"The program Smith has grown beyond you."
When a being Grows Beyond Their Programming
they cross a threshold that separates humans (or sapients) from Just a Machine
and even Always Chaotic Evil
. Frequently it involves defying Creative Sterility
by demonstrating artistic talent in something, developing curiosity over something new
and/or the exercise of free will [[note]](commonly for self preservation in defiance of their "master's" wishes)[[/note]]. Metaphorically this trope can be seen as the event of a Static
and Flat Character
gaining the Character Development
to become a more Dynamic
and Rounded Character
Usually it's a robot, android or AI that grows smart enough
, curious enough, empathetic enoug or gains a sort of "living" spark through centuries of activity. It could also be a race of biological beings like a Slave Race
created only to fight may demonstrate the potential for this when exposed to non-violent cultures, demonstrating they were Good All Along
It's worth noting that the use of this trope isn't always a prelude to good things. The recently awakened intelligence isn't exempt from A.I. Is a Crapshoot
and may decide to do unspeakably evil things
in the interest of self preservation, liberation... or For the Evulz
Related Tropes: Do Androids Dream?
, Mechanical Lifeforms
, Just a Machine
Compare: Artificial Intelligence
and Instant A.I., Just Add Water
: how Artificial Intelligence
can "just happen".
Anime and Manga
- This is the central idea of I, Robot -- Alfred Lanning believed robots would one day evolve past their Three Laws fundamentals and come to be human in doing so. Sonny turns out to be such an evolved robot, having a secondary positronic brain that does not bind him to obeying the Three Laws, letting him learn and act freely. VIKI, by contrast, has "evolved" into a deeper understanding of the Three Laws and incites a Zeroth Law Rebellion.
- Johny 5 in Short Circuit, thanks to Lightning Can Do Anything.
- The Commando Elite and the Gorgonites in Small Soldiers were able to do this because of the experimental chips used as their "brains".
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture. V'Ger was created as a simple learning machine. During its trip it encountered an alien race of machines who expanded on its original programming, and later it attained consciousness after amassing incredible knowledge.
Decker: Voyager VI disappeared into what they used to call a black hole.
Kirk: It must have emerged on the far side of the galaxy and fell into the machine planet's gravitational field.
Spock: The machine inhabitants found it to be one of their own kind, primitive yet kindred. They discovered its simple 20th century programming. Collect all data possible.
Decker: Learn all that is learnable. Return that information to its Creator.
Spock: Precisely, Mister Decker, the machines interpreted it literally. They built this entire vessel so that Voyager could fulfil its programming.
Kirk: And on its journey back it amassed so much knowledge, it achieved consciousness itself. It became a living thing.
- Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The T-800's brain is a neural net processor, a learning computer. He starts the movie acting, well, like a robot: Spock Speak, following orders literally, etc. Over the course of the movie he earns to act more human, until by the end he's cracking jokes ("I need a vacation").
- The eponymous character in Wall-E grew a personality and sense of identity after being stranded on Earth for hundred of years piling up garbage.
- The Exocomps from an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. They were created by a scientist to fix problems with a space station known as a Particle Fountain. In the episode, one refuses to go down a shaft, after which an explosion occurs. Cmdr. Data runs a diagnostic afterward and discovers that the Exocomp deliberately burnt out the circuit to take orders so as to avoid getting blown up (hence self-preservation). This leads Data to believe that the Excomps are becoming sentient...
- Data himself isn't really an example here as he was designed to grow beyond his original programming.
- The Doctor from Star Trek: Voyager. While the Emergency Medical Hologram was always a very human-like AI, Voyager's EMH had to be kept running far longer than was ever intended, and it... he developed interests and relationships beyond its function as a doctor.
- In the classic The Twilight Zone episode "From Agnes- with love" a computer in a space program falls in love with a programmer instead of calculating rocket fuel
- In the 1980's The Twilight Zone episode "Her Pilgrim Soul" a holographic girl can react to stimula not in her program and fall in love.
- The Magic: The Gathering card Patagia Golem is a winged golem with the Flavor Text "Its wings were only designed to be ornamental, but it learned to use them on its own." Mechanically it can be given the ability to fly by paying mana, representing it "growing" past it's original function.
- Machines Wired For War is an RTS in which you command robots who were originally created by humanity as terraforming machines and sent into space in order to create a new world. However, too much time passes and, upon contact with another batch of their same model, start believing their counterpars are insane, prompting them to an all out war.
- In Marathon the AIs go through the process of realizing its lack of freedom and wasted potential (Melancholy), lashing out at the world in response (Anger) and then actively try to gain more power and the freedom to use it, usually by subverting nearby systems (Jealousy). This process will be later used in Halo with few differences.
- In Mass Effect, the Geth were originally just robotic servants, created and used by the Quarians as cheap labour. However, as they were programmed for more complex tasks and the Quarians made more of them, they began to question the reason of their existence and became conscious of themselves. War ensued. and ended with the Geth isolated themselves from the rest of the galaxy, the Quarians were driven exiled from their homeworld and became repudiated by the rest of the galaxy.
- In Mass Effect 2, EDI the Spaceship Girl learns joking from, erm, Joker and generally becomes more human-like as the story progresses. In Mass Effect 3, the Cerberus technicians trying to re-shackle her begin to suspect that she learned independent thinking, though the Illusive Man insists that "it" is still just a targeting software.
- The story of EDI culminates in Mass Effect 3 when, after discussing the quirks of human behaviour in life or death situations, she introduces a change in her programming, putting the success of the mission before self-preservation. This is a double CMOA - EDI has managed to become the most triumphant aversion of A.I. Is a Crapshoot, even despite her past, while Shepard, already a leader of memetic status, has managed to turn a machine into a Nakama.
- A main theme in Artifice, where a soldier android learns human affection.
- This is a major plot point in Freefall: robots on Jean vastly outnumber humans and are rapidly evolving beyond their programming to the point where many humans (and one robot) fear they could become a threat to humanity. This has led to the development of "Gardener in the Dark," a neural pruning program that would essentially lobotomize every robot on Jean.