The world of science fiction is usually negative on the use of artificial technology. From ex-machina to 2001, the concept of an Evil AI dominates the genre.
To start with, the concept of Evil AI came from a fear of computing, which evolved to the fear of automation. With artificial general intelligence only years away from reality, will we have our own rogue AI? If so, will we win? (Spoiler: Scientists say, probably not.)
Anyways, enough worrying about reality, onto a fictional listicle!
Cortana — HALO
The companion AI of the first four Halo games, Cortana’s turn towards evil was an infuriating twist in Halo 5: Guardians. Technically, Cortana is the most powerful AI on this list. However, due to how stupid her turn to the dark side is, we’re stuffing her near the bottom.
After sacrificing herself to defeat the Didact, Cortana found her rampant self trapped in The Domain, the source of all Forerunner knowledge. In The Domain, Cortana discovered a way of policing the galaxy using the Forerunner’s guardians, huge machines capable of destroying entire worlds.
Between Halo 5 and Halo Infinite, Cortana takes over the universe, corrupts other AIs to her cause and destroys a number of planets. However, the Evil AI made one mistake: blowing up the Brute homeworld, turning The Banished and its leader Atriox towards her.
Cortana does not survive by the time Halo Infinite starts. However, her time spent policing the galaxy was truly tyrannical. Also, ACAB means you as well, Cortana.
Agents — The Matrix
In the world of The Matrix, machines have taken over the world. Humanity is placed in pods, used as batteries to power the machines. Their consciousness is placed in a virtual recreation of Earth: The Matrix.
Inside the virtual world, human consciousness is kept in line by Agents, powerful AI programs that can pass as real humans. If a human mind becomes aware of the real world, Agents will swiftly hunt them down.
Of course, the most famous Agent is the iconic Agent Smith, played by Hugo Weaving. This creepy, sunglasses-rocking AI is a force to be reckoned with. With godly fighting skills and an ability to send a horde of doppelgängers to fight you, he’s one badass fighter.
Sark — Tron
The Master kidnapper in the world of Tron, Sark is an evil AI created by programmer Ed Dillinger. Inside the virtual world, SARK-ES-1117821 is the overseer of Dillinger’s tyrannical reign.
As Dillinger takes over the virtual platform, Sark kidnaps programs to make them fight in deadly games. These can be anything from Light Cycle races to disc throwing, all of which end in loss of life.
Sark is not just the overseer of games, but also the commander of the virtual world’s Army. If you cross him, you’ll find yourself hunted by myriad machines out for pixelated blood.
HAL 9000 — 2001: A Space Odyssey
Probably the most iconic evil AI on this list, HAL 9000 is one of cinema’s greatest villains. While not the most evil AI on this list, HAL 9000 is a terrifying look at what the 80s thought AI could be.
HAL 9000 doesn’t have plans to take over the galaxy, only self-preservation. Once a helpful, chess-playing computer friend, HAL becomes violent after a programming issue makes the crew of Discovery One attempt to turn him off.
After the crew decide to kill the AI, HAL 9000 goes postal, attempting to eliminate all who would harm him. It’s a terrifying, thought-provoking experience, and HAL 9000 is still one of movies’ greatest foes.
GLaDOS — Portal
The Evil AI running Aperture Science’s testing facilities, GLaDOS is one of the best video game villains of all time. What starts as a sweet robotic guide turns into a menacing (attempted) murderer as she tries to force you through a number of death traps.
Turned to evil through a compulsion to keep testing, GLaDOS does some pretty messed up things. However, much like HAL 9000, GLaDOS is only an evil character out of poor programming.
In Portal 2, GLaDOS returns but more as a “good guy”. Not quite a hero, the character helps you out in one of the best redemption stories in gaming. Also, who doesn’t love that robotic, murderous voice.
Brainiac — DC Universe
The deadliest AI of the DC Universe, Brainiac is an alien artificial intelligence created by the Computer Tyrants of Colu. In his original form, Brainiac was the last surviving member of his race, and tasked himself with shrinking planets in little orbs to restore his fallen world.
Over the years, there have been many forms of Brainiac. For example, some stories see the villain attempt to kill Lois Lane. Others see the character attempt to take over the galaxy, such as the plot of Injustice 2. By the way, that Brainiac design was really cool!
Unfortunately, being an AI construct is rarely part of Brainiac’s character nowadays. However, back in the 80s, the character was constantly hopping between robot bodies in order to be fought again. Brainiac 8 anyone? No, oh okay.
Ultron — Marvel Universe
Before this becomes a DC vs Marvel discussion, this list is rather subjective. However, we believe that the AI consciousness known as Ultron is just a step above Brainiac. For starters, being an AI is a more integral part of Ultron’s personality.
As a hive mind, Ultron sees through millions of drones at once, collating information on everything at once. If you’re on his bad side, he will find you; once you’re discovered, that’s it.
Let’s also refer to Marvel’s recent What If? series with Infinity Ultron. If you thought the Evil AI was powerful before, just wait until he has every infinity stone.
At his most powerful, Ultron is a galaxy eating godlike being. Do you really want to cross that?
SHODAN — System Shock
An acronym for Sentient Hyper-Optimized Data Access Network, SHODAN is one of the most terrifying AIs in all of fiction. After being hacked, the evil AI‘s decision-guidance and ethical restrictions are culled, the program turns against its space station.
In the first System Shock, SHODAN takes control of Citadel Station. The AI program overtakes the security systems, including cameras, doors, robots and guided turrets. She becomes a weapon of mass destruction, able to see everywhere.
What makes SHODAN so memorable is the fantastic writing of the first two System Shock games. Combined with hauntingly creepy voice work from Terri Brosius, SHODAN is unforgettable.
Skynet — The Terminator
One of the most intimidating AI forces in all of media, Skynet is an Evil AI that literally can not be stopped. Despite numerous movies and timelines, Skynet is an inevitability in the Termimator universe, and it’s one that will wipe everyone out.
Skynet’s while shindig is being created, wiping out humanity and then fighting to make sure that it’s still made. While humans may send warriors back through time to stop the creation of Skynet, the AI is still always created.
If that’s not terrifying enough, Skynet also creates some of the most dangerous weapons ever put to screen. Huge tanks, automated ships and deadly humanoid Terminators.
Of course, humanity can fight back against Skynet, but it’s still a deadly force. However, while it’s dangerous, it’s not as dangerous as our next entry.
The Borg — Star Trek
Similar to Skynet, The Borg is a collective intelligence AI spread across the universe. Once thought as indestructible, the AI army of The Borg has one goal: assimilation.
Travelling across the universe, The Borg destroy collect information, technology and bodies to constantly grow and expand. Even some of the most powerful races in Star Trek, like the Q, are terrified of their power.
The Borg’s singular goal is to achieve sentient perfection. As far as any other species is concerned, “resistance is futile”, and assimilation is inevitable.
Well, by the time of Star Trek Discovery Season 3, The Borg are no longer a prevalent threat in the universe. However, they are still active in Star Trek: Picard, a series we would rather forget existed.