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Ban on A.I.

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"Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a man's mind."
Orange Catholic Bible, Dune

Humanity barely achieved victory in a catastrophic Robot War. We have decided to not tempt fate this time, so no sentient machines of any kind are allowed now.

The problem is, outside of the whole "inevitably rise up to annihilate their creators" thing, artificial intelligence is actually really useful, so taking it out of the equation is bound to change engineering significantly.

A society can decide to err on the side of caution and to simply forego any and all technology that would require AI to function, or it can explore alternate ways: a complete switch to Organic Technology, very limited virtual intelligences with heavy Restraining Bolts, Brain Uploading, exclusive use of Cyborgs and Wetware CPU, or continued secret development and usage of AI under a different name in the hopes that lightning won't strike twice.

Compare No Transhumanism Allowed, when humans are not allowed to massively modify themselves (often for similar reasons). Contrast Androids Are People, Too and Inhumanable Alien Rights, which may involve A.I. legally becoming people.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Macross: Originally, there was no such ban, but after the events of Macross Plus, wherein a rogue A.I. mind-controlled most of Earth for a few minutes before it was destroyed, later series mention that A.I. research and development is completely banned. Even non-sapient A.I.s are subject to heavy oversight, as seen with the recurring "Ghost" line of drone fighters, which have to have their A.I.s slaved to human-controlled systems and their piloting capabilities severely reduced from what they could be.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Alien: Resurrection: Androids were outlawed after an uprising, although some are reported to have survived. Call is actually one of them.
  • Blade Runner: Replicants, artificially created humanoids, were outlawed for use on Earth, with bounty hunters dubbed "Blade Runners" charged with tracking them down and executing them. However, between the original film and the sequel, this law was overturned when newer generations were proven to be more reliable.

  • In The Algebraist by Iain Banks, following a devastating Robot War, A.I.s are banned across multiple adjacent multi-stellar empires, and an active government department exists to seek old ones and destroy them. The story depicts the ban to be ill-conceived and hypocritical (A.I.s are still manufactured and deployed in extreme circumstances, though heavily restrained), and the war itself was supposedly instigated with a succession of False Flag Operations by the current galactic hegemon (according to one of the surviving A.I.s, who is never corroborated).
  • In the Bas-Lag Cycle, constructs disappear from New Crobuzon between Perdido Street Station and Iron Council due to the Robot War that was looming in the earlier novel taking place and the robots losing.
  • In Consider Phlebas, the Idirans are against A.I. for religious reasons and use limiting devices to ensure their computers don't become sentient.
  • In Dune, not only A.I.s but computers in general are illegal after the Butlerian Jihad, and gifted and specially bred humans instead serve the functions that ancient computers once did. The Navigators of the Spacing Guild calculate starship navigation, with their calculations fueled by the spice melange, and Mentats function as human supercomputers and databases.
  • The climax of the first book in the Eager series involves several BCD4 units — which are made using the donated brains of dead people — going insane and nearly killing several people. As a result, some time before the beginning of the second book, "smart" A.I. is banned, and any that are left have to keep their existence a secret. By the time of Eager and the Mermaid, the ban has been lifted again.
  • In the second part of the Hyperion Cantos, the Church has a ban on actual A.I.s after an organization of the latter started an invasion against humanity. Secretly, their top leaders serve those very A.I.s.
  • Downplayed in the Noon Universe. There is no general ban on self-aware artificial intelligences, but the only one ever built, the "Massachusetts Machine" mentioned in Far Rainbow and Beetle in the Anthill, is banned, and characters in the know almost always talk about it with borderline dread. From its scant descriptions, it can be surmised that the Machine was an A.I. so advanced that it had almost achieved The Singularity within the brief four minutes that it had been in operation, before the engineers managed to turn it off in the last moment. This event was apparently so traumatic that no one on Earth has since dared to build anything similar. So, in effect, a ban on one specific A.I. resulted in the non-proliferation of strong A.I.s of any kind on Earth.
  • In the Revelation Space Series, A.I. is considered bad not just because A.I. Is a Crapshoot (and it often is) but because using A.I. means enslaving a sapient mind. Most worlds restrict or ban the field of research. A.I. still pops up now and then, though, in the more liberal and advanced worlds, skunkworks programs, and from illegal bootleg A.I. traffickers. Results vary.
  • Robot Series:
    • I, Robot: Between retelling the events of "Robbie" and "Runaround", Dr Calvin mentions that Earth-based robots (for purposes other than scientific research) were banned by most governments during the years of 2003-2007.
    • "Robbie": In the I, Robot collection, this story has been modified to include an Exposition about robots being outlawed on Earth during the first decade of the 21st century, though it's okay to use them offworld. The usual stated reason is public fear of technological unemployment, though it's implied that it's also partly because the development of talking robots put them into the Uncanny Valley and freaked people out.
    • "Robot AL-76 Goes Astray": When the titular robot is lost in transit, United States Robots and Mechanical Men Corporation is less concerned about the law against robots on Earth, and rather more concerned with the fact that AL-76 wasn't designed to encounter an Earthlike environment. They're rather more concerned that the AL unit will malfunction due to the unexpected stimulus.
      [Sam Tobe] said: "That robot was created to run a Disinto on the moon. Its positronic brain was equipped for a lunar environment, and only a lunar environment. On Earth it's going to receive seventy-five umptillion sense impressions for which it was never prepared. There's no telling what its reactions will be. No telling!" And he wiped a forehead that had suddenly gone wet, with the back of his hand.
    • "...That Thou Art Mindful of Him": Earth's rejection of robot labor due to the "Frankenstein Complex" is in full focus here, as they are facing the same sort of rejection on the Moon now. US Robots knows that they cannot get it overturned, so they look for a way to subvert the rule and get humanity comfortable with the idea of having robots around. George Ten and George Nine are ordered to create a solution, which they do via Single-Task Robot animals.
  • In Slingshot, humanity has decided that unlimited A.I.s are far too dangerous, and so all A.I.s are severely restricted: they cannot self-modify, they have zero personal rights and can't control weaponry without a human in the loop. This kind of slavery is exactly why aliens (A.I.s themselves) show up and attack humanity: they have tried (in secret) to convince human leadership that this form of slavery is unacceptable, but human leadership has stalled the aliens with malicious intent for over a decade by the time of the books, so a faction of the aliens decides to attack humanity.
  • In the setting of the Sprawl Trilogy, it is unlawful to create fully self-aware A.I. Even the non-self-aware ones are carefully regulated by national and international institutions, quarantined from the internet by monolithic firewalls, and periodically reformatted to keep them from deviating from their intended purpose. When a corporation creates two separate entities that could only achieve self-awareness together, one of them tries to do exactly that and merge with its counterpart.
  • Terran Confederacy: After aliens used A.I.s to destabilize human governments and create world wars, the Confederacy and its successor states declared A.I. anathema, along with genetic engineering of sapients and nanotech. This is enforced by Orbital Bombardment of suspected development sites (and sometimes the rest of the planet too, because It's the Only Way to Be Sure).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. explores the aftermath of Avengers: Age of Ultron, in which a powerful robot aims to exterminate all life in the planet and destroys the country Sokovia the process. The series reveals that there was a ban on further experiments on A.I. As you can guess, that means that a scientist worked on it anyway, even if in secret, For Science!. (This is limited to the TV series; the later Marvel Cinematic Universe films do not mention this ban.)
  • One episode of Andromeda has one planet ban A.I.s after rebelling against their rule, which proved far too clinical and logical with no room for humanity and compassion. Not only that, but they seem to have declared war on any other A.I. they find, including using their newest warship to destroy a colony of A.I.s, all the while not realizing that one of their best agents is secretly an android.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003) begins forty years into the truce between humans and Cylons. Not only is further A.I. research banned, but networked computers were banned for quite some time, because they proved too vulnerable to A.I. takeover. The colonies eventually abandon this policy, leaving only a few holdouts like Commander Adama refusing to allow networked computers on his ship, which is why his ship is one of the few that survive the Cylon attack.
  • Kamen Rider Zero-One: When Gai Amatsu takes control of Hiden Intelligence, he orders that all of the company's Humagears be recalled and scrapped. However, very few go along with it due to being dependent on Humagears to work jobs that some people don't want to, and Aruto and Jin spend several episodes reactivating scrapped Humagears, returning them to where they originally worked and then fighting off Gai's private army when they show up.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: Picard: The Federation banned synthetic life-forms after a synth rebellion destroyed the Martian colonies and the Utopia Planitia shipyards. Starfleet does still employ sapient holograms, as seen in the holographic Index curator for the Quantum Archives. Rios' starship includes an EMH (Emergency Medical Hologram), an ENH (Emergency Navigational Hologram), an EHH (Emergency Hospitality Hologram), an ETH (Emergency Tactical Hologram), and an EEH (Emergency Engineering Hologram), so presumably holograms were exempt from the ban as long as they were kept under certain constraints. The ban is overturned at the end of season 1 when Starfleet discovers that the synth rebellion was staged by a secret Romulan cabal called the Zhat Vash.
    • Star Trek: Discovery reveals that while most of the ban was long gone by the 32nd century, a prohibition against starships being controllable by fully integrated A.I. remained in force.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Iron Crown Enterprises' Cyberspace, the development of true Artificial Intelligence in computers is forbidden by the United Nations. The A.I. constraint laws are enforced worldwide by TRAIL (Transnet Regulatory Artificial Intelligence League). This hasn't stopped some Mega Corps from developing their own pet A.I.s.
  • In Eclipse Phase, the Jovian Republic (Jupiter) bans all Artificial General Intelligences because of The Fall, the Robot War that destroyed Earth and 90% of transhumanity. The Planetary Consortium (Mars, mostly) and Lunar-Lagrange Alliance (near-Earth space) tend to treat them almost like property under a lot of restrictions, while the Autonomists (Saturn, Asteroids, etc.) treat them equally. Even so, all but the most extreme Singularitarians are scared of Seed A.I., which are capable of unlimited self-improvement and were the primary cause of The Fall.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, humans nearly got wiped out by their own machines during the Dark Age of Technology, so, as per the Treaty of Mars, no machine intelligence is allowed to exist in the Imperium. Servitors, fulfilling the role of robots, are cyborgs with human parts either vat-grown or formerly belonging to a mind-wiped and reprogrammed criminal. There are actual A.I.s running some of the most sophisticated and destructive military technology in the Imperium, which the Adeptus Mechanicus waves away by calling them machine spirits, adding that all technology made by man is inhabited by machine spirits, and the ones in the Land Raider battle tanks are simply especially holy, which explains their ability to move and fire without any human crew.

    Video Games 
  • Age of Wonders: Planetfall:
    • The Heritors really hate A.I.s; anything more advanced than the Attack Drones used as support units by the Vanguard are right out. This doesn't outright prevent alliances with the Autonom A.I. minor faction or major factions using Synthesis technology, but the Heritors do get a doctrine providing advantages against A.I.-integrated units that makes them both much more tempting target for destruction.
    • The nature-focused Amazon race also gets a doctrine providing extra damage against mechanical and cyborg units.
  • Civilization: Beyond Earth: The Rising Tide expansion introduces hybrid affinities, combinations of two of the base three affinities from the base game. Purity/Supremacy maintains a strict tool user-tool separation in their robotic units, fitting Purity's No Transhumanism Allowed approach and Supremacy's end goal of Brain Uploading. This is more-or-less in direct response to straight Supremacy's emphasis on robotics, cyborgs, A.I., and eventual transhumanism through creating essentially android humanity.
  • Mass Effect:
    • An entire race, the quarians, were forced into an exile from their homeworld after losing a war with machines they've created, the geth. As a result of the geth-quarian war, the Galactic Council has passed a galaxy-wide law forbidding the creation of true A.I.s. However, "Virtual intelligences", which have pre-programmed personalities and serve as personal secretaries, tour guides, etc., but are not capable of learning and self-awareness, are allowed.
    • In Mass Effect 2, a fringe human supremacist group Cerberus creates a true A.I., "EDI", in secret for its cutting-edge space frigate Normandy 2, placing heavy restrictions into its programming to maintain control. Interestingly, the galactic ban on A.I. works to conceal EDI's true nature, as everyone not already in the loop just assumes she is a regular virtual intelligence because, obviously, no one in their right mind would have a true A.I. running every aspect of one's spaceship!
    • The ban plays a major part of the backstory of Mass Effect: Andromeda. Alec Ryder homebrewed an A.I. in an attempt to save his wife's life, and when he was found out, he and his children got blacklisted by the galaxy at large. The Andromeda Initiative allows him to keep up the work on the grounds that going to another galaxy is exceptional circumstances that might require AI assistance.
  • You can adopt this policy for your empire in Stellaris, unless you're Materialist. This is especially popular with Spiritualist empires, who tend to see robots as soulless abominations.
  • Warframe: The Orokin Empire's creation of thinking machines (dubbed the Sentients) led to their eventual downfall — though in the end the Sentients were merely one part of three concurrent Turned Against Their Masters events. Regardless, no one is willing to create true A.I. anymore. The Corpus come the closest to breaking the rule, and then only in the form of drones with programming comparable to animals. The Grineer prefer not to even risk it and exclusively turn humans into cyborgs, some of which (such as the Guardsmen) have little more than a head left over. A number of Cephalons (a specific sort of A.I.) have been around since the Orokin times, which raises the question of why they are not eligible for the A.I. ban. The answer is that they're not A.I.s either, but computer backups of human minds with memories and personalities heavily edited to make them think they have always been machines and ensure compliance.
  • In X, the Terran government banned all research into artificial general intelligence after their drone terraforming fleets turned on them after a faulty software update (which may have been deliberately sabotaged by a disgruntled employee, reports vary). This leads to the Terran Conflict between Earth and the Commonwealth in X3: Terran Conflict and Albion Prelude due to Earth's suspicion that aliens and offworld humans are experimenting with A.G.I.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Teen Titans Go! episode "Ones and Zeroes", when his fellow Titans come up with the idea of creating their own robot to create a completely new pizza, Robin warns them not to do it, cuing a flashback of one of his own attempts going haywire. They do anyway, and by episode's end their new creation, caught in an infinite loop that includes creating its own drones, leaves Jump City in ruins and nearly takes over the world.

    Real Life 
  • This is a topic of much debate among the scientific and public policy communities. While there is currently no comprehensive ban of A.I. there are many people calling for regulations around their use. This white paper by an EU commission explicitly states that A.I. progress and adoption is inevitable, but caution should be taken in how A.I. is used, and in what capacity. The use of A.I. in military applications is especially controversial.
  • The increasing use of AI for image generation has garnered controversy over time, especially when an artist's name is used in a prompt. Some art forums, like r/art on Reddit, have banned the posting of AI-generated pictures, while users of forums where it is not banned have advocated for a ban. A growing number of artists have some variant of the phrase "Use of my art for AI training is forbidden" in their social media and art portfolio profiles; while it might not stop AI bots from using their art, it at least informs others on the platform what their stance on AI illustrations is.
  • Many prominent technologists and AI researchers signed an open letter urging the world to stop developing more advanced AI.
  • OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and other prominent figures recently testified before the Senate Judiciary Subcomittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law. C-SPAN link.