Movie review: Ultron – not the new Terminator after all

Movie review: Ultron – not the new Terminator after all

Film number two in Marvel's Avengers series is every bit as loud and brash as the first outing, and the crashing about is nicely offset by the customary slices of dry wit, mainly from Robert Downey Jr's Iron Man. Director Joss Whedon demonstrates again his mastery of timing and pace in epic movies, with audiences given time to breathe during brief diversions to the burgeoning love interest between Bruce Banner and the Black Widow, and vignettes of Hawkeye's implausibly forgiving family. The film is great fun (especially on an IMAX screen) and does pretty much everything that fans of superhero...

Ultron, the new Terminator?

Avengers, the Age of Ultron opens in the UK later this week, and in the US the week after. Apparently Hollywood can forecast a film's takings pretty well these days (thanks to clever AI algorithms, no doubt) and it seems the studio is quietly confident it's going to overturn box office records. It may also overturn something else: the unwritten law that every article about the future of artificial intelligence has to be accompanied by a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger, or the killer robot he played. The original Terminator movie was released in 1984, and 31 years is a great innings....

On killer robots

The Guardian's editorial of 14th April 2014 (Weapons systems are becoming autonomous entities. Human beings must take responsibility) argued that killer robots should always remain under human control, because robots can never be morally responsible. They kindly published my reply, which said that this may not be true if and when we create machines whose cognitive abilities match or exceed those of humans in every respect. Surveys indicate that around 50% of AI researchers think that could happen before 2050. But long before then we will face other dilemmas. If wars can be fought by robots, would that not be...

On boiling frogs

If you drop a frog into a pan of boiling water it will jump out. Frogs aren't stupid. But if a frog is sitting in a pan which is gradually heated it will become soporific and fail to notice when it boils to death at 100 degrees. This story has been told many times, not least by the leading management thinker, Charles Handy, in his best-selling book The Age of Unreason. Unfortunately, the story isn't true. It was put about by 19th-century experimenters, but has been refuted several times since. Never mind: it's a good metaphor, and metaphors aren't supposed...