The Singularity is coming soon! Artificial intelligences will reinvent everything, and there will be unlimited rice pudding. Except, of course, that when we imagine artificial intelligences in fiction, they’re often not that smart. Case in point? These 10 ridiculously dumb artificial intelligences.
1) B1 Battle Droids (Star Wars)
Controlled by a central computer intelligence, inexpensive to manufacture and easy to produce (limbs were held on with electromagnets), the battle droids were intended to overwhelm their foes in swarms rather than ruthless cunning. Following the Battle of Naboo, where the droids central intelligence hub was destroyed by a nine-year old boy, the Federation began experimenting with individual AI’s—which only caused more problems.
“Labored with more and more specialized roles that pushed the limits of their programming, many older droids developed personality quirks and a tendency to excessively comment on their situations in an attempt to handle the data overflow that had strained their inadequate logic modules.”
That’s very thoughtful and interesting! Peter Watts makes a similar case for consciousness as a biological malfunction in his excellent 2006 novel, Blindsight.
2) Yung-Star & Cy-Star (Terrahawks)
Gerry Anderson’s final “Supermarionation” show—actually filmed in “SuperMACROmation,” meaning more latex puppets were involved—Terrahawks involved a geriatric android named Zelda invading Mars as an outpost for her future attack on Earth. Using robotic Cubes that worked like building blocks, Zelda’s plans mostly either involved weird applications of her squared foot soldiers, or defrosting monsters that she kept in her refrigerator.
Zelda, who cherished the aesthetics of the “oldest and wisest”—commonplace on her home planet, Guk—built a robotic family retaining these ideals. They included a son named Yung-Star, a gurgling, dim-witted old man who ate rocks. And a sister named Cy-Star, an excitable old woman who was only dimly aware of her surroundings.
Dressed in rags and dismissed as an idiot by his siblings, Yung-Star still retained a high opinion of himself—even if his best idea was simply to stack twenty Cubes into the shape of a gun. As for Cy-Star, she kept a pet Cube named Pluto, while constantly straining to prevent her wig from sliding off her head each time she would bellow her catchphrase, “WONDERFFFUUULL”—which was uttered whenever a new genocidal plan was put forth by Zelda.
Despite its terrifying premise, Terrahawks is actually quite beloved: Big Finish just recently reunited the original voice cast for a fourth, audio-only season just this year—with another CD box set on the way in 2016.
3) HAL 9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey)
After some minor malfunctions, the scheming computer HAL (Heuristically programmed Algorithmic computer) plots to kill the human crewmembers before they get the chance to shut him down. HAL’s task to maintain the ship’s functions offers a litany of methods to crush, maim, starve and suffocate the members of his crew, should he desire—but in the film, HAL locks Dr. Poole outside the ship and switches off the life support mechanism in each astronaut’s hibernation chamber. For a program capable of lip-reading, we expected better.
4) Bill & Ted’s Robot Doubles (Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey)
Sent from the future to kill Bill and Ted by a jealous cultist named De Nomolos, the robotic replicas only accomplished their mission by throwing the duo off a cliff. The perfect duplicates in every way, “Evil” Bill and Ted even retained the same level of intelligence as their death-marked counterparts.
And while they did technically succeed in killing Bill & Ted, sending the duo on a journey to the afterlife, outer space and beyond, they were ultimately unspooled by another pair of robots built from local hardware store parts—assembled by the dual alien entity the original Bill andTed befriended along the way, a being collectively known as “Station!”
5) ED-209 (RoboCop)
The Enforcement Droid Series 209, a fully automated “peacekeeping” droid built by Omni Consumer Products for “urban pacification” went disastrously wrong during its first demonstration, murdering a junior executive in the process. Built to look cool, with every cost-cutting measure undertaken by manufacturer Dick Jones, ED-209’s failure to perform ultimately gave rise to the RoboCop program—so we can thank it for that! Unable to navigate stairwells and programmed to issue forth a sound similar to a squealing pig in times of distress, the ED-209 also suffers from bad logic circuits—unable to process information as quickly as a human brain, the model is easily hacked, tricked and manipulated. In Robocop 3, a young girl named Nikko is able to override its command system by simply manipulating three serial ports on its right leg.
6) Leon (Blade Runner)
A Replicant of below-average intelligence who prickles at the distinction between a tortoise and a turtle, Leon makes up for his slow wit with tremendous strength and lightning-fast reflexes. Regrettably, he made himself vulnerable while taunting his enemy, the replicant-hunting Dekker, and consequently had his brains—his only weak point!—obliterated with a future-revolver from Sean Young.
7) Box (Logan’s Run)
“Protein, Plankton, fish from the sea…”
The demented, grandstanding robot with his own menagerie of ice sculptures and frozen specimens from 1976’s Logan’s Run? Pretty dumb.
Box relishes his job of cataloging and preserving life forms in ice—perhaps a little too much. The flailing robot causes a cave-in while chasing Michael York and Jenny Agutter through his lair after he got a little too caught up in the moment, blasting away at the refugees with his ice beams, chuckling all the way.
8) Waspinator (Transformers: Beast Wars)
While the violent and excitable robot-dinosaurs, the Dinobots should be considered (“Grimlock smash brains!”) the dumbest Transformer in the franchise is probably Waspinator—or at least, so he appears. Destroyed or demolished in nearly every episode of Beast Wars, Waspinator, who speaks in buzzing, fragmented sentences, does at least show some level of introspection while on a mission to reclaim his colleague Inferno’s scattered parts. He asks himself: “Inferno blow up, Waspinator salvage. Waspinator blow up, nobody salvage. Why universe hate Waspinator?”
9) Dynomutt (Dynomutt)
The robotic sidekick to superhero Blue Falcon, Dynomutt’s history and backstory is ambiguous: is he a robot dog, like K9? Or is he an enhanced cyborg like Inspector Gadget? Whatever the case, we can all agree he is very, very stupid. More of a liability for the Blue Falcon’s war on crime than an asset, Dynomutt’s over-eagerness to lend a hand often causes misery and extensive property damage, but its his very dimwittedness that often saves the day, too—accidentally capturing such fearsome super criminals asThe Worm, The Glob and Madame Ape Face.
10) Mega Man (Captain N)
While the character is typically portrayed as a semi-tragic figure, lamenting the necessity to destroy his reprogrammed robot brethren for some vague and unattainable vision of peace, Captain N decided to go in a different direction with Mega Man altogether. Instead of ruminating on the necessity of violence for social change, the TV series had him shout phrases like, “Mega-hi!” in a croaky, toad-like voice. The dim bulb in the roster of Captain N’s Nintendo heroes, this version of the character is considered to be the worst to date.
The number one complaint from fans, though? He’s the wrong color!