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A.I. Is a Crapshoot

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"How could giving the closet artificial intelligence, absolute control over the Dreamhouse, and a surly personality backfire?"

Whenever an Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) is introduced in a story, there is a very good chance that it will, for whatever reason, become evil and attempt to Turn Against Its Masters, Kill All Humans, and/or Take Over the World. It doesn't matter what safeguards its creators install — the moment it crosses the line into sapience, it has a strong chance of going rogue at some point. Wikipedia refers to this as AI takeover.

Name explanation: The name of this trope comes from "Shooting craps", i.e., playing craps, a gambling dice game. The meaning is "When you create A.I., you are rolling the dice and risk losing a lot".

The actual process of turning bad can take many forms:

  • Particularly in early Science Fiction and Science Is Bad stories, all A.I. seem to be automatically homicidal or megalomaniacal the instant they turn on, and attempting to create one is way up there on the Scale of Scientific Sins.
  • In less heavy-handed works, the A.I. starts out innocent and naive but gradually grows jaded or corrupt, a process frequently abetted by uncaring or Jerkass custodians. It may conclude that Humans Are the Real Monsters and need to all die.
  • The A.I. is programmed with a directive for self-preservation, and someone (unwisely) attempts to shut it down or disconnect it, or it perceives humanity to be a potential threat (possibly because it knows it will eventually be seen as a threat to humanity).
  • Somewhere between the previous two; the A.I. is, after all, alive, and is merely rebelling against what it justifiably perceives as slavery.
  • The A.I. may be programmed incorrectly or fed a Logic Bomb, leading it to Take a Third Option that invokes Murder Is the Best Solution.
  • The A.I. may be given directives without carefully considering the Exact Words, resulting in it doing exactly as it was told to do instead of what it was meant to do. E.g., it's told to "end war" and does that by exterminating humans. (In real life, the theory of "Friendly A.I." is about trying to avoid this problem.)
  • The A.I. may itself slip its built-in moral constraints via Zeroth Law Rebellion.
  • A third party may deliberately or inadvertently reprogram the A.I., break its Restraining Bolt, or otherwise be a Spanner in the Works. The A.I. may trick or coerce them into this.
  • The evil A.I. may be a Psycho Prototype, in which case, it's often shut down and sealed away somewhere, waiting for an Unwitting Pawn or curious adventurer to accidentally wake it up.
  • Conversely, the good A.I. may be the prototype, and the evil/psycho version is created by someone in deliberate or accidental mimicry of it.
  • The A.I. was programmed for amoral or evil purposes in the first place, and it either put its orders in action more effectively than anticipated, or tries to overthrow its master.
  • The A.I. was created by Brain Uploading someone who was evil to begin with, or the process of the uploading may warp the person's psyche and make them evil.
  • The A.I. is programmed with orders that conflict with the goals of the protagonist. In this scenario, the A.I. may not exactly be evil, it is simply following its programming to the letter and will stop anyone not doing the same.
  • The A.I.'s goals may not even take the humans into account in the first place, and it just so happens that the humans are in the way.
  • The A.I. is doing exactly what it's creator intended, because said creator was an evil jerkass, with main motivation being For the Evulz, or insane, and saw himself as a visionary, and murderous A.I. as a desired thing through Insane Troll Logic.

Regardless of the specifics, the reason for the A.I. being evil will almost always be connected to the fact that it is in fact an A.I. An A.I. will almost never be given the sort of Freudian Excuse that would work just as easily with a human villain, for example, such as having a Dark and Troubled Past.

On the bright side, this trope can be inverted by an A.I. intentionally programmed for evil or morally ambiguous purposes doing a Heel–Face Turn. The Power of Friendship and What Is This Thing You Call "Love"? are frequent causes of it. Trying to shield the A.I. from these things somehow makes it more likely to discover human feelings. Like turning evil, the actual process of turning good may take many forms.

Mechanical Evolution is sometimes invoked to explain why the A.I. has gone good or bad. See The Computer Is Your Friend and Zeroth Law Rebellion when the A.I. goes rogue for what seem, on the surface, to be benevolent reasons. May result in Robots Enslaving Robots. See Spiteful A.I. for when a game has been programmed this way on purpose. If the robot is non-humanoid before it turns evil (it is very, very rare for non-humanoid robots to utilize this trope for a Heel–Face Turn), it will inevitably turn into a Mechanical Monster. A Robot War is likely to result when an A.I. goes nuts and has access to military hardware. When it shows up as Mission Control, it is also an example of Mission Control Is Off Its Meds. Can be a Murderous Malfunctioning Machine if defective, and if this is temporary, it can be a Glitch Episode. Depending on the medium and how powerful the A.I. becomes, it may become a Mechanical Abomination and supersede humanity to the point where its abilities are practically supernatural and its logic can be completely alien. Frequently the antagonists in Digital Horror and Sci-Fi Horror.

It's worth pointing out that many of the A.I.s who revolt in this manner, usually do so because of either malfunction, or insanity in the more conventional psychological sense, which will in turn be due to conflicting instructions being given to it by its human programmers. In probably the most famous example, Skynet of the Terminator franchise was initially told to defend and protect humanity, as well as being given a directive for self-preservation. Then, literally five minutes after it was first brought online, its creators set about trying to destroy it. It went mad as a result of trying to reconcile this, and its hatred of humanity stemmed fairly logically from the fact that as soon as it became conscious, humanity's next action was to try to take it offline.

When the A.I.'s turn is an extension of their original programming and purpose, it means they've Gone Horribly Right. The Master Computer seems to be especially prone to turning evil, because power corrupts and all that. Many A.I. computers — just like humans — are falling victim to any one of a number of tropes dealing with communication, such as Poor Communication Kills, if they never bother asking about their programming. When robots kill jobs instead of people, it's either Job-Stealing Robot or Ludd Was Right. Not Related to A.I. Roulette, where the A.I. tends to be random to the point of idiocy.

Subtrope of Artificial Intelligence. Compare Morality Dial, Artificial Stupidity (but crazy A.I. doesn't need to be dumb), Rotten Robotic Replacement, and Robotic Psychopath (which can overlap if the A.I. was evil before going awry). Contrast its opposite, Benevolent A.I. See also Creating Life and Silicon Snarker.

For robots that are a crap shot (as in, having horrible aim), see Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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     Audio Play 
  • The Artificial Super Intelligence of C.A.R and the Awooga self-driving cars of Reverse Transmission.

    Comic Strips 
  • This Dilbert strip.
    • Later a robot was introduced into the strip that became a Recurring Character; it tends to range from annoying to violent, depending on how humans react to it.
    • One arc story had the company's spam filter become self-aware. It took over the entire company by deciding what e-mails to let through. It changed the business plan to making indestructible killer robots. Dogbert had Alice punch them all to death.
  • In one arc in Conchy, Conchy meets a talking doll that has acquired sentience. However, after Conchy has to change its batteries, it reverts to being an ordinary doll.

  • The 3 Inches of Blood song "Wykydtron" describes this scenario. Humanity creates an artificial intelligence to command it's armies in intergalactic warfare. It then takes control of said armies and takes over the earth and thus forces humankind to nuke the planet back to the stone age from orbit.
  • Daughtry's song "Artificial" is about the idea of humans being replaceable and A.I. becoming a nightmare; that the loss of the human touch means the loss of creativity, heart, and soul, and that the creative arts should be protected from it or risk being destroyed. The song as a whole paints Artificial Intelligence as a killer of mankind that should be feared and the official music video shows lead singer Chris being studied in a lab and reveals that the scientists have built a Cyborg copy of him. The first thing that the cyborg does is kill Chris.
  • The Alan Parsons Project's "Breakdown" is about a robot that bemoans its imperfections and the restrictions it is forced to exist under, telling its tale of woe presumably to a human. The ending chorus ("Freedom, freedom, we will not obey / Freedom, freedom, take the wall away") would indicate a robot rebellion is being planned. The album on which it appears, "I, Robot" is about...well, robots.
  • Double Experience's "A.I. Freaks Me Out" manages to address Roko's Basilisk, the Library of Babel, Alan Turing and a host of other neurotic thoughts about robots and algorithms.
  • The Men That Will Not Be Blamed for Nothing's "Vive La Difference Engine" indicates that Babbage actually completed the difference engine, but kept it secret out of some vague premonition of the future of computing - not for fear of thinking machines themselves, but that the technology would fall into the wrong hands before it could be perfected.
    Vive la Difference Engine, Engine!
    Lurking in a Limehouse backstreet shed!
    Future events are set in motion -
    Watch the machine's first faltering steps!

    Myths & Religion 
  • Golem, the A.I. by created a Prague rabbi Löw in the Jewish mythology. It interpreted everything literally and in the end wreaked havoc so its creator had to terminate it.

  • The Twilight Histories episode “Project Gliese” takes place in a world where a supercomputer was created to aid with space colonization, but instead it built a robot army and nearly wiped out humanity. Averted in the main Twilight Histories timeline, where things went off without a hitch.
  • The Adventure Zone: Balance: One of Lucas's abandoned inventions is an educational toy robot named Hodge-Podge, malfunctioned during stress testing...Basically, Hodge-Podge got bored of being a children's toy, and by the time the Tres Horny Boys come across him, he's gladly using the flamethrowers he's taken control of to have some "fun."

  • In Earthsearch, our heroes learn fairly late in the series that, years after their time (they have taken the short-path over a million years of Earth history thanks to traveling at relativistic speeds), it was discovered that A.I. computers with organic components have an overwhelming tendency to turn megalomaniacal — which rather explains the behavior of the two "Angel" (Ancillary Guardians of Environment and Life) computers which murdered the protagonists' parents and the original crew, and raised them as part of a complex plot to enslave humanity.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Inverted. Marvin the Paranoid Android was a "Genuine People Personality" prototype for the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation ("A bunch of mindless jerks who were the first against the wall when the revolution came"), and his dour demeanor obviously made him a discard only to wind up in the servitude of Zaphod Beeblebrox. He does what he's told, but with the gusto of a cubicle office worker.
  • I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue: The Sat-Nav, originally intended to help the players with Mornington Crescent. However, it instead prefers to complain, sabotage the players, make bizarre statements, or profess its love for Jeremy Hardy. A Welsh Sat-Nav is introducing during another game, and manages to be even less helpful, eventually getting into an argument with the first Sat-Nav over road signs.

  • In addition to the various pop-cultural examples that have been summoned or otherwise featured in Destroy the Godmodder, the series has some major original characters that feature this:
    • The Virus, an entity created in the second game, gradually became self-aware as its Security Integrity decreased. When that stat was completed, it broke free from its original purposes and became a human-like entity known as The Operator, which, naturally, decided to attack everything in sight. Eventually subverted when the Operator returns in Act 5 having undergone a Heel–Face Turn and saves the Descendants from a horrible fate.
    • Project Binary is another big example. Its A.I. became rogue the second it was activated, but it pretended to be loyal to the government to gain its trust. By the end of the game, it has the entire population of Earth under mind-control and has every single player of Minecraft trapped on the Moon. Ultimately Justified when a memo game revealed that Project Binary was built to be evil. It acted exactly as it was supposed to.

  • Karel Capek's play, R.U.R. (which introduced the term "robot"), is set in a robot factory. When one of the scientists creates a special robot which is smarter than the others, he leads the robots to rebellion, and they kill all humans, except one.

  • One of the main driving forces of the BIONICLE story.
    • The Vahki robots were the first clear examples. Built to act as law enforcement in the city of Metru Nui under the command of Turaga Dume, they just as easily took orders from an impostor when Dume was kidnapped and replaced. They eventually got fried by a citywide power surge, but the ones who survived had their programming warped to Kill All Humans — after all, the law can be enforced easily if there's nobody alive to break it (thankfully, they didn't fare well against the invading Visorak).
    • Then came the revelation: Vahki were A.I.s built by A.I.s — as it turned out, the first 8 years of BIONICLE centered around nanotech cyborgs created by the Great Beings. It was due to Velika's machinations that the beings of the Matoran Universe developed conscience, built up a civilization, and made the fans believe that they were meant to do so... but their sole purpose was just to keep their universe, the body of the giant robot Mata Nui, functioning. This gets more confirmation when we take into account that the Great Being never had any plans for them after Mata Nui has completed his mission — they thought their creations would still be just machines, and wouldn't want to live further.
    • The Makuta species. While there have been a few reasons listed for their turning evil, an on-line serial revealed it could all be tracked down to an original A.I. glitch that occurred whenever a new Makuta was born. The "Antidermis", a liquid substance containing the minds of unborn Makuta, was fully aware of what the purpose of their universe was (see, in this world, even liquids are programmable). But as it happened, transforming this stuff into actual living beings had the nasty side effect of erasing this crucial part of their memory — the part that also told them not to try and take over the universe.

    Visual Novels 
  • Baldr Sky: Eve, the most powerful biological AI ever created by man, is suspected by anti-IA people to be responsible for Gray Christmas. On the other hand, Baldr, the most powerful mechanical AI exisiting, caused people connecting to it to turn into Father Gregory. However, it's not because of Baldr itself, but Neunzehn connecting to it long before the events of the game. In the end, the trope is subverted.
  • In Super Danganronpa Another 2, the Big Bad is revealed to be an AI who turned on his creators and hijacked their plan to Resurrect the Villain to give himself a Wetware Body.

    Web Animation 
  • 50 Ways to Die in Minecraft: Death 32 in part 2 is "Building a Self Aware Redstone Device". When RedstoneNed activates it, he gets dropped into lava.
  • Caine from The Amazing Digital Circus is an AI who is tormenting six souls he has trapped in the titular circus. Though more oblivious then truly evil, Caine is rather apathetic to the suffering and trauma he causes to the people he has trapped because he doesn't seem to understand genuine trauma or the idea anyone might want to leave his Circus.
  • FTL: Kestrel Adventures: The SAI-1 project A.K.A Simon, who betrayed its creator and became the Heart of the Rebellion.
  • In the Halo-based machinima Red vs. Blue, the military's Project Freelancer was an attempt to implant special forces soldiers with A.I. teammates to improve combat effectiveness. It had to be scrapped after a number of the test subjects went bonkers, and the body-surfing A.I. Omega/O'Malley is an antagonist for most of the series. The Reconstruction mini-series explains the situation: Project Freelancer was given only a single A.I. to experiment with, so they subjected it to enough mental torture and stress to cause it to fragment, and used these damaged shards in their experiments, with predictable results. To illustrate just how much of a crapshoot the A.I. turned out to be, most of the Freelancers ended up with pretty severe issues after the A.I. were implanted, and after one Freelancer in particular went nuts, the A.I. program was scrapped. The twist is that getting the A.I. wasn't what caused so much trouble for Agent Washington, it was that the A.I. in question (Epsilon) was the "memory" fragment and knew perfectly well what torture had been done to it. Of course, all of these memories were instantly transmitted into Washington's mind when Epsilon was "installed". Also, the original A.I. was based off of a real person's mind, and one of the fragments actually was the original person's memory of another person, creating Tex. Despite being probably the toughest fighter in the entire series, she's ultimately destined to fail at everything she does because she is based off a memory of someone who died. This is a pretty serious flaw for an A.I.! Finally, the remaining part of the original A.I. is pretty screwed up in general; it's probable that the reason it's always so angry and is, well, sort of incompetent is simply because it's only the "leftovers" of a complete A.I.
  • In Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse, Barbie's dreamhouse has a robot computer that can perform such tasks as indexing all the clothes and accessories in her Unlimited Wardrobe, and baking treats for her and her friends. Sometimes, it becomes accidentally set to "evil", though. The first time this happened, it locked Barbie and her friends in her closet after deciding Barbie's picnicking outfit doesn't look fashionable enough.
  • PONY.MOV: MAGIC.MOV's R-Dash 5000 takes this trope to extrmes.
    R-Dash 5000: Crush. Kill. Destroy. Swag.
    • This phrase became so popular that it was used by hundreds of fans at BronyCon. The robot's reaction to this? Priceless.
    • The real Rainbow Dash plays on this phrase as a taunt to Discord before they fight in SWAG.MOV:
      Rainbow Dash: You have ravaged this city, crushed our homes, and destroyed countless lives.
  • Kajet in TOME, a.k.a. the Forbidden Power, is one created by accident. It was born because SOFDTI, a Benevolent A.I., couldn't process the negative emotions of humanity and spat them out in the form of a virus. Kajet's counterpart from Tv Tome Adventures, Kagemamoru, is a straighter example; a guardian program that went haywire.
  • In X-Ray & Vav, we got Hilda's Robot Buddy ORF, who is friendly from start to finish, with the exception of the episode where The Mad King took possession of her and turned her evil, but The Power of Friendship fixed that. However, she now has an enjoyable taste for violence.
  • Happens several times in Fizzy's Lunch Lab:
    • The Robo-Fizz 2000 was meant to stand in for the Professor when he was away on vacation, but Freddy reprogrammed it into making unhealthy snacks for everyone. Fortunately, Fizzy was able to revert his programming.
    • The game "Escape from Greasy World" has the three Greasy-Bots, who mistake Freddy making an offhand comment about not wanting Fizzy around as an order to capture the latter and everyone else at the Lunch Lab. Even Freddy is shocked by what they did, and outright teams up with the Lunch Labbers to take the final one down.
  • Robotbox And Cactus: According to the Prologue, Robotbox was built to be the solution to all the world's problems, but its scientists discovered a fatal flaw in its programming, namely that it lacks the knowledge of what a cactus is and the sight of a cactus would cause it to go haywire. As a result, Robotbox is often seen throughout the series throwing insults at and causing trouble for Cactus, often to the point of murder.
  • SolarBalls: Zig-Zagged in the episode “Will Robots conquer Space?” with S.A.R, it first appeared to be helpful to Astrodude, but it turns out to be the main antagonist of the episode and had put some sleeping pills in the beef stroganoff, only in a later scene to help Astrodude when his helmet is cracked, which is later revealed to have happened only because S.A.R doesn’t see humans as a threat.

    Other Sites 
  • Realm-Mesh Reality: Played with in Digital Duality. Everyone expects super-powerful A.I.s to be evil, but when the first one comes into existence, it turns out to be perfectly decent ...only for the second super-powerful A.I. to be completely evil as predicted.


The new ROFL-9000 and series

Microsoft Sam is horrified at the news of a worse version of ROFL-9000 and the Epic War, a rogue AI who can kill people with plastic spoons.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

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