Created By: epoxy on January 12, 2018 Last Edited By: Arivne on January 23, 2018

Robotic Sacrifice

An artificial intelligence or robot risks its own harm or destruction in order to save a human.

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The Benevolent A.I. and the Robot Buddy can be powerful assets to their human masters. Aside from their respective intelligence and ability to do almost anything, these mechanical allies are famously durable.

A machine can't feel pain, so a robot can't be hurt. It can't be injured, only damaged, and can surely be repaired. Since it is not technically alive it can never be killed and, even if it is completely destroyed, surely its data is backed up and it can be rebuilt good-as-new.

But what if this isn't the case? What if a robot can do more than dream: what if it can feel pain and fear death? There's a chance it will disregard these dangers and perform what is widely-touted as a uniquely-human act: self-sacrifice.

Death may come to a machine when it is destroyed with No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup, but sacrifice may take other forms: an artificial intelligence may suffer a partial Mind Wipe, a robot may sustain irreparable damage, an Android may be sufficiently-complex to perceive pain. In any case, it puts itself in harm's way to protect a human.

In order to fit this trope, the robot in question must be created by humans and subservient to humans. It must also protect its human master voluntarily: In other words, this machine has the capacity to Turn Against Its Masters but has emphatically decided to do the opposite. For this reason, robots that are Three-Laws Compliant generally don't qualify: they are bound to protect humans compulsively - no willpower needed.

Sub-Trope of Heroic Sacrifice. Compare Androids Are People, Too. See also Morality Chip, which may inspire this deed.

This is a Death Trope so expect unmarked spoilers in examples.


Examples

Anime and Manga
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. At the series' end the Tachikomas (who have become truly sentient beings instead of advanced AIs) willingly redirect the satellite that contains their minds into the path of a nuclear missile.

Film Animated
  • The Iron Giant. The titular character is designed to be a giant Killer Robot, described by one character as "a big gun that walks". In the end, it refuses to Kill Crush Destroy and saves the town by flying into a nuclear missile.
    Hogarth: (in the Giant's mind) You are who you choose to be.
    Giant: Superman.
  • Wall E. The title character is more protective of his beloved plant than the humans, but in his effort to defend it he is hurt and almost killed by Auto.

Film
  • In Moon, GERTY offers to erase his own memory to protect Sam.
  • In RobotAndFrank, Robot warns that his memory is legal evidence that will incriminate Frank. He convinces Frank to format his system.
  • The Star Wars films - all of them - feature heroic droid R2-D2. Despite being mechanical, the droids of Star Wars are unique, can feel pain and seem to be sapient. Artoo is not compelled to heroism by Restraining Bolt; his feats are motivated by bravery and loyalty.
Community Feedback Replies: 18
  • January 12, 2018
    Chabal2
    Ghost In The Shell Stand Alone Complex: At the end of the series, the Tachikomas (who have become truly sentient beings instead of advanced A Is) willingly redirect the satellite that contains their minds into the path of a nuclear missile.

  • January 12, 2018
    FRizer
  • January 12, 2018
    FRizer
  • January 13, 2018
    TonyG
    The title character of The Iron Giant was originally designed as a war machine, described by one character as "a big gun that walks". In the end, it chooses to not be a destructor and saves the town by flying into a nuclear missile.
    Hogarth: (in the Giant's mind) You are who you choose to be.
    Giant: Superman.
  • January 13, 2018
    FRizer
    "But what if this isn't the case? What if a robot can do more than dream: what if it can feel pain and fear death? There's a chance it will disregard these dangers and perform what is widely-touted as a uniquely-human act: self-sacrifice.

    Death may come to a machine when it is destroyed with No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup, but sacrifice may take other forms: an artificial intelligence may suffer a partial Mind Wipe, a robot may sustain irreparable damage, an Android may be sufficiently-complex to perceive pain. In any case, it puts itself in harm's way to protect a human. "

    These paragraphs sound irrelevant; I think anytime a robot performs a sacrifice is enough even if they're 3 laws compliant.
  • January 13, 2018
    AnitaShower
    Doctor Who: In School Reunion, K9 sacrifices himself to destroy the school along with the Krilitane to save The Doctor.
  • January 13, 2018
    NateTheGreat
    In the Star Trek The Next Generation episode "Quality of Life" a trio of robots called "exocomps" are sent to a space station to stabilize some malfunctioning equipment long enough to evacuate our heroes. The Enterprise tries to beam the exocomps back, but can only save two: the third had to sacrifice itself to keep things together long enough for the other two to escape.
  • January 13, 2018
    CelestiaCadenceLuna
    • In Atop the Fourth Wall, Pollo the Robot sacrifices himself to stop Lord Vyce, who is currently inhabiting Pollo's old body.
  • January 14, 2018
    Skylite
  • January 15, 2018
    FRizer
    Maybe the significance of the robot sacrifice lies on their thought process: they can value something as high enough that they will even throw their lives on the line to protect/achieve it.
  • January 15, 2018
    FnafTale
    I think its the same as Heroic Sacrifice.
  • January 15, 2018
    Basara-kun
    Film - Animated:
    • In Big Hero 6, Baymax enters with Hiro Hamada to a vortex to save Abigail Callagham, the Big Bad's daughter, but Baymax was damaged in a last fight into the vortex. To save Hiro and Abigail, he uses his Rocket Punch to get them out of the vortex before the portal with the real world was closed, to the dismay of Hiro. In the end, Baymax's Morality Chip was in the fist, so Hiro decides to rebuilt Baymax to get his friend back.
  • January 15, 2018
    kjnoren
    If made into a trope, I believe it needs some explicit discussion on Asimov's three laws of robotics, simply because it is hard-wired into the robots, and some of the stories explicitly discuss robots saving (or not saving) humans at the cost of themselves, like in "Little Lost Robot".
  • January 21, 2018
    Arivne
    Live Action TV
    • Galactica 1980 episode "The Return of Starbuck". While stranded on a planet, Starbuck meets and befriends a highly unusual Cylon centurion robot named Cyrus. At the end of the episode, three other Cylons land and attempt to kill Starbuck. Cyrus intervenes and kills two of the Cylons, then is mortally wounded by the third, saving Starbuck's life. Starbuck then kills the last Cylon. Starbuck tries to reassure Cyrus that he'll be all right. Cyrus's last words are that he and Starbuck are friends.
  • January 21, 2018
    Astaroth
    • Roboto in He Man And The Masters Of The Universe 2002 is first introduced as a chess-playing robot, but when the Masters are attacked by an army of skeleton warriors led by Tri-Klops, he willingly upgrades himself into a battle robot and applies his knowledge of chess to the battlefield, taking on multiple skeletons at once to draw attention away from He-Man while he attacks Tri-Klops directly. Though Roboto is seemingly destroyed by the skeletons, Man-at-Arms manages to repair him after the battle and he continues to assist the Masters from then on.
  • January 21, 2018
    dvegaj
    EDI, the artificial intelligence installed in the unmanned prototype fighter in the movie Stealth.

    However, keep in mind that EDI was created as a subservient machine, and thus incapable of rebelling. It then becomes sentient by means of Lightning Can Do Anything.

    Does this matter for the trope?
  • January 21, 2018
    FRizer
    • Mega Man X and Mega Man Zero: Zero is very well-known for doing this.
      • In X1, when his partner X was captured by his rival Vile with his Ride Armor, Zero jumps onto the mech's back and then overloads his Arm Cannon to destroy the mech and give X a fighting chance. This act blows half of Zero's body off, while freeing X and giving him a Heroic Second Wind to beat Vile. The two then shares a heartfelt final moment. He gets repaired in the next game, however.
      • In X5, he volunteers to pilot the space shuttle to crash to the falling colony Eurasia because there's nobody left and he feels that X is the better hero between them. Depending on the route you took, he may succeed and survive, or he turns evil because the colony is filled with loads of The Virus and X has to destroy him.
      • In his ending in X6, in a Distant Finale, he chooses to give up his body to the scientists so that they can study The Virus (and how his body handles it) and find a cure for the reploids of the world.
      • In Zero 4, where he's on board of the falling satellite Ragnarok with Dr. Weil fusing with its core, Zero sacrifices his chances of being teleported out to take out both Weil and the satellite once and for all. He succeeds, but this marks the end of his life.
  • January 23, 2018
    marcoasalazarm
    On Interstellar, the events of the film make it necessary to try to send a probe into the Gargantua black hole to obtain the data necessary to solve the anti-gravity equation that will (hopefully) allow "Plan A" (Planetary Evacuation) to be successful. The "probe" being one of the robots that came with the Endurance team, CASE, who Got Volunteered. He is perfectly okay with it, even telling Cooper that he's a robot and thus expendable.
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