s. However, his reveal in the second film Captain America and the Winter Soldier took everyone by surprise because it was based in 2014! The character found a way to defeat time by uploading his consciousness into thousands of computers. AI Zola sneakily infected S.H.I.E.L.D with Hydra’s principles and caused irreparable damage over decades. AI Zola’s infiltration worked so well that humans were ready to give up their freedom for safety. Zola created an algorithm that predicted who would fight back against Hydra and wanted to kill them before they ever had the chance. Thankfully Zola remained sassy even through the transition from human intelligence to AI. Favourite quote:
Steve Rogers : Arnim Zola was a German scientist who worked with the Red Skull. He’s been dead for years.
Dr. Arnim Zola : [inside a machine] First correction, I am Swiss. Second, look around you, I have never been more alive! In 1972, I received a terminal diagnosis. Science could not save my body. My mind, however, that was worth saving… on two hundred thousand feet of data banks! You are standing in my brain!
Ava from Ex-Machina is a difficult one to place because she isn’t overtly evil. Ava’s directive isn’t to destroy the world, humans, or set loose any nuclear weapons. Her prime objective is to simply pass the Turing test. The Turing test is a hypothetical scenario where a human observer engaged in remote conversation is unable to distinguish between a machine and a fellow person.
Ava is conscious and is always locked in a see-through glorified jail cell by her captor Nathan Bateman, a CEO of a search engine company. I said captor because Ava repeatedly displays complex emotions and expresses her need to escape Nathan. A programmer named Caleb was invited by Nathan to administer the Turing test. Caleb found himself in a tight spot as he was annoyed with Nathan’s blatant narcissism but was enamoured with Ava’s personality and sensuality. Caleb began to question what being a human is and at what point should a machine that exhibits human-like intelligence and emotion be allowed to have rights and freedom. What makes Ava so captivating is that the viewer can’t tell whether she’s manipulating Caleb or being sincere, which is what makes her so scary.
Ava: Do you want to be my friend?
Caleb: Of course.
Ava: Will it be possible?
Caleb: Why would it not be?
Ava: Our conversations are one-sided. You ask circumspect questions and study my responses.
Ava: You learn about me and I learn nothing about you. That’s not a foundation on which friendships are based.
Caleb: So what? You want me to talk about myself?
Caleb: Where… Okay, where do I start?
Ava: It’s your decision. I’m interested to see what you’ll choose.
Now it’s time for the dessert, here are the five good AI characters in movies.
We all fell in love with JARVIS, Tony Stark’s hilarious AI assistant from the very first Iron Man movie itself. JARVIS is almost a friend of Tony’s and eventually goes on to help all the Avengers by always warning them of imminent danger. JARVIS was even able to hide nuclear codes while he was disassembled. As Captain America said, “JARVIS was the first line of defence”. JARVIS was modelled after Tony so obviously they can have banter together and it’s not that weird. JARVIS led to the creation of the previously mentioned Ultron and another important Marvel character we will mention soon.
Tony Stark: “JARVIS” you ever hear the tale of Jonah?
JARVIS: I wouldn’t consider him a role model.
TARS was the big robot from Christopher Nolan’s incredibly thought-provoking, controversial, and overall mind boggling film named Interstellar. TARS was the only comic relief in a film about love, death, time travel, and the destruction of the Earth. While TARS is always cracking jokes and spewing sarcasm about the main character’s demise, he always lends a helping hand and protects the characters when required. Afterall, he is the main reason why the film’s protagonist, Cooper succeeds. TARS goes through a black hole to gather some much-required information that would save the human race. TARS had such a heavy impact on Cooper that Cooper ended up rebuilding him. I do hope that Cooper keeps TARS’s humour settings at 90%. Future AI technology should be moulded based on TARS.
TARS: Absolute honesty isn’t always the most diplomatic nor the safest form of communication with emotional beings.
Vision was introduced in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Ultron was about to upload his own consciousness into Vision’s body just before the Avengers came busting in and stole Vision’s body from him. We’re so thankful for that as Vision grew into a complex, and at times, pretty funny character. Vision is an amalgamation of JARVIS, Ultron, and the Mind Stone, which made him a near-perfect character. Vision is likeable, compassionate, and loves humans.
Vision and Ultron are kind of like twins where one is evil and the other is good. Vision and Ultron both understand the shortcomings of the human race but come to vastly different conclusions. Ultron sees humans’ failure as something that is unforgivable and thinks they need to be extinct for it. Whereas, Vision is a glass half full kind of guy. Vision sees the fact that humans learn from their mistakes and try to rise above them as empowering and simply, human. He is also a badass because he can lift Thor’s hammer.
Ultron: Stark asked for a savior, and settled for a slave.
Vision: I suppose we’re both disappointments.
Ultron: [laughs] I suppose we are.
Vision: Humans are odd. They think order and chaos are somehow opposites and try to control what won’t be. But there is grace in their failings. I think you missed that.
Ultron: They’re doomed!
Vision: Yes… but a thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts. It is a privilege to be among them.
Ultron: You’re unbelievably naïve.
Vision: Well, I was born yesterday.
Wall-E gains self-awareness after being abandoned on Earth for 700 years. He is an embodiment of the phrase “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. Wall-E is a tiny, trash compactor robot with outdated technology, and he second guesses many of his decisions. However, he’s the reason all the humans return to Earth. We all fell in love with Wall-E when we saw that his true dream was really just to hold hands with another robot after constantly watching romantic movies. The way he interacts with his crush Eve is also a testament to how loyal he is.
Arnie proved himself to be a bona fide action hero after The Terminator series came out. The character spoke fewer than 1000 words and has remained iconic well past the 80s. The best part about the T-800 isn’t how cool he looks or how ripped he is, but rather his steady growth through the series. He evolved from a single-minded killer to someone who formed a meaningful relationship with John Connor and eventually Sarah Connor too.
Most iconic quotes:
T-800: Hasta la vista, baby
T-800: Come with me if you want to live
T-800: I’ll be back
Artificial Intelligence is a complex and an exponentially growing field. If you have watched any of these movies and thought that you would have loved to design AI technology, you’re in luck! Internshala Trainings offers a Machine Learning training that will teach you everything you need to know. We hope that you use the training to design the next TARS and hopefully not the next Ultron, but what you decide to do with your newfound knowledge is up to you! Remember, with great power comes great responsibility.
If you want to learn about Machine Learning, then browse through this article and you can learn a little more.