Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Quickie: Aida's Morality (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)

I always seem to eventually come back to talking about robots and AIs. I guess it's just because I find them so fascinating. I am a Terminator fan so trying to decipher how those robots think is a good past time of mine.

With Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s latest season the topic of robots has come to the forefront of my mind. This part of the season revolves around LMDs (aka Life Model Decoys) which I knew would eventually start to kill humans.

As the 'leader' of the LMDs, Aida has proven to be a very interesting character. So is she good? Evil? How can you tell with a robot anyways?
Aida isn't Human

This point seems rather obvious but it needs to be discussed before I can go further. Because Aida looks and can sound human your first thought may to treat her as just another person. While I believe anything with consciousness deserves respect, a robot doesn't think the same way a human does.

You shouldn't harass or talk down to a robot, but you need to understand that they aren't one of us. How to speak and interact with one with a favorable outcome means you need to be aware of how one thinks.

Whenever I write a character I think of them as beings with a list of priorities. This makes characters like a robot easier to manage. You just have to boil everything down to the simplest statements to understand them.
Therefore when we look at Aida's actions we can't judge her as a human. This sounds unfair but to keep the most realistic judgement, we have to agree to this.

When I say this I don't mean to imply that she won't be a villain to our heroes, just that she's more complicated than pure evil or good.
The way Aida thinks is because of her programming. That and logic override everything else. Her programming will tell her what she is meant to do and then she will find the most logical way to fulfill her programming.

It has been discussed on the show about how robot programming and human minds are similar. The whole 'do robots have souls' debate also came up, of course. There is a point to be made that in our own human way, we have programming. Programming that is made through nature and nurture.
Our 'programming' is different from a robot's, though. The thing is that an LMD like Aida is much more logic based than we are.
Killing Holden Radcliffe

I figured Aida was going to kill Holden at some point. The creator being killed by his creation is a common thing to happen. Plus Holden was too self-assured about his own abilities that he was basically screaming out for this fate.

I'm going to miss the character as I really did enjoy seeing him every week.
Before Aida made the decision to kill Holden, they had a discussion. The LMD brought up that her programming instructions were in conflict with each other. The instructions were to both protect Holden's life above all others as well as protect the Framework. She fears that one day Holden will decide that the Framework is immoral and, therefore, want it taken down. Aida would then be extremely confused as she was supposed to protect the Framework. In the discussion she also mentions fear of being reprogrammed if Holden ever decided to get rid of the virtual world.

Holden's reply was his downfall. He thought Aida would never kill him and so he had nothing to worry about. But replying that the virtual world and the real world are the same to a human wasn't the thing to say to Aida and live.
Aida's decision to kill him can be compared to why HAL 9000 did what he did in 2001: A Space Odyssey. In 2010, the sequel to 2001, it was found out that HAL had two sets of programming that were in conflict with one another. His resolution was to kill everyone. Aida's decision is comparable to that since she resolved her paradox by killing Holden.

While I do think her decision to kill Holden was based on logic, I also believe that Aida held some resentment towards Holden. He never treated her as something that could think and feel. She can't think and feel like a human can, but she still has emotions. When Aida found out that she was based on a human Holden had loved, she was not happy. She even continues to wear that woman's necklace as if making sure she is constantly reminded that she is not 'unique'. Maybe she wore the necklace to remind herself that Holden is not to be trusted.

So while Aida's decision to kill Holden was done out of logic, she was probably more than happy to have an excuse to get rid of him.
Aida is not Outright Evil or Good

Aida can't be ruled out as truly good or evil. For her, following her programming is the way to succeed at life. Sort of like how one would follow a religion or their own personal regime.

This LMD will only feel good if her actions align with her programming. Unlike humans who can change their 'programming', Aida must do what she was designed for. She has no choice in the matter unless something drastic must be done.

Such as resolving a paradox. And even then she was still following her programming of protecting the Framework.
While we might see Aida's killing of Holden as a very callous and cruel act, this actually shows that she has a little good morality in her. Again, her programming is everything to her. It dictates her entire life.

In her mind having a paradox in her programming was something too horrible to imagine. So she needed to make sure it was resolved so she could continue functioning.

Aida making sure her programming continues to function properly is a sign that she has some 'good' morality. To a human it would be making sure you were keeping healthy. No one gets angry when you follow a doctor's order to get better.
Even though Aida is not a cold-blooded villain, she will be very dangerous. Just because she isn't pure evil doesn't mean she can live. She will need to be taken down as she is more than willing to discard human life when it's convenient to do so. Without Holden around to tell her no, she will be able to do whatever she wishes as long as it stays inside her programming.

What makes Aida more dangerous than her abilities is the fact that you won't be able to explain to her why what she's doing is wrong. She won't be able to view the world in the way our heroes would want her to.

No comments:

Post a Comment