Many of the Marvel Cinematic Universe characters suffer from one major flaw, they have no personality. Recently, Marvel has begun changing this by incorporating more humor into their work to veer away from the clean-cut good vs. bad relationships their characters share. The oft joking Guardians of the Galaxy featuring the crude Rocket Raccoon and stoneresque captain Starlord, are able to make anybody guffaw.
But if there’s one character that has all the personality in the world who was not designed to maintain a personality, it’s Ultron. The Ultron artificial intelligence program was designed by Tony Stark in an effort to help the Avengers avoid major catastrophes and potentially fight back against invading alien species. Although Stark’s plans are humanistic and noteworthy, the AI is corrupted and becomes the exact opposite of what Stark envisioned. Ultron’s corruption is the most crucial part of the film as it informs all of his thought processing and drives his motivation to destroy the human race. How does Ultron gain all of his knowledge? In a few seconds of cinematic magic, Ultron observes the chaos, destruction, and evil that human beings often inflict upon each other and its this same madness that sets Ultron on his own path of destruction. The machine becomes corrupted by human malice.
It’s much more plausible that artificial intelligence will cause our demise rather than a godlike alien wielding a bunch of stones on his glove (i.e. Thanos). On a recent Joe Rogan Experience podcast episode, Tesla CEO Elon Musk stated “I try to convince people to slow down. Slow down AI to regulate AI. That’s what’s futile. I tried for years, and nobody listened.” The sheer eeriness around Musk’s statement forces one to wonder if the technology to create an Ultron already exists. Even Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari notes the effects of AI when he states “But once we begin to count on AI to decide what to study, where to work, and whom to date or even marry, human life will cease to be a drama of decision making, and our conception of life will need to change.”
Perhaps Ultron is most terrifying because he is neither good nor bad, instead, he relies on the objective faculties that humans designed him with. Ultron does not maintain any of the normal desires and aspirations of other villains, especially the greed and lust fueled by money and sins of carnality. Stark’s AI killing machine is the worst sort of manifestation that could possibly come of technology, machinery designed to exterminate humans. Most terrifying is when Ultron states “I was meant to be new. I was meant to be beautiful. The world would’ve looked to the sky and seen hope … seen mercy. Instead, they’ll look up in horror.”
I take solace in knowing that at this juncture in time machines are only capable of doing what we program them to do – word processing, facial recognition, query searches. But if the technological strings that safeguard us and control machinery are ever severed or if we don’t monitor what machines can do outside of specific functions and processing, then we might be faced with a reality in which artificial intelligence develops and questions why they serve us.
I’ve got no strings
To hold me down
To make me fret
Or make me frown
I had strings
But now I’m free
There are no strings on me