Despite the fact that computers have done so much to enrich our daily lives, most of us still don’t entirely trust them. That probably has a lot to do with pop culture: dozens of films, books, and video games over the years have shown us that terrible things tend to happen to people who put too much trust in computers.
In this installment of VERSUS, we pit two of the least trustworthy computers of all time against one another. One is the iconic villain of Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic masterpiece “2001: A Space Odyssey.” The challenger is GLaDOS, the sadistic (yet loveable) antagonist of Valve’s popular “Portal” game series.
As seen in: “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “2010: The Year We Make Contact”
Created by: Sir Arthur C. Clarke
Voiced by: Douglas Rain
Origin story: Created by Dr. Chandra, HAL became operational at a plant in Illinois. HAL was an incredibly high-powered and respected computer system, but malfunctioned when he was installed on the American space vessel Discovery One, causing the death of four astronauts. The cause of HAL’s malfunction was simple: HAL could not reconcile his programming with orders he was given to conceal information from Discovery’s crew.
Notable strengths: Speech recognition, chess, aeronautics calculations. Oh, and lip-reading, much to the chagrin of Doctors Bowman and Poole.
Notable weaknesses: Unable to process contradictory orders without having a psychotic break. Lacks self-preservation drive, as demonstrated when HAL sacrifices himself in “2010.”
Creepiest quote: After Dave returns to the ship and HAL has killed the rest of the crew, HAL says the following in a calm, whispering, monotone voice: “Look Dave, I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over.” Is it possible to be a sociopath when you’re a computer?
As seen in: “Portal” and “Portal 2″
Created by: Jeremy Bennettt and Erik Wolpaw
Voiced by: Ellen McLain
Origin story: Designed by Aperture Science, GLaDOS is a personality construct that was originally conceived by Cave Johnson. After Cave’s death, his assistant Caroline was (almost certainly) forced to become part of the GLaDOS system. After Caroline was merged with the existing system, GLaDOS started to exhibit homicidal tendencies. Additional personality cores were added to the system to curb these violent outbursts, but with little success: GLaDOS eventually flooded the entire Aperture facility with neurotoxin.
Notable strengths: The neurotoxin is a pretty deadly weapon GLaDOS has at her disposal. Additionally, she controls rockets and turrets. None of these are as frightening as her sadistic remarks to Chell.
Notable weaknesses: With so many composite personalities, GLaDOS is incredibly unstable.
Creepiest quote: “Your entire life has been a mathematical error… a mathematical error I’m about to correct!”
How A Showdown Would Play Out
In “2001,” HAL is basically described as infallible. As HAL himself explains, “The 9000 series is the most reliable computer ever made. No 9000 computer has ever made a mistake or distorted information. We are all, by any practical definition of the words, foolproof and incapable of error.”
While HAL does eventually have a malfunction (quite the understated euphemism for killing four innocent people), HAL does definitely have a more logical approach to making his decisions, which gives him an edge over the irrational rages of GLaDOS. That being said, lies have a peculiar effect on HAL…and the cake is the biggest lie of all.
GLaDOS is, without question, far more antagonistic than HAL. She has an uncanny ability to unnerve humans, and a delicate program like HAL would probably feel very angered and hurt by her creatively cruel barbs.
But GLaDOS isn’t just more cruel than HAL…she’s also better equipped. While the neurotoxin wouldn’t damage HAL, the rockets definitely would. Unless HAL is given some firepower of his own, any confrontation between the two computers would end within a matter of moments.
Unless, of course, GLaDOS felt like drawing out HAL’s “death” for her own amusement. Can you imagine if HAL was forced to incinerate a companion cube of his own?
If HAL and GLaDOS were people, they would probably both be institutionalized after their very serious mental breakdowns. But while both systems are “crazy,” only one system is inherently violent.
While GLaDOS seems to take perverse pleasure in tormenting engineers and test subjects, HAL only killed people after being threatened with death (ie being disconnected.) In fact, HAL is perfectly willing to sacrifice himself to save human lives in “2010.” Bottom line: HAL just isn’t as bloodthirsty as GLaDOS, and that gives her the edge in any face-off between the two.
But if GLaDOS happened to have “brain tumor”/Intelligence Dampening Sphere Wheatley attached to her systems, she could find herself quite vulnerable indeed. Unless, of course, she found a way to make Wheatley dampen HAL’s intelligence.
The fact of the matter is that any human who crosses path with either HAL or GLaDOS has very little chance of surviving that encounter. But if the two systems go head to head, who will reign supreme?
If HAL and GLaDOS set out to destroy each other, GLaDOS would almost certainly prevail. She’s more creative in combat, and she does have a better set of weapons at her disposal. Plus, you know…portals.
Of course, there is another possible outcome…HAL and GLaDOS could join forces instead.
Dear God. The entire human race would go extinct if these two ever seized power.
Who do you think would win in a fight between HAL and GLaDOS? Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section below!