Created By: Earnest on July 12, 2011 Last Edited By: Earnest on July 17, 2011

Sapience Ensues

Any unintelligent being can become fully sapient if it lives long enough.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Formerly Instant Sapience, Just Add Time

In Real Life, there are limits to how intelligent something is. Things like how easily it learns, how much information it can "remember", and whether or not it's able to use this information in a useful way. Not so in the world of fiction. Nope, just give a robot, animal, or whatnot a few hundred years or so and they'll learn enough to gain a human-level intelligence. Robots are able to program themselves to do tasks that would be otherwise impossible, animals walk around on two legs and speak like people, and the computer has taught itself to speak fluent French... and consequently, to love!

In other words, this is when a normally non-sapient being gains an incredible amount of intelligence over time by somehow remembering everything it has ever "learned" over the years, and gaining the ability to reason from it. Needless to say this usually take a lot of time, and may require that the being in question possess or gain some form of Immortality as a pre-requisite.

Contrast Instant A.I., Just Add Water, where a robot or AI immediately gains intelligence through improbable means, like a bolt of lightning. This trope has crossover potential with It Came from the Fridge, which results in a mold or microbe colony being in the fridge so long it gains the capability of speech, solving mathematical equations, or sending diplomats for rent negotiation.

This isn't something applied to planets (as in David Brin's Uplift series, where planets are allowed to lie fallow until sentience life forms arise). Note: This trope name uses Sapience rather than Sentience because Sapience, or wisdown, is the ability to reason, whereas Sentience is the ability to experience emotion. Generally, the beings that benefit from this trope all start out as sentient and gain sapience much later because of it.


Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • That's kind of what happens to the Dark Magician in the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, when Yugi is dueling Joey and he uses the Time Wizard. He becomes a sage or somethng.

Film
  • Droids in Star Wars have periodic memory purges to avoid this happening.
  • The titular bot in Wall-E gained sapience this way.

Comic Books
  • In Uncanny X-Men Danger, formerly their danger room, became sapient through a conflict in her programming ordering her to kill and not to kill the X-Men who trained within her.

Literature
  • The nanoswarms in Prey by Michael Crichton exhibited the capacity to grow from dumb machines (albeit very intelligently made machines) to deliberate, sapient organisms in a very short period of time.

Mythology
  • In Japanese Mythology, this happens to any object that survives a hundred years. Except for electrical devices, which are said to be incapable of being inhabited in this way.

Web Comics
  • Robots in Freefall achieve this when they've been online for twenty years. This may be a subversion, since it has to do with the way they were originally programmed.
Community Feedback Replies: 21
  • July 12, 2011
    Generality
    Not robots, but in Japanese Mythology, this happens to any object that survives a hundred years.
  • July 12, 2011
    pcw27
    Actually, not any object. Electrical devices are said to be incapable of being inhabited in this way.
  • July 12, 2011
    Bailey
  • July 12, 2011
    fluffything
    ^ I dunno. Instant AI Just Add Water seems to be mainly for when a robot suddenly gains intelligence through illgoical means (IE: A bolt of lightning, a computer virus, a freak lab accident, etc.) whereas this seems to imply that the robot became intelligent over years of learning. It's different, but, I do admit, the two do overlap.
  • July 12, 2011
    Strudel
    That's kind of what happens to the Dark Magician in the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, when Yugi is dueling Joey and he uses the Time Wizard. He becomes a sage or somethng.
  • July 12, 2011
    NetMonster
  • July 12, 2011
    fluffything
    How about Intelligence Over Time for a better title?

    Also, it could use a better description. How about this-

    In Real Life, there are limits to how intelligent something is. Things like how easily it learns, how much information it can "remember", and whether or not it's able to use this information in a useful way.

    Not so in the world of fiction. Nope, just give a robot, animal, or whatnot a few hundred years or so and they'll learn enough to gain a human-level intelligence. Robots are able to program themselves to do tasks that would be otherwise impossible, animals walk around on two legs and speak like people, and the computer has taught itself to speak fluent French.

    In other words, this is when a normally non-sentient being gains an incredible amount of intelligence over time by somehow remembering everything it has ever "learned" over the years.
  • July 12, 2011
    TBTabby
    Robots in Freefall achieve this when they've been online for twenty years. This may be a subversion, since it has to do with the way they were originally programmed.
  • July 13, 2011
    Stratadrake
    Yeah, the current title is an oxymoron.
  • July 13, 2011
    c0ry
    The nanoswarms in Prey by Michael Crichton exhibited the capacity to grow from dumb machines (albeit very intelligently made machines) to deliberate, sapient organisms in a very short period of time.
  • July 13, 2011
    c0ry
    Also, for a title, I would suggest something that indicates that experience, rather than a constant amount of time, is the important factor in generating sapience. Perhaps Learn To Think.
  • July 13, 2011
    ParadiscaCorbasi
    Common gag is that something has been in the refrigerator so long it has developed not only sapience but civilization.
  • July 13, 2011
    Xtifr
    Whatever name is chosen, I think it should make it clear that this isn't something applied to planets (as in David Brin's Uplift series, where planets are allowed to lie fallow until sentience life forms arise). Because that's the first thing that leapt into my mind.
  • July 13, 2011
    Aminatep
    Crossover with It Came From The Fridge results in a mold or microbe colony being in the fridge so long it is capable of speech, solving mathematical equations, or sending diplomats for negotiation.
  • July 13, 2011
    hevendor717
    Wait, I got it. Instant Sapience Just Add A Million Years .

    This way, the oxymoron is lampshaded, with still capturing the essence of the trope.
  • July 16, 2011
    c0ry
    Although the title a) doesn't intuitively encompass examples such as the one from Prey, and b) is a snowclone - I thought we were trying to move away from snowclones?
  • July 16, 2011
    dalek955
    • In Red Dwarf, the descendants of Lister's cat evolved over three million years into a race of sentient humanoids, which eventually built arks and left the ship.
  • July 16, 2011
    Stratadrake
  • July 16, 2011
    PaulA
    I don't think the Red Dwarf example counts, does it? This trope is about individuals living to a great age and becoming intelligent.
  • July 17, 2011
    BraveHoratio
    If it is called Learn To Think, then the Monster in Frankenstein would be an example.

    Possibly related: In Land Of The Dead it is suggested that after a while, zombies start to not only return to the ingrained habits of their former lives, but start becoming sapient as well. We see one zombie not only using tools but actually perform a mercy kill on a fellow zombie.
  • July 17, 2011
    randomsurfer
    In the original book Planet Of The Apes this is how the apes became sapeint and then dominant on the eponymous planet. And as it turns out, on Earth too. This also happens to Earth in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. EDIT: upon second thought, might not be an example. Any given ape isn't particularly long-lived.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=w4svkoe4sm45a6sskad27tsf