Created By: fulltimeD on January 15, 2013 Last Edited By: Arivne on November 20, 2016

Ethical Subroutines

The programming that makes AI not want to Kill All Humans

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Do We Have This One??

This is the programming that makes various types of Artificially Intelligent characters behave according to ethical parameters amenable to cohabitation with organic sentients. Whether it's a "Morality Chip," Ethical Subroutines, or the Three Laws of Robotics, it's a device or program that makes the AI character "friendly" to humans, even if the character is an emotionless android or other computer.

Subtrope of Restraining Bolt.


  • Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics. - ZCE

Live-Action Television
  • Star Trek
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation. Ethical subroutines are part of the android Data's programming.
    • They are also part of the Doctor's and other EMH's on Star Trek: Voyager. Villains frequently disable the Doctor's ethical subroutines which basically makes the EMH go psycho. Equinox's EMH was similarly ethically disabled by his own crew so that he would assist in experimenting on the nucleogenic beings whose remains they were using to power their warp drive.
Community Feedback Replies: 14
  • January 15, 2013
    See also Crush Kill Destroy. Compare Morality Dial.
  • January 15, 2013
    Video Games:
    • EDI in Mass Effect 2 is governed by both these and a Restraining Bolt. Joker is forced to remove the latter when the Collectors board the Normandy, but her ethics remain intact.
  • January 15, 2013
  • January 15, 2013
    ^ I wouldn't say that covers this trope in its entirety
  • January 15, 2013
    it's more like a Missing Supertrope
  • January 15, 2013
    • Portal: GLaDOS is fitted with a morality core that prevents her from flooding the enrichment centre with deadly neurotoxin.

    Edit: We already have Morality Chip; does that have this covered?
  • January 15, 2013
    • Freefall: Florence once worried that her choice to remain ethical after finding planet-sized loopholes in her safeguards was just a second line of defense. But given how much the robots who turned out to be using the same neural net design as her vary, including the outright sociopathic Edge, it seems unlikely.
  • January 15, 2013
    The title character from Pixar's Wall E from 2008 is a trash-compacting robot that hasn't seen a human being in seven hundred years. Nonetheless, when Wall E encounters them aboard the Axiom, he's patient, gracious and helpful, to the point of shaking hands with two people. Wall E's civil demeanor even spreads to the other robots.
  • January 15, 2013
    The Chee in Animorphs might count, but I'm not sure. Their thing is that their programming prevents them from battling or fighting in any way.
  • January 17, 2013
    @Astaroth: Yeah, it looks like Morality Chip covers this. I'll plan on discarding this ykttw if there are no objections
  • November 18, 2016
    Looks like the original sponsor forgot about this. Throwing in a bomb given ^.
  • November 18, 2016
    In Terminator 2 Judgment Day, John Connor has to create one of these by forcing the eponymous Terminator to swear never to kill anyone. You can see this in Freeze Frame Bonuses in the Terminator's Robo Cam, where Lethal Force is constantly set to "OFF".
  • November 20, 2016

    Zero Context Examples have been marked as such (ZCE). They need more information to show how they fit the trope.
  • November 19, 2016
    Needs one more bomb