Sunday, March 3, 2013

Discuss: Artificial Intelligence


Rip Jagger said...

I fall into a segment of fandom that came on board comics at almost exactly the moment that both the Vision and the Red Tornado debuted in their respective universes.

In The Avengers we first met the malicious Ultron-5 who was mid-wife to the Vision (as we learn later) bonding the android body of the Human Torch to the brain engrams of Wonder Man. The Vision is at once artificial and not artificial. His brain is plastic, but his mind is fully human and that has always for me created the tension within him. He for all intents has a soul.

The Red Tornado always seemed different. He was fully android, faceless and without specific identity. He appeared to have zero existence before he was crafted by T.O.Morrow. Later of course we learn he was actually the Tornado Tyrant encased in the android form John Smith. This made him much more like the Vision.

In later years all that stuff has been altered, the Vision mind-wiped by John Byrne and then destroyed utterly in the final days of the Avengers before the coming of Bendis, and the Tornado turned into an elemental in sundry stories here and there around the DCU. I really don't fully understand where they are today.

But for a short time, these two "artifical men" were fascinating heroes, fighting for beings unlike them, yet very like them. That's the very stuff of strong characterization.

A third character I'd throw into this mix who arrived a tad sooner on the scene is Noman from Tower Comics. The scientist who dies but not before transferring his mind into a legion of android bodies in many ways seemed oddly the most remote and inhuman of all these android men who served in the superhero ranks.

Now that I think on it, Dell Comics had a whole team of androids who they dubbed "The Super Heroes". These were androids animated by kids, but there was little sense they were alienated beings.

Robotman of the Doom Patrol is another, but his behavior seemed more akin to The Thing in the Fantastic Four, anger over his misfortune than true alienation over his distinctive situation. He seemed like Ben Grimm all too human sometimes.

Rip Off

Hoosier X said...

And then there's the Metal Men, created in the Silver Age but still around in the Bronze Age, as guests in Brave and the Bold before getting their own comic book back for a few issues later in the 1970s.

I don't know about anybody else here, but I adore the Metal Men, faulty response-o-meters and all. Despite a great fondness for super-diva Mercury, my favorite was always Tina, forever throwing her arms around Doc Magnus and declaring her love for him.

They had a rogues gallery that was nothing but evil A.I. creations, like the Gas Gang and Chemo, and let's not forget the most evil - and goofy! - A.I. of all - Egg Fu!

William said...

Hey Rip, you forgot about the Metal Men. Another entire team of androids / robots. I never really got into them and have only read stories with them in titles like Brave and the Bold, but from what I have experienced they all seem to have very unique and individual personalities.

William said...

Dang it Hoosier X, you posted your comment while I was entering mine. But yeah, the Metal Men. :)

Rip Jagger said...

Metal Men! Yikes!

Thanks for the catch guys.

The Metal Men were more like human character made manifest, with Gold being reason, Lead being steadfastness, Iron being bold courage, Mercury being anger, Tin being fear, and Tina being love. The coldest personality on the team was Doc Magnus.

Rip Off

Matt Celis said...

I liked the Vision but his romance with a living being makes me cringe. Proves Scarlet Witch had some serious emotional/mental problems. i did like that not all the team supported romance with a machine.

Red Tornado was never very interesting to me. NoMan i always enjoyed, especially the idea of an older man as a hero. Robotman was great in his original incarnation. Metal Men were too gimmicky for my taste. Ultron was awesome. Machine Man not so much. Amazo was fun but goofy.

Edo Bosnar said...

Machine Man's pretty cool in NextWave, and Ultron is deliciously evil.
However, of all the others mentioned, the Metal Men seem to fit into the category best, as their intelligence is truly artificial, i.e., they aren't imbued with anybody else's thought patterns or 'soul' like Vision and Red Tornado. In fact, in this regard everyone seems to have forgotten the original Human Torch - possibly the oldest comic-book android. Anyway, I'm rather partial to the Metal Men myself, mostly based on that brief revival of their series in the 1970s.
Another of my favorite AI characters is the Rigellian Recorder that accompanied Hercules on all of his intersteller adventures - he was a bit reminiscent of CP30.
I also really like Biotron and Microtron of the Micronauts, and, although he's more a satirical character, Byrne's Rog 2000.

david_b said...

It really took 'Star Wars' to change how the industry looked at robotics and AI.. Pre-Lucas, Vish and Tornado were simply 'Spock-like' in their team banter and acting as 'outsider interest' in the human condition, it's foibles and strengths alike. Or you had Sentinels, created essentially as 'mutant-hunters', along lines of evil robot armies like Daleks or something.

Since SW, you had more AI variations than you could shake a stick at, but not really too many new characters popping up in either big universe. ROM, Transformers had their mags from toylines, but I can only think of H.E.R.B.I.E. as actually being a NEW running character actually integrated into an existing title, besides the return of Doom Patrol and other older concepts. Help me out if I'm forgetting something.

Karen said...

Any thoughts on Data from Star Trek the Next Generation? Sometimes he was handled very well and other times, he was just flat out annoying.

Someone mentioned the episode Measure of a Man from season two of TNG and I think it is sort of emblematic of the question facing all of our androids - are they sentient? how do we define sentience? are they their own beings? Do they have rights? As we develop more advanced computers we are getting closer to having to deal with these questions.

Hoosier X said...

I was not a big Metal Men fan as a kid. I'm not even sure I had ever heard of them prior to The Brave and the Bold #187. (I think that's right.)

I'm a much more recent convert. What got me interested was a series of posts at the blog What Were They Thinking?.

I've had the first volume of The Metal Men Archives for a while and I recently got a grabbag of beat-up Metal Men issues from the 1960s. I wish I'd read these years ago. They are crazy! I especially love Tina and the weird weird weird gender politics.

Edo Bosnar said...

Karen, Data was pretty hit and miss for me as well. However, I absolutely loved the holographic Doctor from Voyager.
As for your question, as with Data, most of our comic book AI protagonists were considered sentient, with all the ensuing rights. At least, I think that's the way we were supposed to view them - regardless of their origin as constructs, they had individuality or personality or humanity or whatever you want to call it.
By the way, hate to get all geek purist, but Robotman and Rom DO NOT belong in this discussion. They're both basically cyborgs and their intelligence is not artificial.

david_b said...

I mentioned it a few days ago, and thought 'Measure of a Man' blew the sentient question 'out of the park', it was such an awesome episode.

The very idea was handled creatively and thoughtful, and made for strong arguments. Does the issue at hand (created by humans) subject AI to more scrutiny, limiting its potential by its very origin, rather than in scifi stories where its origin is elsewhere, or by higher intelligence..?

Excellent script, dramatically directed and warmly handled by Spiner, Frakes and Stewart.

Hoosier X said...

Another interesting examination of A.I. - and this one isn't from the comics - is David Bowie's "Saviour Machine" from the album The Man Who Sold the World.

There's a story with a somewhat similar theme in Journey Into Mystery #81.

Karen said...

The Star Wars droids bother me because they are clearly sentient and have emotions yet are also clearly property. This is never really dealt with but is a dark and ugly side of Lucas' universe.

I should probably not get started on the Vision, as anyone who knows me (Doug) will attest to, I have strong feelings regarding the character and how he's been handled. When he was created, and up through much of Englehart's tenure, he seemed essentially a man trapped in an artificial body. As time went on though, especially after Byrne's treatment of the character, he became mechanical and robotic and very much removed from his original intent.

Edo Bosnar said...

Karen, with reference to the Star Wars droids, I have to admit, that's something that never really occurred to me before - but you're totally right. It's disturbing and it's never really addressed.

By the way, david_b, I share your admiration for the "Measure of a Man" episode of TNG. It is truly one of the best of that series. There was a really good episode of Voyager, called "Latent Image" which sort of explores similar territory, in that part of it is a discussion of the morality of erasing some of the Doctor's memories to keep him from experiencing guilt over a medical decision he made.

William Preston said...

I'm sure Lucas didn't put any thought into the droids. They exist, in their initial conception, solely to mirror the two put-upon wanderers who guide us through Kurosawa's Hidden Fortress. After all, he didn't even put thought into the name. It's a shortening of "androids," but there's nothing "andro" about, say, R2D2.

And Karen: Thanks for the review on Amazon!

Anonymous said...

Lurker here....

When I thought about this topic I was reminded of Hal from 2001. That seemed like an acceptable , if not horrific, likely possibility.
When I thought about the emotional aspect of artificial intelligence ... Only one character almost seemed to squeak to me....Marvin , the Paranoid Android from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Limitless access to unlimited knowledge burdened by emotion.... And depression.

Anonymous said...

Lurker again....

I'm hoping the Vision is a story that is not yet finished.
The Avengers represent the Alpha and Omega of my comic reading ( yes I stopped) and Vision was always the one character only attributed to the Avengers.
I didn't mind that he was killed. It was just the manner in which Bendis did it. Only for impact.

Karen said...

William -I'm sure you're right, the Star Wars stuff is after all space opera and it doesn't hold up to a lot of scrutiny. But then Lucas tried to get very serious and political in the second go-round of movies. Yet we still have all these sentient creatures that are basically slaves. Perhaps I just think too much about it.

It was my pleasure to write up a review for your books on Amazon.I really did enjoy them, and I hope you'll keep us posted about any new works. At some point, I'd like to email you and ask you what your experience has been like using the Amazon publishing system -I've considered doing it myself and I'm curious about the pros and cons.

William Preston said...

Karen, you haven't even commented on the horror foisted on poor Yoda. Initially ambulatory and even able to engage in Jedi-fu, he's reduced in later years to not only using a cane, but having to rely on a human arm shoved up his Yo-ho-hole in order to even get around! Truly, the Star Wars universe is a dark place.

PS: I had planned to e-mail you my thanks, but couldn't locate an address. I'm at wmpreston (at) gmail (dot) com whenever you feel like contacting me. As for new works, Asimov's SF just bought another story of mine (not in the Old Man universe). I tend to make people aware of upcoming stories via my blog.

Cheers, and thanks again,


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