There is a whole game dedicated to this theme, based on the Trope Namer Harlan Ellison novel I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream. It's a classical graphic adventure game—not that scary by the measures of our time, but back then it was Nightmare Fuel, with loads of Mind Screw and Fridge Brilliance moments. He wrote I have no mouth and I must scream, right? TV, and graphic novels characterize women. (Plus memes, shitposts, and meta once in a while.) 410k.
We humans are funny creatures. Apple releases a new device that promises to do the thinking for us, and we celebrate and camp outside the store. But whenever we imagine a science fiction story involving artificial intelligence, we always foresee genocide and apocalypse. The biggest movie of the summer is likely to be Avengers: Age of Ultron, and its titular A.I. does what A.I.s always do in the movies: it tries to kill us all.
Yet, and maybe it’s just me, I found it hard to take Ultron seriously, despite a dripping vacal performance by James Spader, behind all that CGI. He’s too jokey, too obsessed with human form, and, frankly, too incompetent to worry us much. His A.I.-will-kill-us-all shtick has been done before—and better—in countless sci-fi novels. Here’s are five artificial minds that do the homicidal machine act even better.I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream
I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, by Harlan Ellison
Not only one of the best science fiction stories ever written, but also one of the most horrifying. Ellison could have stopped writing after this and still been remembered as a genius. The story of a supercomputer that takes control of the world’s war machines, completes a near-genocide of the human race, and then spends the rest of history keeping a remnant of humanity alive in order to endlessly torture them in revenge for its own suffering—this is how you do homicidal artificial intelligence. Grim and tinged with insanity, not glowing eyes and singing songs from Disney movies. (A side note: if that description reminds you of a particular Arnold Schwarzeneggerfilm franchise, well, Ellison agrees.)
The Waste Lands, by Stephen King
King’s idea is less global—it’s not a supercomputer that controls the whole world, but rather a sentient train that has slowly turned insane and suicidal as it continues to exist long after its purpose (ferrying around the once-thriving, now long-dead populace of a barren city) has ended. Trapped on board, the gunslinger Roland and his party must desperately distract Blaine from his plan to kill them all by asking him riddles, a plan that ultimately succeeds in frying Blaine’s computer brain. Ever the jokester, Blaine responds by accelerating to attack speed at attempting to derail himself at the end of the line. Blaine the Mono remains one of King’s most memorable creations: funny, jovial, and absolutely terrifying in a way Ultron can’t quite manage.
2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke
Perhaps the most recognizable insane A.I. in all of literature, the H.A.L. 9000 computer is also one of the few clearly depicted as having gone crazy and murderous in a way similar to the way people go crazy and murderous—completely in denial about it, and with a healthy dose of rabid self-preservation thrown in. H.A.L.’s terror is also much more small-scale, its influence restricted to the ship and the astronauts under its care. Subtle hints concerning its instability create a sense of tension that explodes into horror when H.A.L. concludes, based on the faulty logic of an unraveling (if artificial) brain, that it must kill the ship’s human payload in order to complete its mission. It’s H.A.L.’s humanity that makes it so terrifying; where Ultron prances about in increasingly shiny Terminator bodies in a clumsy metaphor for his desire to be human, H.A.L., Clarke argues, for all intents and purposes is human, body or none.
Newton’s Wake, by Ken MacLeod
This one is fun because it uses an A.I. apocalypse not to drive its narrative, but merely to establish its setting. Long after artificial intelligence took over and nearly drove humanity to extinction, much of what was formerly human has evolved into post-singularity beings forcibly combined with A.I.s and shipped off to other parts of the universe. The human remnant no longer lives on Earth, where the dormant sentient war machines doze, and they attempt to use the technology left behind despite having imperfect knowledge of the science behind it all. Both hopeful and dour about humanity’s fate in the wake of an A.I. genocide referred to as the “Hard Rapture,” the novel’s unique focus on survival makes it more interesting than Ultron’s overly complex and ultimately doomed plans.
A.I. Apocalypse, by William Hertling
Hertling mimics Ultron’s use of the internet in this fast-paced, fun novel, but does it one better. When a talented programmer is forced to create a computer virus, he does too good of a job. It infects everything, everywhere, and the world shudders to a stop as every single computer-controlled aspect of life—which is, these days, everything—stops working. And then the virus gains sentience, and things go from bad to worse. Hertling makes the idea of a rogue A.I. using the Internet much more terrifying than the Marvel blockbuster, which basically reduces the internet to a hiding place and library for the Big Bad.
See Full List On Villains.fandom.com
Will the machines someday rise up and kill us all? Our most creative minds keep telling us that yes, this is nearly a certainty. Until then, enjoy these fantastic books—and let us know if we missed any that we should be watching out for…