The Law Is A Ass #310: Avengers A.I.: Where Intelligence Really Is Artificial
So let me get this straight, in order to defeat the villain, the Avengers made a worse villain?
That first villain, Ultron, the living automaton with artificial intelligence and massive daddy issues about its creator Henry Pym, had made things pretty bad in the [[[Age of Ultron]]] mini-series. “Pretty bad” being a euphemism conquering the world, destroying major cities, killing people, and generally not playing well with others. In order to undo the Age of Ultron, Invisible Woman and Wolverine went into the past and visited Henry Pym before he built the first Ultron. They told Dr. Pym that Ultron would destroy the world in the future but also told him he still had to build Ultron so that the time line would stay the same until just before Ultron started the Age of Ultron. So Pym built Ultron, but put a kill switch into Ultron’s A.I. so that Ultron could be defeated at the right time in the future.
Cut to years later and the right time in the future: Invisible Woman visited Dr. Pym again. She showed Dr. Pym, whose memory of the earlier visit had been wiped, a video about Ultron which included instructions on how to activate the kill switch. This occurred just before the events of The Avengers v.4, # 12.1, where, you may recall, the Avengers rescued Spider-Woman from super-villain team the Intelligencia but inadvertently reactivated Ultron. (You may recall it. I had to look it up.)
Because he had been warned, Dr. Pym could change what happened after the Avengers reactivated Ultron. This time Ultron didn’t get away. Instead Pym had Iron Man upload the kill switch activation codes into Ultron. Then, after Ultron shut down, Pym used a computer virus to destroy Ultron. And they all lived happily ever after, no?
Somehow the computer virus used to destroy Ultron evolved into another artificial intelligence program; the aforementioned worse villain that called itself Dimitrios. (Don’t ask how a computer virus evolved into a disembodied A.I. program. No, seriously, don’t ask. Because I have no frakkin’ idea.) Dimitrios hated humanity and tried to destroy humans by using its ability to control and manipulate electronics to launch all sorts of cyber attacks. (Yeah, you probably shouldn’t ask how a computer virus developed the ability to control and manipulate electronics, either.)
To fight Dimitrios, S.H.I.E.L.D. formed the Avengers A.I., a team of robotic superiority-heroes – The Vision, Victor Mancha, and a Doombot – under the command of Dr. Pym and Monica Chang, the head of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s A.I. division. But the Avengers A.I. isn’t the only huge gun in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s small holster. (Seriously, how did Nick Fury get those massive Jim Steranko guns into his little holsters?) According to Avengers A.I. # 6, S.H.I.E.L.D. also got Congress to enact Doctrine 47, “a legal framework for classifying A.I. as ‘intellectual property.’ Thus granting unlimited powers of search and seizure over hostile artificial intelligences… a.k.a. kidnaping and deactivation.” Did you get that? Good. Because I sure as hell didn’t. Seriously, Doctrine 47 makes no frelling sense.
Let’s start with the concept that Doctrine 47 classified artificial intelligence as intellectual property. Why would it do this? That would be like passing a law that classified water as wet.
Intellectual property – or I.P as those of us who can stop sniggering long enough call it – is the branch of law governing ownership rights of people who create music, art, literary works, and the like. It’s not property that happens to be intellectual, like an artificial intelligence program, it’s property that was created in the mind.
Intellectual property is just a type of property and its creators own it. They get to control the copyrights, trademarks, patents, and other rights pertaining to their intellectual creations. The column you’re reading is my intellectual property. I control it and granted ComicMix a license to publish it, but it can do so only with my permission.
Now what exactly is artificial intelligence?
Or, it’s a computer program designed to emulate the human ability to think and adapt. It’s an attempt to build machines that think like humans. And what exactly is a computer program? It’s series of 1s and 0s that a person or persons have written so that it can get a machine to perform a desired task.
See where we’re headed? Artificial intelligence is a computer program. A computer program is something someone created with his or her mind. Doctrine 47 didn’t need to classify A.I. as intellectual property; A.I. already was intellectual property. Don’t think a computer program is intellectual property? Try selling an operating system called Windows and see how long it takes for Microsoft to come down hard.
Star Trek: The Next Generation had an episode called “The Measure of a Man” in which a tribunal declared the android Data to be a sentient being. I don’t recall any story where the same happened for the Vision or any other A.I. character in the Marvel Universe. If there had been, then a law declaring A.I. to be intellectual property would make sense. Without that story, Doctrine 47’s first accomplishment was an unnecessary redundancy.
The second accomplishment of Doctrine 47 was granting the government the authority to kidnap and deactivate A.I.s. Anyone want to tell me how they accomplished this bit of legerdemain?
First, you don’t “kidnap” property. You kidnap people. You steal property. Or, if you’re the government, you seize it. You’ve heard of an airplane being hijacked or a car being stolen. You’ve never heard of either being kidnaped.
Second, and more important, under what authority does the government get to “kidnap and deactivate” A.I.? See, if A.I. is intellectual property – which it is and always was – then it’s someone’s property. Someone who, under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, has the right not to have his or her property seized by the government; even under Doctrine 47. Somehow S.H.I.E.L.D. got Congress to turn its completely unconstitutional doctrine into an unconstitutional law. See what did I tell you about Congress’s intelligence?
Doctrine 47 shouldn’t have declared A.I. to be intellectual property, it should have declared it to be contraband. Contraband is not a musical act made up of old Nicaraguan rebels. It’s something the possession of which is against the law, like drugs or counterfeit money or twerking instructions. (Well, it should be illegal to own that last one.) If A.I. were contraband, then possessing it would be against the law and the government could be seize it from its owner just like it can seize illegal drugs or funny money.
Think we should send Invisible Woman and Wolverine back into the past to correct this little mistake and have Doctrine 47 actually do something worthwhile? Yeah, I guess not. Like that computer virus, it would probably evolve into even worse. Like another [[[Twilight]]] novel.