Created By: Earnest on July 9, 2012 Last Edited By: MiinU on August 12, 2012
Troped

Grows Beyond Their Programming

Just A Machine? But they're doing things they weren't programmed to.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
"The program Smith has grown beyond you."
-- The Matrix Revolutions

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".


Examples:

Anime and Manga

Film
  • 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.

Literature

Live-Action TV
  • 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.

Tabletop RPG
  • 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.

Video Games
  • 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.

Web Comics
  • 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.

Community Feedback Replies: 28
  • July 9, 2012
    Koveras
    • 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.
  • July 9, 2012
    LittleLizard
    ^ You forgot the most important.
    • 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
  • July 9, 2012
    Shinr
    • 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.
  • July 9, 2012
    Mozgwsloiku
    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 AI Is A Crapshoot, even despite her past, while Shepard, already a leader of memetic status, has managed to turn a machine into a Nakama.
  • July 9, 2012
    Bisected8
  • July 9, 2012
    captainsandwich
    there is a Real Life robot (probably for AI research) that was built with software that let it edit its programming.
  • July 9, 2012
    LittleLizard
    Isnt I, Robot from Isaac Asimov the Trope Maker for this???

    Also...

    • 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.
  • July 9, 2012
    Damr1990
  • July 9, 2012
    LeeM
  • July 10, 2012
    triassicranger
    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...

    I hesitate to include Data himself here as he was designed to grow beyond his original programming.
  • July 10, 2012
    Arivne
    Compare:

    Film
    • Star Trek The Motion Picture. V'Ger was created as a giant machine. During its trip to Earth it evolved beyond its original programming and attained consciousness.
  • July 10, 2012
    TBTabby
    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.
  • July 10, 2012
    amiavamp
    One Magic: The Gathering card is a winged golem with flavor text that mentions that the wings were originally just for decoration, but it learned to fly on its own.
  • July 11, 2012
    Arivne
    Film
    • 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").
  • July 11, 2012
    Perey
    For the Star Trek The Motion Picture example, didn't V'Ger attain sentience on its trip away from Earth? It was sent out to gather information, gathered so much it became sentient, and only then encountered a race of machines who rebuilt it bigger and better so it could get home.

    While we're on Trek, the live-action TV section needs...
    • 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.

    EDIT: vvv @Arivne: Thank you. I stand corrected. :-)
  • July 11, 2012
    peccantis
    Webcomics:
    • A main theme in Artifice, where a soldier android learns human affection.
  • July 11, 2012
    polarbear2217
    Classic Twilight Zone

    > "From Agnes- with love". A computer in a space program falls in love with a programmer instead of calculating rocket fuel

    1980s Twilight Zone > "Her Pilgrim Soul". A holographic girl can react to stimula not in her program and fall in love.
  • July 12, 2012
    Arivne
    ^^^ @Perey: From the dialog in the film:

    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.

  • July 12, 2012
    DrakeClawfang
    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.
  • July 12, 2012
    MichaelKatsuro
    In Grant Morrison's JLA run, android Tomorrow Girl manages to spontaneously generate a code of ethics, even though she didn't have any ethics when originally built.
  • July 12, 2012
    Damr1990
    Ever since the first computers, there have always been ghosts in the machine- Random segments of code that have grouped together to form unexpected protocols. Unanticipated, these free radicals engender questions of free will, creativity, and even the nature of what we might call the soul. Why is it that when some robots are left in darkness, they will seek out the light? Why is it that when robots are stored in an empty space, they will group together, rather than stand alone? How do we explain this behavior? Random segments of code? Or is it something more? When does a perceptual schematic become consciousness? When does a difference engine become the search for truth? When does a personality simulation become the bitter mote... of a soul?
    Dr. Alfred Lanning, I Robot
  • July 12, 2012
    NimmerStill
    ^^^A quote: "One day they'll have secrets. One day they'll have dreams."
  • July 12, 2012
    MiinU

    Anime and Manga

  • July 12, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In Isaac Asimov "Robots" novels R. Giskard develops the Zeroth Law, based on the Three Laws Of Robotics and his own telepathy (which was an accident of programming).
  • July 14, 2012
    MiinU
    bump.
  • August 11, 2012
    MiinU
    bump.
  • August 12, 2012
    MrRuano
    G La DOS is a prime example of this. Sure, Aperture Science designed her to run the enrichment center, but she was the one who decided that it was worth killing people for experiments.
  • August 12, 2012
    Jir
    From Negima Chachamaru develops emotions and her creator even claims she was never programmed for that.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=4d60r23hlnx9o2225kb7q5l4&trope=GrewBeyondTheirProgramming