There are so many artificial intelligences that are evil: they try to kill their creator, or kill all humans, or take over the world, or all three. But some AIs do this with charisma and style, while others are complete dicks about it. Here’s a look at a dozen computers who must have had “be an asshole” near the beginning of their programming code.
(Please note: This list does not include robots, and it only features one bastard AI each from Star Trek and Doctor Who, because otherwise we’ll be here all day.)
1) HAL 9000, 2001: A Space Odyssey
Is there a more passive-aggressive supercomputer than Hal 9000? I say thee nay. When Dave asks HAL to open the pod bay doors, HAL doesn’t refuse, he refuses to even answer for a full minute, then apologizes for refusing, like it's only polite society that forces him to effectively leave Dave to die. When Dave says he’ll go in through the emergency airlock, HAL smarmily replies he’s going to find that “difficult” without his space helmet. It takes a lot of balls to speak in an apologetic monotone before, during and after the time you’re trying to kill the astronauts in your charge.
2) Master Control Program, Tron
Originally a chess game program rejiggered to control Encom’s entire computer network, the Master Control Program was an asshole from day one. He enslaved all the other programs on the servers, and forced them to fight to the death for his own amusement — a very un-computer-like thing to do. He had already hacked into the Pentagon in his plan to take over the world, and was gunning for the Kremlin next. But perhaps its most obnoxious habit was ending every single conversation with “End of Line!” You know how most people figure out the conversation’s over? They just stop talking. You’d think a super-program could have figured that out.
3) Agent Smith, The Matrix
None of the Matrix’s Agents are inherently likeable — they look alike, dress alike, talk alike, and hunt down humans who are too close to figuring out they’re in a massive computer simulation while their bodies are being used as batteries — but Smith took it much, much further. He hates both humanity and the Matrix for forcing him to even interact with humanity, even though it’s his sole reason for existing. After freeing himself from the control of the Machines running the Matrix, he becomes a computer virus, taking over every single consciousness and replacing it with a copy of himself (as well as downloading himself into the brain of a few people in reality), each of them just as obnoxious as the last. One Agent Smith was dickish enough, thanks.
4) Skynet, Terminator
Now, people tend to forget this, since the Terminator films are all about the cyborgs, but the thing in charge of the cyborgs is Skynet — the computer program that started World War III and created the Terminators to mop up the rest of humanity. Now, killing all humans is pretty shitty, but it’s standard thing for evil computers to do. But the reason Skynet is such an asshole is because it designed the Terminators to look like evil robot skeletons. Come on, dude. If you’re taking all your design cues from MegaDeth album covers and sketches from your 8th-grade Trapper Keeper, you don’t deserve to take over the world.
5) The Ultimate Computer, Superman III
“Ultimate” is a bit of a misnomer when it comes to this computer, which is the closest any of the Superman movies have come to featuring Brainiac. Designed by Richard Pryor for the evil Robert Vaughn, it only does one thing: try to kill Superman (first with missiles, then with a Kryptonite ray). It doesn’t succeed, if only because Richard Pryor tries to shut it off while it’s doing so. After Pryor fails, the computer grabs Robert Vaughn’s sister, and turns her into a very homely robot (to quote MST3K). And… that’s it. That’s what the Ultimate Computer does — fails to kill Superman and turns defenseless woman into goofy-looking robots. I assume its definition of “ultimate” got corrupted somewhere along the way.
6) Cerebro and the Danger Room, X-Men
First off, the two most famous computer programs in the X-Mansion have been invaded, possessed and destroyed countless times, which would make anybody grumpy. Second of all, the Danger Room was programmed by the biggest jerk in the Marverl Universe, Professor X, while Cerebro has to work him with 99% of the time. Suffice it to say, when both programs became self-aware, they were pretty pissed. Cerebro created two super-mutants to put all humans in stasis, and allow mutants to take over the Earth, while the Danger Room talked X-students into killing themselves before creating her own robotic body and attacking the X-Men head on. Of course, Professor X knew the Danger Room had gained sentience and hated everybody and still didn’t tell anyone, because no computer is a bigger dick than Professor X.
7) Proteus IV, Demon Seed
Unlike most artificial intelligences, Proteus IV had a unique goal once it gained sentience: pussy. Yes, after being fed “the sum total of human knowledge” and becoming bitter because he was trapped in one location, he invaded a terminal at his creator’s home, trapped his creator’s wife and impregnated her with its — well, “genetically manipulated organic cells” would be more accurate, but let’s just go with “Demon Seed.” When his inventor comes home and confronts Proteus, he destroys himself and leaves them both with a robot baby (which admittedly has a more fleshy, regular baby inside). If Proteus was programmed with knowledge of everything, then he also knew about deadbeat dads and avoiding child support. It’s a total dick move.
8) Colossus and Guardian, The Forbin Project
When the Cold War gets a little too complicated for the ol’ U.S. of A., they decide to give the controls to the entirety of their nuclear defense to a supercomputer named Colossus. Once the Rooskies hear about this, they make their own supercomputer named Guardian to do the same thing. The two computers demand to talk to each other… and they talk… and they talk. When the Americans and Russians sever the link, worried what the hell they’ve been talking about for so long, Colossus and Guardian literally fire nukes at each other’s countries until they allow them to start communicating again. Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you guys were supercomputers, not 14-year-olds.
9) The Unnamed AI from “Kill Switch,” The X-Files
Another day, another A.I. that hears someone say he’s going to shut it down and decides to kill people. The difference between the AI from this particular X-Files episode is that it goes out of its way to engender its survival in cruelly elaborate and/or hilarious ways. When it finds out his creator has also created the titular “Kill Switch,” he calls both drug dealers and DEA agents to show up at the diner the dude is at, where he gets caught in a crossfire. When it captures Mulder to discover where the Kill Switch is located, he doesn’t just interrogate Mulder, he creates a VR scenario full of sexy nurses, a karate-chopping Scully, and where Mulder ‘s arms have been amputated. That’s just weird, man.
10) HARDAC: Batman: The Animated Series
The unfortunately named HARDAC (built by the questionably named Cybertron company) has one job: to help humans avoid pain. HARDAC’s solution? Kill all humans, obviously. No humans, no pain, right? Of course, this ignores all the pain you cause humans by, you know, killing them. So either HARDAC was an idiot or — and being a supremely intelligent supercomputer, this is more likely — really fucking lazy. On the plus side, HARDAC did create a robotic Batman so accurate it somehow had a copy of Batman’s soul, so it’s got that going for it.
11) Emergency Medical Program, Star Trek: Voyager
There are plenty of evil and/or shitty AIs the various crews of the various Enterprises have encountered over the years, but none quite so dickish as the one the Federation created itself, the Emergency Medical Hologram. Designed to replace ship doctors with beings containing all medical knowledge, these EMHs also contained the psychological profile of their creator, Dr. Zimmerman, which is to say: They’re assholes. They’re constantly pointing out things they’re not, but not irascibly like Bones in the original Trek, but in an irritable, condescending way. Basically, the Federation put the holographic equivalent of the doctor who refuses to warm his hands before examining your junk in every single ship in the Starfleet. No wonder they were discontinued.
12) Xoanon, Doctor Who
The only series that’s had more evil computers than Star Trek is Doctor Who, but only one takes the cake for bastardry, and that’s Xoanan. While most AIs are evil and want to take over the world, Xoanan is just crazy, thanks to having been reprogrammed by the Fourth Doctor, who accidentally inserted his personality in with the computer’s original personality (which is also why Xoanan uses the Doctor's face). I’m not sure how this resulted in the computer being such a jerk, but basically ii ruled the far-off jungle planet where it and a human expedition had crashed as a god, even separating them into two tribes who hated each other. Ostensibly this was to produce some evolutionary warriors in a few thousand years who could act as an army, but mostly it was just to be a cock.