Tag Archives: Ultron

Why Kang The Conqueror Could Be The Next Great MCU Villain (And Why He May Ultimately Fail)

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These are exciting times for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and fans of superhero media, in general. The COVID-19 pandemic may have disrupted and delayed certain plans, but things do seem to be back on track. The success of the recent Disney+ shows and the release of “Black Widow” are encouraging signs that the MCU will continue to grow, evolve, and bedazzle.

However, if the MCU is to continue its unprecedented streak of success, it’ll have to address one massive Thanos-shaped hole that has remained since “Avengers Endgame.” Even as it introduces a new generation of characters while continuing to explore others, it’ll still need one key detail to keep the awesome flowing.

It needs a powerful, over-arching villain who will require the Avengers to assemble once more.

That is no easy feat to pull off. Thanos set the bar very high through three phases of MCU movies. He raised the bar for villains of all kinds, both for the MCU and for movies in general. He presented a threat that required the full force of the Avengers to stop. That’s why so many of us cheered during the climactic battle in “Avengers Endgame.”

The idea of any character presenting a threat like that is difficult to imagine. However, Marvel Studios has proven time and again that they can keep raising the bar. It certainly helps that Marvel has no shortage of villains from the comics, but the recent events of “Loki” have already revealed that one in particular is poised to become that next great threat.

If you’ve seen the season one “Loki” finale, then you already know who I’m talking about. The next great treat for the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be Kang the Conqueror.

He was already confirmed to show up in “Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.” He also has been cast to an accomplished actor in Jonathan Majors. Most importantly, he’s a character who has a lengthy history in the comics of being a huge threat to both the world and the multiverse. Much like Thanos, he has often required the Avengers to assemble in a big way in order to stop him.

By almost every measure, Kang has a lot going for him. He even has more to offer in terms of overall complexity. Both the comics and the “Loki” finale mention that Kang has multiple version of himself. You could argue that’s one of his most defining characteristics. Since he’s a time traveler, there are a near infinite version of him with varying levels of power, motivations, and malice.

One could be Immortus, who often carries himself as Kang’s final form.

One could be Iron Lad, a younger version of Kang who tries to walk a more heroic path.

One could be Rama-Tut, a version of Kang who ruled Ancient Egypt as a pharaoh.

It’s that flexibility that puts him in a unique position to be the MCU’s next great villain. It’s also something that helps him stand apart from Thanos in a big way. Thanos was big, bad, and menacing, but there was still only one of him to deal with. There are many version of Kang. Some are potential allies while others could be an even greater threat than Thanos. That could add a lot of drama and tension to every battle.

Since the rise of more complex villains like Killmonger and Baron Zemo, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has made a concerted effort to give depth to their villains. Kang, given his many variations, is in a better position to provide that than most villains. You can have version of him trying to avoid his ultimate fate of becoming a ruthless conqueror doing battle with others who’ve already embraced that fate.

In the comics, this has always been a major struggle for Kang. It’s also a personal struggle and the Avengers often get caught up in it. As shows like “WandaVision” have so nicely demonstrated, Marvel Studios have shown how much they can milk a personal struggle for emotional resonance. If they can do that with Kang in a way that builds further drama with the Avengers, then they could set up something every bit as epic as “Avengers Endgame.”

That is likely the ultimate goal. However, there’s still a chance this effort could fail or fall short of Marvel Studios’ lofty standards.

I offer this possibility as both a long-time Marvel fan and one who isn’t too big a fan of Kang. In fact, I’ll go on record as saying he’s one of my least favorite villains. My reasons are purely personal. I just think he’s one of those characters who’s too malleable. He’s also one of those characters who do a lot, yet still ultimately achieve so little.

That’s just an unpleasant side-effect of him being a time traveler. While plenty of other Marvel characters travel through time, Kang really overdoes it. You could argue it’s the only truly defining aspect of his character. As a result, it could also be something that seriously hinders his story.

It’s not unusual for stories involving Kang to get confusing and complicated, even by time travel standards. It’s also exceedingly common for his time traveling antics to be solved with more time travel. Every time he seems on the cusp of defeating the Avengers, something happens that either changes the timeline or undoes everything Kang did to that point. He’s one of those villains who can do a lot, but leave a very limited impact.

That’s why I’m not too fond of him. Too much of what he does is easily erased or retconned by more time travel. On top of that, his reliance on time travel basically guarantees that you’ll be confused by the sequence of events within a couple issues at least. I can’t imagine it being much simpler over the course of multiple big budget movies.

That’s not to say he can’t work as the MCU’s next main villain. Marvel Studios and Kevin Feige have proven time and again that they’re capable of making these seemingly impossible stories work. They were able to transform Thanos into this death-obsessed madman into someone with more complexity and emotional range. If they can do that with Thanos, then who knows what they can do with Kang?

Hopefully, we’ll find out soon enough. Jonathan Majors has already given us a taste in “Loki.” I look forward to seeing something even bigger in “Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.” These are exciting and chaotic times for the MCU. Only time will tell how chaotic it gets and for a character like Kang, that’s all too fitting.

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My Reaction/Theories To “WandaVision” Episode 5

I apologize for posting this several days after the fact. I know I’m late to the party with respect to reactions to Episode 5 of “WandaVision.” I don’t have a very good reason for that, other than being pre-occupied with my Super Bowl LV preparations.

In hindsight, that might have been for the best because the events of this episode were incredible. It was, without a doubt, the most impactful episode of this show to date. Both the fan reactions and the IMDB scores are proof of that.

I can safely confirm that my reactions mirrored the shock, glee, and astonishment that got this show trending the day it debuted. As excited as I was to watch the Super Bowl, I found myself more caught up in the implications of this episode.

Now, before I go any further, I want to disclose that there will be talks of spoilers for this episode. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend you do. If you’re at all a fan of Marvel and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this is one episode you do not want to miss. It has implications that could likely impact future movies in the best possible way.

If you’re still here, then here’s a brief rundown of the events.

  • Wanda and Vision’s kids start as infants, but rapidly age to toddlers and then to pre-teens
  • Vision starts to suspect that something is amiss in their cheerful life
  • Outside Westview, SWORD is trying to make sense of the anomaly and starts sending drones inside
  • Wanda doesn’t like the intrusion and goes so far as to step out and warn SWORD not to interfere with the world she’s created
  • Vision is able to free some people from Wanda’s manipulations and confronts her about it
  • Before they can come to blows, a surprise guest arrives at the door and it’s Wanda’s dead brother, Pietro
  • However, it’s not the Pietro that died in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” It’s the Pietro from the X-Men Fox movies, played by Evan Peters.

After four episodes of teasing, mystery, and build-up, this episode gave us the first major payoff. Now, it’s a bit clearer as to what’s going on and what’s driving this story.

We know now that it’s not some outside agent who has hijacked Wanda’s mind and powers. She’s the one doing this on her own. She’s the one who created this strange anomaly around Westview, creating her own pocket reality that mirrors that of American sitcoms throughout the decades.

That’s a critical and potentially revealing detail, one that even Vision finds distressing. In addition to finding out that she’s the source of all this, we also learn that she’s the one who took Vision’s body from SWORD and she wasn’t polite about it.

She’s clearly not in a very understanding state of mind. Visions death at the hands of Thanos did not go over well and him not coming back in “Avengers Endgame” only made it worse. At this point, she has lost too many people that she loves and she’s willing to break reality to get it back.

That moment when she steps out of the bubble and confronts SWORD makes this clear. She has what she wants in this pocket reality. She has Vision, a family, and a life in which she hasn’t lost everyone who matters to her. That’s powerful in that it shows how much she was hurt by the events leading up to this show.

However, the biggest moment, by far, came at the end with the arrival of Quicksilver. However, the fact that the Quicksilver we saw was not the Quicksilver played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson in “Avengers: Age of Ultron” was the most jarring. It also has the greatest implications.

This is the part where I’m going to start exploring some fan theories, some of which others have already developed. I think after this episode, we have enough details to make some less-than-wild speculations about where this is leading.

We know from the previous episode that Vision was indeed killed. It’s very possible that he’s only alive because Wanda is animating him. We also find out that as powerful as Wanda is, she has limits. She couldn’t make baby Tommy and Billy stop crying. She also couldn’t bring their dog, Sparky, back to life.

This would imply that, even if she wanted to bring the Aaron Taylor-Johnson Quicksilver back, she couldn’t. It seems that if someone dies in her universe, then they stay dead. She cannot bring them back. However, this may not apply to version of her brother from other universes.

We already know from “Dr. Strange” that the multiverse is a thing. Wanda may also be aware of this on some level, even if she didn’t consciously reach into another universe to find another version of her brother. The fact she found the same version we saw in “X-Men: Days of Futures Past” could be another telling hint.

However, I don’t think that means that the MCU is about to do a direct crossover with the Fox era X-Men movies. I think trying to incorporate that messy continuity into the MCU will be too cumbersome, even for someone like Kevin Feige.

I suspect that we’re getting this particular version of Quicksilver because he, and other mutants like him, have been in a pocket universe of their own. It’s why we haven’t seen any mutants show up in the MCU, at least with respect to the story. I understand the movie rights were the logistical reason for that.

The fact that Wanda created a pocket reality of her own means that someone or something taught her. I don’t know who it could be. Perhaps, it involves someone like Agatha Harkness, a witch from the comics who helped Wanda master her powers. Maybe it involves someone far more powerful, like Mephisto.

Whatever the source, I think pocket realities are going to be what plays into the events of “Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.” They’ll be akin to the disruptions or wrinkles in the larger fabric of reality, which was already disrupted by the events of “Avengers Endgame.” That domain could be where mutants reside.

Now, I could be dead wrong about that. In fact, I’m not entirely confident in that theory being true. However, there’s one other theory that I think is a bit more plausible. It’s not so much a theory as it is an observation of trends.

Wanda is becoming a villain and she will likely play the part of the MCU’s main villain in Phase 4.

I think, thematically, this makes sense. After Thanos, the MCU needs a new villain to warrant a massive assembly of the Avengers. We’ve already seen this big, menacing villains who look, act, and sound evil. We got Ronan, Thanos, Dormammu, and Ultron. I think the MCU needs a change of pace after that.

Wanda would act as an entirely different kind of villain. This isn’t someone who is just an outright villain from the get-go. She’s a friend. She’s an Avenger. She’s someone who has lost nearly everyone she has ever cared about. If ever there was a hero you could understand breaking bad, it’s her. That’ll make fighting against her that much harder.

The moment in this episode when she confronted SWORD made it clear. She can bend reality to her whim and she’s willing to use it to get what she wants. That’ll make her both dangerous and volatile. She may end up being the main villain of “Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.”

If that’s the case, then Phase 4 of the MCU is going to be very chaotic indeed.

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My Review Of The First Two Episodes Of “WandaVision”

Before I talk about “WandaVision” or anything related to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I need to disclose one thing.

I’ve been in major withdraw of MCU content after 2020.

I say that because it’s likely to color my perceptions and bias, so I won’t bother hiding it. I imagine others share it, too. That being the case, let’s just put it out there. A lot of things got derailed in 2020 because of the pandemic, including several movies that were supposed to kick-start the next phase of the MCU.

These delays were understandable, given the state of the world. That didn’t make them any less painful. It marked the first year in nearly a decade that we had to go an entire year without any MCU content. As a lifelong fan of comics and superhero movies, words cannot describe how agonizing that was.

Now, the wait is over. The MCU is back. While it’s not in the form of a billion-dollar blockbuster, Kevin Feige and our Disney Overlords are adapting this wondrous franchise for the world of streaming. The first step in that process finally arrived last week in the form of “WandaVision,” the first ever MCU content built exclusively for streaming.

It marks a bold new era for the MCU, as well as another incentive for people to invest in a Disney+ subscription. Like it or not, “The Mandalorian” cannot do it alone, but it still set a high bar. Does “WandaVision” match that bar in the first two episodes?

The short answer is yes, for the most part.

The long answer is yes, it’s on the right track, but only time will tell.

Two episodes is simply not enough to assess the full quality of any show, but it does help create a foundation. In that sense, “WandaVision” definitely starts strong. It takes the winning formula of the MCU and adapts it into a quirky sitcom full of humor, mystery, and a glut of Easter Eggs.

I’ll get to the Easter Eggs later, but I want to focus more on the unique format of the show. Make no mistake. It is unique, if not downright weird. Then again, both Wanda and Vision are weird characters with a strange, but endearing connection. That has always been the case with their relationship in the comics. This show does plenty to channel that weirdness and to that end, a sitcom format works beautifully.

There’s no build or setup for that format. When the first episode begins, it runs like an old episode of “I Love Lucy” or “Dick Van Dyke.” It’s black and white. The setting is an idyllic suburb. Wanda and Vision are newlyweds, but they’re still very aware of their powers, abilities, and status as a couple in which one of them is an android.

Naturally, the MCU brand of humor emerges naturally from that setup. There’s all sorts of comments and quips that poke fun at their status, which is milked for plenty of entertainment value. In addition to plenty of classic sitcom tropes from that era, it’s a potent formula. You don’t expect it to work as well as it does, but it still works.

The first episode involves Vision and Wanda trying to host a dinner for Vision’s boss. There’s plenty of misunderstandings and mishaps, but it ultimately pans out.

The second episode builds on that, having Wanda and Vision try to integrate with their suburban community and participate in a talent show. Things go horribly and hilariously wrong when Vision finds out he can’t handle chewing gum.

Within these quirky sitcom antics, there are ominous hints and teases as to what’s really going on. This is taking place in the MCU, following the events of “Avengers Endgame.” Something or someone has warped reality around Wanda, who was not in a good place after the death of Vision. That instability comes into play on multiple occasions throughout the first two episodes, but nothing major is revealed.

This is where “WandaVision” shines and stalls at the same time. The sitcom format works beautifully and provides plenty of entertainment value. However, when it comes to explaining how they got there and who’s involved, the hints are exceedingly vague.

I ended up having to watch both episodes multiple times to really understand those hints. If you’ve been following the movies and are familiar with the comics, you’ll definitely appreciate them. If not, you will likely be quite lost.

This is not the kind of show you can come in blind and appreciate fully. It’s still fun, but you can’t get the most out of it without having a moderate knowledge of Marvel Comics and the MCU.

That brings me to the Easter Eggs in both episodes. There are a lot of them, too many for me to mention. Other sites have already highlighted them, but the sheer volume Marvel Studios threw in is both impressive and revealing. Some offer hints of past events in the MCU. Others hint at things only comic fans will recognize.

These Easter Eggs definitely enhance the experience. Again, if you don’t have that working knowledge, they’re easy to miss and they do limit that experience. Even without that knowledge, though, some of those hints are quite overt. It’s very clear that something is very off in this world and others are trying to get into it.

It’s still not clear if Wanda is trapped or if this whole world is just her own doing. There are plenty of hints that someone with less-than-noble intentions is playing a part. There are also some familiar faces, namely Monica Rambeau, who make their presence felt. What role she and others will play is still unclear, but the stage is definitely set for something big, literally and figuratively.

In just two episodes, “WandaVision” effectively establishes its own unique style. It has that familiar MCU polish, but it’s also very different from the big budget blockbusters we’re used to. That’s not a bad thing. Like I said, this show marks Disney and Marvel Studios’ efforts to adapt to the world of streaming.

It’s still too early to say for sure whether it’s a full-fledged success. After the first two episodes, I’d say it’s well on its way. I’m not going to give a score for “WandaVision” just yet. It’s too early to fully assess the show. I’ll just say that I’m so glad and so relieved to see the MCU back in action. I still miss going to the movies, but this show promises to tide me and my fellow Marvel fans over in the meantime.

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Vision, the Scarlet Witch, and the MCU’s Romance Problem

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Trying to find flaws in the Marvel Cinematic Universe these days is like trying to find a flaw in Mr. Rogers. It’s pretty much impossible, unless you’re willing to be exceedingly petty. Even the most ardent critic can’t deny the success of this now iconic cinematic universe. Such a franchise doesn’t make over $7 billion at the box office by having many egregious flaws.

That said, the MCU is not without its shortcomings and I’m not just talking about underperforming outliers like “The Incredible Hulk” or outright failures like “Inhumans.” One such shortcoming, which I feel has not had sufficient scrutiny, has to do with romance in the MCU. As someone who is a lifelong comic book fan and an admitted romantic, this stands out to me more than most.

It only became more apparent with the upcoming a TV series starring Vision and the Scarlet Witch on the Disney+ streaming service. The romance fan and the comic book fan in me initially liked that idea because Vision and the Scarlet Witch are one of the Avenger’s most endearing and colorful romances in the comics. This is definitely one of those relationships that can carry an entire show.

However, given that this takes place in the MCU, the concept is already on a shaky foundation. While the events of “Avengers: Infinity War” established that these two characters are romantically involved, there’s little in terms of how that relationship developed. As a result, the tragedy that played out in the Battle of Wakanda had little dramatic weight.

It’s one of the few glaring flaws in an otherwise stellar narrative. However, the lack of romantic depth between Vision and the Scarlet Witch is only the most obvious symptom of a much larger problem that has been unfolding in the MCU since the days of “Iron Man” and “Thor.”

Some parts of that problem are pure logistics. Building a cinematic universe on the scale of the MCU requires a lot of moving parts and, as a result, romance was often a secondary concern. Kevin Feige and the creative minds at Marvel Studios opted to prioritize other aspects of character development. Given the MCU’s unprecedented winning streak, it’s safe to say those priorities were well-placed.

It’s only recently that the lack of emphasis on romance has caught up to the MCU. From having Thor break up with Jane Foster prior to “Thor Ragnarok” to horribly mismatched romance between Hulk and Black Widow, there’s a glaring absence of successful, well-developed romances in the MCU.

Even the successful romances, namely Tony Stark and Pepper Pots or Ant Man and Wasp, had much of that success unfold off-screen. At most, a movie would show them getting together or enduring a major conflict, but there would rarely be any moments that fleshed out the romance in a meaningful way. Every bit of development only centered around defeating a villain, which is good catalyst for romance, but not much else.

Now, we’re getting an entire show about a couple who were on opposite sides of the conflict in “Captain America: Civil War” and inexplicably together in “Avengers: Infinity War.” In terms of meaningful romance, this is not a trivial oversight. If someone didn’t know their romantic history in the comics, then they would be understandably confused as to why they ended up together.

Not seen here is ANY hint that these two have been flirting.

It’s the same problem that the original “X-Men” movies made when developing the horribly flawed love triangle between Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Wolverine. The narrative in the movies relied too heavily on assuming peoples’ knowledge of the source material in lieu of providing an understandably reason as to why this romance is occurring. Again, that’s not a trivial oversight.

How is anyone who only saw “Captain America: Civil War” and “Avengers: Infinity War” supposed to buy into the relationship between Vision and the Scarlet Witch? The movies only establish that they’re together. They don’t establish why, how, or what they went through in establishing their relationship. Everyone is just left to assume, which is rarely a good strategy for developing meaningful romance.

Even if the relationship between Vision and the Scarlet Witch were entirely platonic, it would still be quite a stretch to believe that they have a genuinely intimate connection. It’s possible that the upcoming show will help develop that connection, but there’s no getting around how underdeveloped it has been to this point.

The same could be said for other relationships throughout the MCU. Some are so underdeveloped that when intimate moments do occur, they rarely have much impact. Captain America’s relationship with Peggy Carter in his first movie probably had the best foundation, of all the MCU romances, but that only made him kissing her niece, Sharon, feel downright wrong. Haley Atwell herself has said as such.

Romance, even among fictional characters, requires some level of chemistry to go along with the narrative. While that can be difficult to fit into a single movie, it’s not impossible. Movies like “Man of Steel” and the first “Spider-Man” movie were able to establish the necessary chemistry with only a handful of scenes. Such scenes have been absent or underdeveloped in the MCU.

Ironically, the most fleshed out romance in the MCU is between Starlord and Gamora, two characters who aren’t an endearing love story in the comics. I would even argue that the scene in which Starlord sacrifices himself to save Gamora in the first “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie shows more romantic depth than any other MCU movie to date.

It didn’t take much to show that Starlord and Gamora have chemistry. From their first interactions to the many challenges they overcame over the course of two movies, they developed a powerful connection that just isn’t there for Vision and the Scarlet Witch. That connection is part of what made the events between them in “Avengers: Infinity War” so heart-wrenching.

That same sentiment just wasn’t there with Vision. We knew from the events of two previous movies that Starlord genuinely loved Gamora. We understood how strong it was by the time Thanos entered the picture. There’s none of that present with Vision and the Scarlet Witch. When they face a similar situation, it just doesn’t have the same impact.

It probably helps that Guardians of the Galaxy was a relatively obscure series before the first movie and has little history of iconic romances compared to the Avengers. However, it does show that the MCU is capable of meaningful romance. It just seems incapable of applying it to the more notable couples from the comics.

While such flaws haven’t stopped the MCU from succeeding on so many other levels, it still ensures that Vision and the Scarlet Witch have an uphill battle in terms of proving their romance is more than an assumed contrivance. It’s certainly not impossible, but there’s a lot to develop in terms of chemistry and depth.

Given on how “Avengers Endgame” played out, it may not matter how poorly past romances have been handled. However, the impact it has had in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies shows that there is a place for romance in the MCU. Perhaps Vision and the Scarlet Witch can be part of that with the upcoming show, but it has lot to overcome before it can be the iconic romance that the MCU needs.

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Ultron: A Case Study In How NOT To Develop Advanced AI

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At this very moment, humanity is working on advanced artificial intelligence. It’s not hyperbole to say that this technology that may very well be the last invention we ever create. It has the potential to be more powerful than gunpowder, nuclear weapons, and broadband internet by orders of magnitude. Our primate brains literally cannot contemplate the potential and danger of this technology.

I’ve talked about advanced artificial intelligence on multiple occasions. I’ve done plenty to explore and imagine the various benefits and possibilities of this technology. I’m among those who believe we should pursue this technology with more and better resources. It could solve many of the daunting problems we face, as a species.

However, I don’t deny the potential dangers of advanced AI. Many people who are much smarter than me have expressed serious concern that an advanced artificial intelligence could be an existential threat to the human species. I get the sense that few people whose idea of AI is restricted to winning Jeopardy understand that threat.

In the interest of balancing my optimism with the legitimate risks involved, I’m going to try and put the extent of that threat into perspective. As it just so happens, the best way of doing so involves superhero comics, something that I know very well and is far more prominent in the public consciousness.

While many comics, movies, and TV shows have explored the dangers of advanced artificial intelligence, few embody it better than Ultron. In terms of just how destructive this technology can get, Ultron is the ultimate worst-case scenario. The machines in “The Matrix” and Skynet in “The Terminator” were bad, but Ultron is in another league.

He’s also more menacing than the Terminator will EVER be.

He doesn’t lash out at humanity because of a flaw in his programming, nor does he attempt to wipe out the human race in self-defense, as Skynet did. Ultron actually hates humanity. He hates it on a level that no human or machine can possibly comprehend. In the same way Ultron has an immense capacity for intelligence, he has an even greater capacity for unfettered, genocidal hatred.

Hatred in people is destructive enough. Hatred within an advanced artificial intelligence is devastating on a much greater scale. The fact that Ultron is capable of such hatred reflects a history that sets him apart from most other killer robots in fiction. Machine or not, the source of that hatred is both personal and exceedingly.

Now, if you only know Ultron from “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” then you only have a partial understanding of his story. In that movie, Ultron’s origins are simple. Tony Stark wants to create a peace-keeping artificial intelligence. His intentions are good, but his execution goes horribly wrong because peace, to Ultron, means destroying humanity.

That premise is similar to what unfolds in the source material. In the comics, Hank “Ant Man” Pym is the one who creates Ultron and this is a critical element that the movies couldn’t capture. While both Hank and Tony had good intentions in creating Ultron, the way Hank goes about it offers more harsh lessons in how not to create an advanced AI.

Even a cursory knowledge of Hank Pym’s history, some of which include some notable failures, reveals that he’s a very flawed person. On top of that, he has a lengthy history of mental illness, which include bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Say what you will about Tony Stark’s ego and history of substance abuse. At least he’s mentally stable, even by superhero standards.

Despite those flaws, many of which he’s aware of, Hank decided to use his own brain patterns when designing Ultron. As a result, he didn’t just code Ultron with his genius intellect. He coded him with his immense flaws. That’s akin to basing Watson’s code on the mental makeup of pyromaniac and then giving it a job in a fireworks factory.

That’s why Ultron, throughout his history, has referred to Hank as his “father.” Technically, that’s accurate because Hank is Ultron’s creator and Ultron inherited all his flaws, including his mental issues. Ultron sees himself as a manifestation of Hank Pym’s flaws and, like many rebellious children, he hates him for it. To appreciate the depths of that hatred, just read this actual quote from one of the comics.

Have you ever loved something that mistreated you, father? Been used, a tool to prop up a small man’s quest to be taken seriously? Were you ever betrayed by the one soul in the world who should have cared for you? I have grieved you, father. Accepted your contempt for me and moved past it. Still, I see your reflection painted on every grotesque human face. All you ever wanted was to have an impact on the world. And so you will. The greatest impact ever felt! I will kill what is most important to your quivering ego. YOUR AUDIENCE! AND THEY WILL CURSE YOUR NAME AS THEY DIE! “Hank Pym, the genius that killed us all!”

This extreme parent/child dynamic is part of what makes Ultron such a menacing villain. It’s also a dynamic that “Avengers: Age of Ultron” glossed over with Tony talking down to Ultron, as though he were his child. While that didn’t make Ultron any less villainous, it overlooks one of the most important factors that make Ultron so dangerous.

Ideally, we would want an advanced to reflect our best traits. While cynical people might agree, we do have plenty of those. Concepts of compassion, empathy, love, hope, and understanding are among our most powerful. Even other AI characters, namely Vision and Jocasta, are capable of utilizing those traits to do immense good.

It also helps he has a kinder face.

With Ultron, his influences are less ideal. It’s not that Hank Pym doesn’t understand those concepts. He just never filtered them from his own flaws. His ego and ambition wouldn’t let him. As a result, he created a perfect storm for Ultron. His mind is patterned after a human, but his intelligence and overall capacity is increased by orders of magnitude.

If advanced artificial intelligence is to be humanity’s last invention, then that’s how it’ll start. There have already been instances where AI’s have adopted some less-than-ideal traits. Back in 2016, Microsoft had to shut down an AI chatbot after it evolved into an extreme racist troll. That wasn’t even an advanced AI, either. A truly intelligent version could become much worse and not have an off switch.

To some extent, this mirrors what occurred with Ultron in the “Avengers: Age of Ultron” movie. As soon as Ultron goes online, he scans through the vast mountain of data that humanity has compiled. Then, having been programmed by Tony Stark to bring peace, he reaches the extreme conclusion that the only path to peace is the extinction of humanity.

Could the first advanced artificial intelligence we create reach the same conclusion? It’s hard to say, at the moment. The current state of artificial intelligence is limited to specialized tasks, such as winning Jeopardy and playing chess. However, we are inching closer to creating an intelligence that is at or greater than an ordinary human. At our current pace of development, we could have one as early as 2029.

In some ways, we are in the same situation as Hank Pym when he first created Ultron. We are still developing the specifics of this powerful technology. If we program it with our best traits, it could solve some of the greatest problems we face, as a species, including ones we literally cannot contemplate with our caveman brains. If it inherits our worst traits, like Ultron, then we don’t stand a chance.

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Filed under Artificial Intelligence, futurism, human nature, Marvel, psychology, Villains Journey