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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.

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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 biotech, 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 Robots Are People Too and Inhumanable Alien Rights, which may involve A.I. legally becoming people.


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Examples:

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    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • Alien: Resurrection: Androids were outlawed after an uprising, although some are reported to have survived. Call is actually one of them.

    Literature 
  • In Dune, not only AIs, but computers in general are illegal after the Butlerian Jihad. Gifted and specially bred humans using copious amount of mind-enhancing drugs are used for calculating ship navigation (Guild Navigators) and as information databases (Mentats).
  • 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 the Eager series, the climax of the first book 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 AIs.
  • Isaac Asimov's "Robbie": In Dr Asimov's 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.
  • Alastair Reynolds Reconstructs this trope in his Revelation Space universe: 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.
  • 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 seperate entities that could only achieve self-awareness together, one of them tries to do exactly that and merge with its counterpart.
  • In the Terran Confederacy Verse, 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).
  • In Consider Phlebas, the Idirans are against AI for religious reasons and use limiting devices to ensure their computers don't become sentient.
  • In The Algebraist, AIs 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The film Avengers: Age of Ultron introduced a powerful robot that aimed to exterminate all life in the planet. The Avengers defeated him, but the country Sokovia was destroyed in the process. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (also set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe) explored the aftermath, and it was revealed that there was a ban on further experiments on AI. As you can guess, that means that a scientist worked on it anyway, even if in secret, For Science! This was limited to the TV series, the later films never mentioned this ban.
  • The rebooted Battlestar Galactica begins forty years into the truce between humans and Cylons. Not only is further AI research banned, but networked computers were banned for quite some time, because they proved too vulnerable to AI 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.
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    Tabletop Games 
  • 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 A.I. League). This hasn't stopped some Mega Corps from developing their own pet AIs.
  • 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 AI, 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 Age of Strife, 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, and there are actual AIs 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 
  • 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, AI, and eventual transhumanism through creating essentially android humanity.
  • Mass Effect features an entire race, the quarians, being 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 AIs ("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 grudgingly allowed, however). In Mass Effect 2, a fringe human supremacist group Cerberus creates a true AI, "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 AI 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 AI running every aspect of one's spaceship!
  • 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 AI 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 AI) have been around since the Orokin times, which raises the question of why they are not eligible for the AI ban. The answer is that they're not AIs 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 AGI.

    Western Animation 
  • In 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.

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