4 Sci-Fi Villains Who Could Actually Happen

Every story's gotta have a villain - preferably dressed in black with a deeply menacing voice and a nuke fixation - and sci-fi has produced some of the best villains of the lot.

With the endless possibilities that evil scientists, alien races and rogue AI have to offer science fiction writers, it's no wonder that they've managed to produce some of the most iconic baddies of the age.

As with a lot of good sci-fi, there are some villains out there with a frightening basis in reality. Surely one of the most unnerving thing about the likes of The Matrix is the possibility that we could very well be living in a virtual reality right now?

On the flip side, as with a lot of other good sci-fi, the villains are made up of a little bit of science fact and a whole load of magic fictional awesomeness. They might be wildly implausible, but that's part of what makes them entertaining. After all, life (and movies) would be boring if we only stuck to the realms of possible.

So, in today's installment of massively-overthinking-things-for-the-purposes-of-science, we discover which great science fiction villains are more fiction than science, and which are worryingly plausible.

Sci-Fi Villains That Are Actually Kinda Plausible...

4. Darth Vader - Star Wars


He's supposed to be "more man than machine" now, but is it true? More to the point, is it possible?

Vader is certainly down a few body parts. He lost his right arm to Count Dooku and had his left arm plus both legs cut off by Obi-Wan. As luck would have it, this isn't necessarily a death sentence as your more important parts are all safely snuggled away in your head and torso. Given that lightsabers would probably instantly cauterize a wound, he wouldn't even have the chance to bleed out before they found him.

With just a few advancements in our current mind controlled prosthetics and exoskeleton technology, yes, it would be possible to get Anakin back on his, er, feet. There's evidence to suggest that Vader's spinal cord is also synthetic which would perhaps make the integration even easier.

It's also probably not quite true that Vader is more machine than man. If we're talking about relative volume it's probably no more than 50/50 and more likely closer to a third, but we'll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume this was metaphorical.

Of course, one of the less-plausible aspects of Mr. Vader would probably be his larynx-crushing Force tendencies, but if you want a science-y perspective, then there are those who think that The Force could be something to do with the ability to manipulate the as-yet theoretical graviton. Perhaps thats what midichlorians do...

3. Terminator/Skynet - The Terminator

terminator uprising
TriStar Pictures

You know Skynet? Totally a thing.

According to a leak, the NSA actually use their own version of Skynet to monitor terrorist activity and, yes, they called it Skynet too.

Aside from a government in-joke, the possibility of autonomous deadly combat robots is becoming more and more plausible. The arguments for them are that they reduce military casualties on the battlefield by reducing the need to put real humans in combat zones. By giving them the ability to think for themselves, you even do away with the need to manually control them, and to ensure they have all of the necessary information to carry out their missions, you could always hook them up with your intelligent surveillance system. Skynet, for example.

As you can imagine, the arguments against autonomous deadly combat robots generally include how horrible all the death is. You also run into problems with programming a machine to make moral decisions about taking human life, as well as the obvious risk that they develop self-awareness and overthrow mankind.

2. Agent Smith - The Matrix

Agent Smith The Matrix
Warner Bros.

In The Matrix, Agent Smith is essentially a roving anti-virus program within the computer matrix, terminating bugs in the program that would destabilize it.

As it happens, there are actually a couple of real, proper scientists who suspect that we might actually be living in a simulated Matrix-like reality. They think that the seemingly universal nature of physical laws could be an indication that our reality has actually been programmed to run within certain parameters. They aim to find out whether this is the case by studying high-speed cosmic rays to attempt to peer into the grid or matrix beneath the simulation.

If this is indeed the case, then some think that it would be powered by something called a Matrioshka Brain - a supercomputer powered by a Dyson Sphere that would contain virtual uploads of human minds and be able to run immensely complex virtual reality simulations.

In the context of a simulation for conscious minds, it would make sense for the anti-virus to have an avatar within the program, so as not to ruin the illusion for those living within it.

1. HAL - 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001 A Space Odyssey Hal 9000

As we get ever closer to creating self-aware robots (no, seriously), HAL 9000 offers us a stark reminder to tread carefully.

The thing is about creating a consciousness inside a machine is that we don't know how it will react. We know how consciousness feels within a human brain, but that has been thousands of years in the making. The drawback of trying to recreate it artificially is that the process will inevitably be imperfect, resulting in a thinking machine that is prone to catastrophic malfunction.

In 2001: A Space Odyssey, HAL is understandably upset when he learns that the humans want to switch him off. According to HAL's creator, Arthur C. Clarke, "To Hal, this (is) the equivalent of death. For he (has) never slept, and therefore he (does) not know that one (can) wake again."

As our technology gets smarter, creating a living mind inside a computer is something that is drawing ever nearer. If we're truly hellbent on creating a self-aware computer, perhaps it's a good idea to keep it away from the life-support controls. At least for the time being.

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