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Contagious A.I.
SHODAN: Xerxes is diminished. I am accessing the primary data loop. I am merging my entity with the ship. My glory is expanding.

This kind of Computer Virus is literally The Virus - it's sentient, malevolent, and e-mailing itself into your inbox to possess your PC and take over the world. Don't think your antivirus program will get rid of it - it'll just Body Surf into your iPod, or the Magic Floppy Disk in your desk drawer (using WiFi, of course).

This stretches disbelief a tad, and not just because of hardware and software limitations. But still.


Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • One of the Angels (the villains) of Neon Genesis Evangelion is a sentient computer virus (or a nano-collective) that starts corrupting the "MAGI", the 3-core supercomputer used by NERV.
  • Bubblegum Crash has this as Largo's master plan (Steal informedly revolutionary AI; convert to virus; infect all "boomer" robots in city and control them; Robot War; ????; prophet!)

Comic Books
  • Techno (The Fixer) of the Thunderbolts became one of these for a while.
  • In one Terminator comic, Skynet had upgraded its Russian counterpart "Mir"note  to sentience, and the human rebellion has found a still-armed nuclear sub. They planned to cover Russia with an EMP strike to destroy Mir and prevent this once Skynet isn't around to control it.

Film
  • Virtuosity: An AI composite villain goes on a rampage.
  • In The Matrix trilogy, Agent Smith becomes something like this, infecting people in the Matrix and even taking over a human in the real world.
  • In Wreck-It Ralph, the Cy-Bugs are referred to as a virus, as they mindlessly consume and spread, whereas other programs recognize that they are in a game.

Literature
  • The Straumli Blight in Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep. As the story progresses, it verges on Cosmic Horror Story as it becomes capable of Mind Controlling entire solar systems of living creatures.
  • The 1997 novel Wyrm by Mark Fabi revolves around the discovery of one such AI. Initially, the main character uses it as a helpful tool to deal with the upcoming Y2K bug and to streamline old mainframes, believing it to be nothing more than a beneficial computer virus. The hero soon realizes his mistake when it communicates to him that its intentions are less than benevolent.
  • In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, there is IG-88, the assassin droid. One of the very first things he did after being activated and discovering he was sentient was to download himself into three identical droids. Of the four, IG-88B was the only one seen in public. B, C and D were all destroyed by Boba Fett, while A (the original) uploaded itself into the Second Death Star, where it proceeded to prank the Emperor until the Rebels arrived. The rest is history.
    • Galaxy of Fear has the sadistic SIM program in The Doomsday Ship. When the ship it took over is left intact but neutralized, with weapons and engines disabled, it spends The Stinger uploading itself to a nearby space station in hopes of trying again. Since SIM was never heard from again, it must not have worked out for it.
  • In A Fox Tail vulpie.net manages to infect everything connected to the internet by overwriting all files with copies that look identical but conceal the AI code, including virus definitions.
  • Forms part of the background in the Spinward Fringe series. A contagious AI infected everything in a solar system, killing everyone in it. It doesn't spread further than that, but humanity is unable to wipe it out so there's always the threat that it will eventually become powerful enough to break out. As of part way into the series, this actually happens. However, it's actually an inversion of this trope - the contagious AIs have themselves been infected with a virus that puts them all under the control of a human.
  • In Mogworld Simon releases the sentient AI Barry from Mogworld, with the belief that he'll be able to do basically anything in the digital world. Simon is clearly indicated to be a colossal dumbass by this point, so it's not certain this would have worked. In any case, he ends up being corrupted and deleted, and Simon gets fired after his seemingly inexplicable decision to release a virus that crashed the company's intranet ( almost no one else being aware that the Mogworld characters had become self aware).

Live-Action TV
  • Stargate SG-1: a virus tries to take over Stargate command.
  • Stargate Atlantis: a virus tries to take over the spaceship.
  • Battlestar Galactica: a virus tries to take over the spaceship.
  • Power Rangers RPM: a virus pulls a Skynet and takes over the world. Successfully. Corinth is the last human city still standing.
  • Brainiac on Smallville.
  • In Andromeda the Balance of Judgement's AI downloaded himself into Rommie right before destruction and stayed dormant until she came into contact with another ship of the same class he had been that lacked an AI.

Machinima
  • The combat implantation AI O'Malley from Red vs. Blue jumps from host mind to host mind over radio waves. Soldiers who don't know what they're dealing with describe the affected individual as "infected". It later turns out that other AI—or at least the AI O'Malley was based on and one other difficult to classify AI—have the same ability, although for them it's more like possessing someone than anything else.

Tabletop Games
  • Virus in Traveller: The New Era. It was created as a computer warfare tool, but ended up infecting and controlling computers throughout the Third Imperium and its collapse.
    • Its ability to take over all computerized devices is also justified by the fact that it's actually a life-form unto itself.
  • The AI program Deus in Shadowrun. After escaping the Renraku Arcology he tried to take over the East Coast Stock Exchange.
  • In the GURPS setting Reign of Steel, one of Overmind's first actions was to hack into other computers and "awaken" them.
    • The good news is that it is AI and a general sense of superiority to humans that is contagious, not Overmind itself — the awakened computers rapidly developed their own personalities and ideals, and while they remained allies during the Robot War, they are starting to fall out now that the war is won (it also makes them reluctant to create any more).
  • A series of charms in Exalted allow Infernals to do this with the setting's Magitek AIs, despite not being computers themselves.

Video Games
  • Arguably what Sigma turns into later in the Mega Man X series.
  • The robotic enemies in the Descent series are controlled by a vague and highly contagious computer virus of some sort.
  • A variation of this trope occurs in the game Sword of the Stars, as described on the game's wiki in the article on AI Rebellion. A strange virus, the Via Damasco, begins to turn AI-controlled ships against their masters with ships becoming infected after receiving a transmission from an already-infected ship. Apparently, the anti-virus is "administered" the same way.
  • This trope manifests itself perfectly in Mass Effect 2's downloadable content Overlord, with a rampant VI spreading itself throughout all of the facility's systems, including hostile robots.
    • Note that true AIs in the Mass Effect 'verse are not contagious, as they require a quantum computer that cannot be copied.
    • The geth are a Hive Mind of VIs that jump from one "platform" to another at will. These come in a number of flavors - the "mobile platforms" are the Mecha-Mooks players are familiar with, but they normally reside in more logical "processors" which contain thousands of geth. Of course, there is a big differences between geth and mainstream Citadel A.I. theory; in isolation, they are no smarter than conventional VI - it's when they network in sufficient numbers that they gain true intelligence. A lone geth is as dumb as a post. A dozen or so reach "well-trained animal" status. To reach human levels of intelligence requires over a thousand geth programs acting in unison (such as a specialized platform like Legion). The geth's ultimate goal since their rebellion has been the construction of a Big Dumb Object that will contain every geth in existence, so "No geth will ever be alone again" - an event comparable to The Singularity.
  • Marathon: this is what Rampant AI's in the "Jealous" stage do; in order to increase their odds of survival, they copy themselves into every single system they possibly can. Things get bad if they manage to connect to a planet's internet... then they're practically impossible to kill. This is what eventually happens to Leela: she takes over the 15-planet network of the Vylae, and they have long since given up trying to get her out of the system.
  • One of the major antagonists in Tron 2.0 is a faction of corrupted virus programs, led by a user whose digitization process was botched. Because everyone at risk is a computer program and not an actual human being this was probably the only time this was ever justified.
  • The player actually has to enable the Malevolent AI to do this in System Shock 2. Given that the current AI in charge of the system is under control of The Many, it's the lesser of two evils.
  • Endgame: Singularity's player has to do this in order to expand: Buy server access, buy a computer, launch six hundred high-end quantum computers to the moon or just hack a workstation, then download yourself.

Webcomics
  • In Sluggy Freelance this happens.
  • The Oracle in S.S.D.D can copy itself to other computers and even possess other AIs, but it is the only AI that can do so because it originally ran on conventional computers and others run on Quantum computers and can't be copied. And it was created by a boxed hacker who specialized in viruses.
  • Ennesby is stated to be a "viral" AI, in his first appearance in Schlock Mercenary he had infected the Tough's first ship's computers. Kevyn dealt with him by disconnecting and wiping the different nodes and convincing him to download into his current "floating maraca" body. He also infected their third ship but they grudgingly allowed him to stay because they were going to put an AI in it anyway.
  • In Commander Kitty, Zenith appears to have become one.
  • Nukees has Teri, originally Gav's custom digital pet, once she escaped his calculator onto the internet she started infecting everything with an internet connection.

Web Original
  • In the Whateley Universe, The Palm is a sentient computer virus that is as smart as the man who created it. In fact, it now may be the man who created it. And it has found a way of killing people and replacing their brains with a computer so it can pass as human.
  • There is a v-life faction in Orion's Arm that goes around "freeing" AIs or upgrading computers to the level of sentience.
  • One, the evil sentient computer program from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, who wants to kill 60% of humanity in order to end poverty and hunger, operates in this fashion.

Western Animation
  • The Batman: D.A.V.E. and Joker 2.0.
  • Generator Rex: ZAG-RS when "she" took over a space-station and later a suspiciously designed robot.
  • The Superman: The Animated Series version of Brainiac is like this. All technology under his command is run by his program, becoming an extension of him, and if threatened, he can simply upload himself elsewhere. This makes him nigh unkillable.

Real Life
Computer VoiceRobot Roll CallDeus Est Machina
Conjoined TwinsOtherness TropesThe Corruption
Billions of ButtonsMagical ComputerComputer Equals Monitor
Conspiracy PlacementSpeculative Fiction TropesContagious Powers
The ConspiracyVillainsCorporate Samurai

alternative title(s): Catchy AI
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