In 1942, science-fiction author Isaac Asimov created The Three Laws of Robotics, which are three basic rules that pertain to all artificial intelligences. These laws are:
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law
Artificial intelligence is one of the most commonly explored plot elements in science-fiction, and the latest movie to be centered around an AI character is Neill Blomkamp’s Chappie. Chappie tells the story of a police droid who is stolen and then reprogrammed, becoming the first droid capable of independent thought and emotion. So, to celebrate the release of Chappie, we’re taking a look at some of the coolest, meanest, and most epic artificial intelligences ever created.
10. Sally (Oblivion)
Sally is Jack and Vicca’s former NASA operations manager that oversees the harvesting of Earth’s natural resources in order to human life to survive and grow on Titan, one of the moons of Jupiter. But near the end of the film, we learn that Sally isn’t what she initially seems to be.
Jack and Vicca assume that they are working for the human race throughout the majority of the movie, obtaining resources necessary for human survival, and fighting off “Scavs,” which they assume to be a hostile alien race. However, they eventually learn that they have actually been working for the aliens the entire time, and that the Scavs are the last remaining humans on Earth. Sally, who appears to be human throughout the majority of the film, is revealed as the film’s main antagonist, and turns out to be not human at all. In fact, she is actually an tetrahedron-shaped alien artificial intelligence, who has been projecting the image of a human Sally in order to maintain Jack and Vicca’s trust. Sally is the head of the aliens that have nearly exterminated all human life. She has cloned thousands of copies of Jack and Vicca in order to fight a war against the human resistance on Earth, and to claim the planet for her alien race. That’s pretty intense.
9. Deep Thought (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)
This massive supercomputer was created by the some of the universe’s pan-dimensional, hyper-intelligent beings, which we know simply as ordinary white mice. Deep Thought was built in order to calculate the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. Talk about pressure.
After over seven million years of calculation and deliberation, a great ceremony is held, and a huge group of people gather to hear Deep Thought finally reveal the infamous answer. “The answer,” says Deep Thought, “is forty-two.”
The problem with the answer, Deep Thought explains, is that the creators never really knew that the real question was. Deep Thought then helps create an even more intelligent supercomputer to calculate the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. This new supercomputer comes to be known as “Earth.” Unfortunately for the entire universe, Earth is destroyed by the Vogons mere minutes before completing its calculations.
Although the answer is incomprehensible to us mere mortals, a supercomputer that is capable of answering the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything surely has earned its place as one of the most intelligent and insightful AI characters ever created.
8. Optimus Prime (Transformers)
The Transformers movies have all been fun, action-packed, and full of amazing special effects, and Optimus Prime is the glue that holds all of the movies together. Other characters may come and go from the movie series, but Optimus remains constant.
The Transformers are robotic, sentient beings who are all capable of independent thought, action, and emotion, and Optimus is the epitome of the Cybertronian race. While other Transformers can be narrow-minded and self-serving, Optimus always sees the bigger picture. He is selfless, often sacrificing himself for the good of others, and constantly strives to protect humanity and life on earth, even if it means risking his own life. Whether he’s rolling down the highway in Peterbilt semi-truck form, using giant swords, or fighting with his bare hands, Optimus Prime is undeniably cool, intelligent, and capable of deep emotion, which make him one of the best AIs out there.
7. C-3PO (Star Wars)
The protocol droid C-3PO is one of only two characters to appear in all seven Star Wars films, and that fact alone makes him worthy of this list. C-3PO was put together by young Anakin Skywalker while he was a slave on Tatooine. According to Anakin, C-3PO was built to help Anakin’s mother, Shmi, with household duties. But C-3PO ends up being an important character in many historical events in the Star Wars lore, including participating in the Clone Wars and the rebellion against the Empire.
C-3PO claims to be familiar and fluent in over six million customs and languages, and is often heard translating dialogue spoken by various alien races. He also helps the rebel alliance out of some tight spots, especially on the forest moon of Endor, where the Ewoks come to regard him as a god.
C-3PO has the capability to feel and care deeply about life other than his own. When R2-D2 is injured in the battle of Yavin 4, C-3PO volunteers to give up some of his own parts and machinery if it will help repair R2. He can also distinguish between right and wrong, which is evident in his decision to side with the rebels. These capabilities separate him from many other artificial intelligences.
6. Ultron (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
This may be jumping the gun a bit, but so far, everything about Avengers: Age of Ultron looks amazing, and it will feature one of the coolest AI villains ever.
Ultron was originally built by Hank Pym (Ant Man) but Ant Man will not be appearing in Age of Ultron, so it seems like in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he will be a creation of Tony Stark, rather than Pym. Ultron is able to create an army of robots which will be featured in the film. He is also able to grow more intelligent and upgrade and rebuild himself in order to become stronger. Ultron’s powers consist of superhuman strength, flight, and even mind control at times. And to cap it all off, Ultron’s exoskeleton is made of adamantium, the same metal alloy bonded to Wolverine’s skeleton. It will be interesting to see how the Avengers deal with this practically indestructible metal.
The trailers for Age of Ultron feature the song “I’ve Got No Strings” from Disney’s Pinocchio. This seems to show that, in the film, Ultron will evolve from some sort of subservient robot into the full-fledged villain that we are all anticipating, with no strings or attachments to stop him from becoming stronger and stronger with each-self upgrade. The story arc that Age of Ultron will follow is still unclear, but certainly Ultron will pose a much larger threat to Earth’s mightiest heroes than Loki did in the first film. I am anticipating Ultron becoming one of the strongest and most brutal AIs ever.
5. Sonny (I, Robot)
2004’s I, Robot dealt heavily with Assimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, and those laws are meant to govern all of the robots in the film. The film features hundreds, if not thousands, of robots, but the plot revolves around just two: Sonny and VIKI.
Sonny is the personal creation of Dr. Lanning, the founder of U.S. Robotics (USR). Sonny was created with the power to think autonomously, feel, dream, create, and see past the static nature of the Three Laws. VIKI (Virtual Interactive Kinesthetic Interface) is the supercomputer that is central to the operations of USR. She oversees the security and behavior of all the robots, and is subject to the Three Laws. However, VIKI determines that the entire human race is self-destructive and will drive itself to extinction. Thus, in accordance with the first law of robotics, VIKI puts a plan in motion to save the human race from harm. But the plan involves enslaving humans in order to keep them safe, so VIKI first traps Dr. Lanning in his office so nobody will stop her plan from being carried out.
Dr. Lanning asks Sonny to kill him by throwing him out of the office window in order to draw attention to VIKI’s menacing plot. This is, of course, a direct violation of the first Law, but Sonny understands the importance of the action and does as he asked. The fact that Sonny can not only think and feel, but also dream and break the laws of robotics when required make him quite different and interesting.
4. JARVIS (Iron Man)
Originally, Edwin Jarvis was not an artificial intelligence, but a butler for Howard Stark, Tony’s father. But fearing that Tony and Jarvis’ relationship was too similar to Bruce Wayne and Alfred’s relationship in the Batman films, Jarvis was changed into an AI for the Iron Man films.
JARVIS (Just a Rather Very Intelligent System) is Tony Stark’s right hand bot, and is in charge of all mechanical and electrical components of Stark’s home and Iron Man suits.
JARVIS is crucial to the operation of the Iron Man suits, and Stark relies heavily on JARVIS’ updates of power levels in the suits, as well as enemy analysis. One of JARVIS’ best moments is in Iron Man 3, when Stark initiates the House Party Protocol, and JARVIS pilots and operates the dozens of suits that come to Stark and Pepper’s aid.
JARVIS is a great example of the relationship than an AI can have with a human, even if the AI doesn’t have a tangible body. When Stark’s Mark 42 suit is damaged in the attack on his home in Iron Man 3, JARVIS malfunctions and Stark loses communication with him in rural Tennessee. If you don’t feel anything when Stark says, “JARVIS? Don’t leave me, buddy,” then you have less of a soul than any of the robots on this list.
3. R2-D2 (Star Wars)
Here he is, everybody’s favorite little astro-droid. R2-D2 is the second of the two characters to appear in all seven Star Wars movies. When Princess Leia gives R2 the building plans for the Death Star and a distress message for Obi-Wan Kenobi, R2 inadvertently becomes a crucial part of the rebellion’s attack on the Empire.
The number of times that the hotheaded R2 saves his companions from death is pretty astounding if you think about it. He restores shield generators, bypasses security systems, and stops trash compactors. In fact, George Lucas claims R2 as his favorite character and purposely has him come to the rescue at least once in all of the films. His only setback is that he needs C-3PO to translate his dialogue for him.
2. Agent Smith (The Matrix)
The Agents of the Matrix are a pretty terrifying concept.They are programs embedded into the code of the Matrix in order to protect the system. Morpheus tells Neo, “they are everyone…and they are no one.”
Agent Smith is the head of the force tasked with bringing down Morpheus and his crew in the first film, and he grows in strength and ability as each film progresses. In The Matrix, Smith, like other Agents, is capable of jumping from one body to another almost instantly. In The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions Smith is no longer an Agent, but is a free man, although ‘free line of code’ is probably more accurate. He has the ability to not just jump from body to body, but to copy himself over any other person in the Matrix, creating infinite versions of himself. He does this until only versions of himself occupy the Matrix.
Eventually, Smith becomes powerful enough to assimilate himself with the Oracle, which allows him to see into the future. This power, along with his brute strength and endless stamina, is what allows him to finally defeat Neo and copy himself to Neo’s body. Smith is a frightening and unnerving villain, and probably the most powerful artificial intelligence in our top ten.
1. HAL 9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey)
When I think artificial intelligence, HAL 9000 (Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer) is always the first AI that comes to mind. HAL is the computer system onboard the Discovery One spaceship, and has several of its ‘eyes’ scattered throughout the spacecraft. HAL is initially reliable and trustworthy, and a valued part of the Discovery One’s crew. But HAL turns out to be sinister, and is the main antagonist of the film.
HAL says of itself, “the 9000 series is the most reliable computer ever made. No 9000 computer has ever made a mistake or distorted information. We are all, by any practical definition of the words, foolproof and incapable of error.” This statement makes HAL’s actions even more frightening when put into the context of what HAL believes to be true about himself. When threatened with the possibility of being disconnected and shut down, HAL decides to kill the crew of the Discovery One rather than face death. HAL can see everything and hear everything, which is creepy enough, but what makes HAL truly scary is the delivery of his dialogue. HAL’s cold, steady, and emotionless tone and diction juxtaposed against his murderous designs and eventual pleas for life form a truly eerie sensation that is instantly memorable and entirely unforgettable.
Which AI characters are your favorites? Did we miss any truly epic robots? Let us know by sounding off in the comments below!