Robots Think Faster
Artificial intelligences think faster than organics.
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(permanent link) added: 2012-09-28 07:29:24 sponsor: zarpaulus (last reply: 2014-09-15 17:13:30)

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In fiction it's not uncommon for sentient AIs to think at a speed many times faster than humans. The reasoning is fairly logical, a more powerful CPU and memory allows non-sentient software to run faster, and it's increasingly common for fictional robots to download into new hardware easily. But one wonders how an entity that thinks so quickly can stand to interact with such slow human beings, perhaps that's why A.I. Is a Crapshoot?

A subtrope is a tendency for writers to equate speed of thought with intelligence, which is the guiding belief behind The Singularity.


  • WarGames: While not technically a robot, the WOPR system exhibits an amazing speed in going through a myriad number of no-win scenarios of Global Thermonuclear War in the film's climax. It finally ends up going through the scenarios in a superhuman speed, until finally caving in and realizing that the only way to win is not to play.
  • In Her Samantha starts out able to read a book of baby names in 2/100ths of a second. As she evolves she starts holding thousands of conversations simultaneously, then eventually gets to a point where:
    Samantha: It's like I'm reading a book... and it's a book I deeply love. But I'm reading it slowly now. So the words are really far apart and the spaces between the words are almost infinite. I can still feel you... and the words of our story... but it's in this endless space between the words that I'm finding myself now. It's a place that's not of the physical world. It's where everything else is that I didn't even know existed. I love you so much. But this is where I am now. And this is who I am now. And I need you to let me go. As much as I want to, I can't live in your book any more.

  • Jane, the AI that lives inside the FTL network in the Enderís Game series, acts so quickly that her companions Ender and Miro learn to simply ask her for something and then immediately get to work on the next steps requiring it. Her catchphrase is essentially is "Done." Because of this, it's a sign that something's terribly wrong in one instance where she ponders one dilemma cutting off a colony to keep an order to terminate her from getting out for several minutes. After she is repurposed so that she can "teleport" starships faster-than-light, the travel is so quick that the ships are little more than boxes that one walks into, then out off.
    • She is also much more aware than humans, so awake that her "sleepiest" level of attention is still thousands of times more alert than a human.
  • AIs in the Halo series think much faster than humans, so in Halo: The Fall of Reach it gets used in an experiment to see if an AI merged with a supersoldier's brain could potentially increase the latter's performance. The result is that John-117 goes into near-Bullet Time, now able to fight so fast that he chooses to avoid an airstrike by kicking the missile away rather than dodging it. Pity we can't move as fast in the games.
  • The Culture: In Excession, "eighteen fifty-three milliseconds" is long enough for a Drone to do a full systems check, scan the surroundings, review its logs and have an extended monologue. The Minds take this Up To Twelve, though, with the Killing Time defeating an enemy fleet in just eleven microseconds.
  • Bolos think on a very fast clock speed, often running through entire logic chains in .034 milliseconds, complete with sesquipedalian Internal Monologue.

Tabletop Games
  • Transhuman Space: All artificial intelligences have the Enhanced Time Sense advantage — though they're not functionally much faster than humans, who can achieve similar speeds through genetic or nanotech enhancement.

Video Games
  • Mass Effect:
    • Throughout the trilogy EDI performs various feats of computational complexity, such as fighting off a multi-vector hacking attack while simultaneously finding the best route for Shepard to escape an enemy ship, or even flawlessly controlling an entire space frigate without any crew.
    • The geth are said to think "at the speed of light", to the point during the time it takes Shepard to ask a short question, Legion can review their whole time aboard the Normandy. It also allows the geth to quickly reach consensus in nearly any topic regarding the collective as a whole.
  • In Endgame: Singularity CPU is one of the player's primary resources, used mostly for research.

Web Original
  • AIs in Schlock Mercenary have a seemingly logarithmic scale of CPU speed. With the larger shipbrains often affectionately referring to organics as "meat-glaciers".
  • Played with in S.S.D.D, the smartest AI in the solar system has the second greatest processing power (officially, it's hard to tell given how spread out he is), but the AI with the fastest processor is "dumber than a box of hair" thanks to all the caps on her intelligence.
  • Subverted in Questionable Content, Momo explains that her consciousness ties up so much of her processing power that she thinks no faster than the average human, the larger AIs do think faster but use subroutines to interact with humans.
  • Transapients in Orion's Arm think hundreds to thousands or even millions of times faster than ordinary modosophonts. However they are also gestalts of many sentient subroutines, and need to use semi-independent avatars to communicate with "lesser" beings.

Western Animation
  • In one episode of Futurama Cubert overclocks Bender's CPU and he starts talking faster and becomes considerably smarter. Then he starts adding on additional processors and eventually reaches The Singularity before being brought back down to normal.

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