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We learned this week that Google’s DeepMind artificial intelligence mastered Atari games Breakout, Fishing Derby, Robot Tank, and Kung-Fu Master, among others. DeepMind’s creators estimate that in another 10 years it will be able to master StarCraft; in 20 years’ time A.I. will be able to lay waste to the deftest human Call of Duty gamer.

This is the kind of stuff that makes Elon Musk declare that A.I. is the most serious existential threat to the human race. Hyperbolic? Perhaps, but even Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking have joined Musk in these sentiments.

As for us, we aren’t too worried at this point. We think the TV screen is still the best place to wrap our heads around A.I. and properly gauge its threat to mankind.  Let’s look at some Hollywood depictions of A.I. and rank them in order of the danger they present to the human race.

We’ll start with the most benign, and advance to potential bringers of the apocalypse.


Mostly Friendly

Benevolence Factor: A sentient Roomba from the future.
Scare Factor: Impossible to destroy.

A.I. Johnny 5 from Short Circuit
Benevolence Factor: Child-like hunger for stimuli and input.
Scare Factor: Developed by the NSA.

A.I. Jinx from SpaceCamp
Benevolence Factor: Generally friendly
Scare Factor: Takes everything literally; becomes annoying.

A.I. C-3PO from Star Wars
Benevolence Factor: A charming and polite protocol droid.
Scare Factor: Built by Darth Vader; curses like an English lord if provoked.


Moderate Threat

A.I. Lisa from Weird Science
Benevolence Factor: Thoughtful, beautiful, intelligent.
Scare Factor: Won’t hesitate to kick you in the groin.

A.I. Vickie from Small Wonder
Benevolence Factor: Designed to help handicapped children.
Scare Factor: Shoots electricity and is incapable of human emotion.

A.I. Data from Star Trek: Next Generation
Benevolence Factor: 88 pebibytes and 60 Trillion IOPS of helpful.
Scare Factor: Became unstable after integrating Dr. Soong’s emotion chip.

A.I. KITT from Knight Rider
Benevolence Factor: Nothing says “I love you” like an ’82 Pontiac Trans-Am.
Scare Factor: Same creator as Battlestar Gallactica’s Cylons.




Substantial Cause for Alarm

A.I. J.A.R.V.I.S. from Iron Man
Benevolence Factor: Thoughtful, loyal manservant
Scare Factor: Connects to home Wi-Fi router, likely vulnerable to DDoS attack.

A.I. GERTY from Moon
Benevolence Factor: Good company on a desolate satellite station.
Scare Factor: Will clone you without permission.

A.I. Agent Smith from The Matrix
Benevolence Factor: Respectful; refers to Neo as Mr. Anderson throughout.
Scare Factor: The thought of re-watching The Matrix 3.

A.I. HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey
Benevolence Factor: Argues like your significant other.
Scare Factor: Classic sociopath that can’t handle being wrong.


Run Like Hell

A.I. Replicants in Blade Runner
Benevolence Factor: Getting killed by ‘80s Daryl Hannah would be an honor.
Scare Factor: Nexus Androids are already among us and last approximately four years.

A.I. Cylons in Battlestar Galactica
Benevolence Factor: Programmed to squash religious fanaticism.
Scare Factor: Evolved into a predatory race of robotic beings.

A.I. T-1000 in Terminator 2
Benevolence Factor: None. A cold-blooded killer.
Scare Factor: Take your pick

Let us know in the comments—which artificial intelligence would you add to this listicle?

All images from Flickr Creative Commons. HAL9000 by James Vaughan; Johnny 5 by Arinspunk; C-3PO by Ankario; Cylon by Fred Bchx
Artificial Intelligence Ranked in Order of Threat Level
Article Name
Artificial Intelligence Ranked in Order of Threat Level
Let’s look at famous depictions of artificial intelligence and rank them in order of the danger they present to the human race.
Adam Lovinus

Author Adam Lovinus

A tech writer and Raspberry Pi enthusiast from Orange County, California.

More posts by Adam Lovinus

Join the discussion One Comment

  • imppress says:

    Substantial Cause for Alarm
    A.I. Lawnmower Man
    Benevolence Factor: Formerly human. May have sentimental sympathy.
    Scare Factor: Can sic endless robocalls on every phone on the planet.

    A.I. Master Control Program
    Benevolence Factor: Seems content to be the power behind the throne. No worse than CCP/KGB.
    Scare Factor: No better than CCP/KGB, either.

What's your take?