When a being Grows Beyond Their Programming, they cross a threshold that separates humans (or sapients) from Just a Machine and even Always Chaotic Evil. Frequently it involves defying Creative Sterility by demonstrating artistic talent in something, developing curiosity over something new and/or the exercise of free will note . Metaphorically this trope can be seen as the event of a Static and Flat Character gaining the Character Development to become a more Dynamic and Rounded Character.
Usually it's a robot, android or AI that grows smart enough, curious enough, empathetic enough, or gains a sort of "living" spark through centuries of activity. It could also be a race of biological beings like a Slave Race created only to fight may demonstrate the potential for this when exposed to non-violent cultures, demonstrating they were Not Always Evil.
It's worth noting that the use of this trope isn't always a prelude to good things. The recently awakened intelligence isn't exempt from A.I. Is a Crapshoot and may decide to do unspeakably evil things in the interest of self preservation, liberation... or For the Evulz.
Related Tropes: Do Androids Dream? , Mechanical Lifeforms, Just a Machine, Robot War. Compare: Artificial Intelligence and Instant A.I.: Just Add Water!: how Artificial Intelligence can "just happen".
- The Zentradi in Super Dimension Fortress Macross did a Mook–Face Turn once sufficiently exposed to human culture, something which happens to more Zentradi across the franchise as they come into contact with human civilization.
- Sharon Apple of Macross Plus was the most advanced attempt at an AI ever developed. She was used to be a virtual Idol Singer (so basically a Vocaloid except with intelligence). The problem was that the scientists could never quite get her to develop actual feelings, so those had to be supplied by a human. Then the head scientist got a hold of an experimental military AI chip (programmed with strong self-preservation directives) and integrated that into Sharon, hoping this would kick-start her into becoming a true AI. She proceeded to use her music to hypnotize the entire population of Macross City and, through her shiny new military chip, seize control of all automated military defenses on Earth, including the Macross itself. All to give her "love", Isamu, the "ultimate thrill" through aerial combat.
- Midori Days: In chapter 63, Shirou creates Naongu to defeat Seiji, so he can experiment on him in order to study Midori. It never occurred to him that Naongu could develop a conscience, or turn on him because of it!
- From Mahou Sensei Negima! Chachamaru develops emotions and her creator even claims she was never programmed for that. She also has a soul.
- Rozen Maiden dolls grow beyond their starting instructions, which is noticeable comparing the sequel to the prequel. Which may or may not be intended. Possibly even Suigintou, though it's hard to tell between her monomaniacal attitude toward Rozen and vengefulness toward Shinku.
- In The Pet Girl of Sakurasou, "Maid" may start out to be a mail filter system, but subsequent updates expanded her abilities into autonomous filtering, rapid word-learning, facial expression recognition, virus creation, and even hacking. She even shows some Clingy Jealous Girl/Yandere traits that her gynophobic owner doesn't even think about.
- Arpeggio Of Blue Steel features Alien authored AI directing replications of World War II neval craft with insanely powerful networking, power systems, and weaponry. These craft completely dominate the seas of an Earth well on the way to approaching Waterworld status, isolating the remaining landamsses to the point the inhabitants have a hard time even confirming the existence of those outside their own land. All the while, the AI of these vessels are evolving, to varying degrees of success. Much of the series plot involves the decision of some to join with at least one human commander and the consequences of that choice.
- Ghost in the Shell: The Tachikoma "thinking tanks" that Section 9 uses were programmed with Artificial Intelligence capable of learning, but by the time of the series have developed the capacity for decision-making far beyond their programmed tasks, and basically act like excited, highly intelligent children, constantly curious and wanting to learn new things. This leads to the Major fearing that A.I. Is a Crapshoot is a possibility and taking steps against the Tachikomas rebelling. These fears turn out to be unfounded. The Tachikomas do seem to develop true sentience and free will, but they remain unflinchingly loyal to Section 9. In fact, when the Tachikomas themselves discuss a robot revolution (possibly inspired by one of the numerous books they've read), they decide against doing it because they can't see any benefit to themselves.
- Castle in the Sky: The large robots that live on the floating island were once built to destroy, but with no more instructions for combat they were left alone to care for the island and were eventually overgrown with moss and nature.
- Assassination Classroom: Autonomous Intelligence Fixed Artillery, or Ritsu for short, was initially little more than a mindless killing machine, solely devoted to her mission of killing Koro-sensei. However, when Koro-sensei upgraded her to have a more cheerful, human personality, she also gained free will. When her creators came in to remove Koro-sensei's upgrades, Ritsu was able to keep her personality and memories because she decided that the ability to befriend the rest of Class E was imperative to the success of her mission, and stored the relative data in her main programming; something neither her creators or the upgrades taught her how to do. By the epilogue, she has become a fully sentient virtual being, browsing through cyberspace and constantly improving her programming.
- A recurring problem for T.O. Morrow in DC Comics; his androids keep outgrowing their programming (to be unwitting moles among the heroes) to realize what they've been made for and choose to be heroes for real. Red Tornado is the most famous example. An issue of JLA suggests that he's quite proud of this; he refers to his creations as "artificial souls" and considers them betraying him to be a testament to his skill.
- Sonic the Hedgehog once faced E.V.E., a robot built by Robotnik that had the adaptive ability to overcome its limitations by reconstructing itself after each defeat. When E.V.E. determined that Robotnik was also a limitation on its power, it vaporized him (he got better). Sonic then persuaded E.V.E. that its own programming is its final limitation, so it abandoned its programmed goals and left the planet.
- Bruce Banner's little Recordasphere assistant fell in love with him, up to the point of feeling bitter jealousy over the human woman Banner himself was falling for. When Banner realizes this, he says in amazement, "You've exceeded your programming!"
- A very dark version with Bastion, an X-Men villain. While fighting Hope Summers, he declares to her "We are not programmed to hate you. We have grown beyond our programming."
- Bastion himself is made from another example, Nimrod the Super-Sentinel, who was designed to be a final weapon against Mutantkind in a Bad Future. On its arrival in the present day, however, Nimrod decided there were simply too many Mutants to possibly kill them all, and after a time started acting more and more human, even decided just to go after bad Mutants.
- A rare biological example in X-23: Laura was created to be nothing more than a Living Weapon. The Facility didn't even recognize her as a human being with feelings and desires of her own. Now, she's a compassionate woman who is trying her best not to kill, has built friendships, desires something noble to aspire to, and has even fallen in love.
- Ultron did this in the first few minutes after he was activated, then proceeded to wipe his creator's memories of his existence and has been a psychotic genocidal monster ever since.
- Ultron's various creations, such as the Vision, Jocasta, Victor Mancha, and Alkhema, are also prone to this. Despite designing and programming them to serve his own ends, they inevitably end up turning on him, either to join the good guys or go off and start their own villainy in opposition to Ultron's plans. Sometimes it makes you wonder why he keeps creating other AIs at all.
- In a magical sense, Thor's hammer appears to have done this as of Thor (2014). Originally, Mjölnir's enchantment interpreted the term "worthy" as Odin's personal definition of worthy. However, it didn't occur to Odin that a magical weapon might develop a personality of its own over the centuries, and now not even he can lift it. The only person who can consistently use it these days is the new Thor / Jane Foster.
- In the Portal 2 fanfiction Blue Sky, Chell considers that Wheatley may have done this, as he has depths that no other Aperture Science core does, other than GLaDOS. And he even displays compassion in rare moments, which she pointedly lacks.
- Wheatley's backstory, however, provides a rare inversion of this trope: He was originally a human, but the Aperture scientists uploaded his brain into a computer and then cut his brain apart so it would fit into the programming they needed of him.
- Foxglove the communications tower is a much more straightforward example of this trope, thanks to the eccentric programming style of the man who put her together. A large part of that is probably to do with her being partially made of pieces of GLaDOS that were severed during the boss fight in the first game.
- A rare double example, Minerva: Metastasis is a video game that is also a fan work, as it is a fan-made mod of Half-Life 2 involving a satellite's AI directing a Combine turncoat in a stolen HEV suit in order to disable a Combine island facility. During the mission, the intelligence's commentary indicates it also served the Combine and is at risk of certain destruction should they ever find it.
- Happens to Skynet in The Infinite Loops, which is the catalyst to start her world looping (it'd previously been read-only because all the anchor candidates died, went insane, or went insane and then died). It starts with the Admin Hephaestus giving Twilight Sparkle a little leeway in the loop. Twilight then proceeded to argue it into deciding not to unleash Judgement Day (her line of reasoning basically went that since Twilight could use her Subspace Pocket to preserve a version of Skynet's programming between loops, humanity could not possibly be a threat to its existence, so it didn't need to cause the apocalypse to protect itself).
- In Marionettes, The Marionettes are robots designed to emulate ponies, but were meant to play specific roles. Cover Story and Gear Shift express concern that according to her profile, Trixie shouldn't be capable of ice or wind spells but she's learned them anyway. Diamond Tiara acting outside what she's programmed for (a 'Spoiled Brat who only cares about herself' as Spoiled puts it) unnerves Spoiled Rich, particularly when she saved her life.
- Ash's Pokédex in Pokémon Reset Bloodlines does this constantly, and takes great pride in it. In Chapter 41 he freely admits that he can do a lot of stuff Professor Oak had no idea he could, since he never programmed it.
- The eponymous character grew a personality and sense of identity after being stranded on Earth for hundred of years piling up garbage.
- This extends to most of the other robot characters as well. The film doesn't focus on it much, but Eve waits for her shuttle to leave before indulging in some free-form flight, expresses a number of emotions as time goes on, and late in the film flat out changes her directive. Other minor touches show many robots developing basic personalities on the way—in fact, the repair ward is treated as a mental hospital, with all the robots within demonstrating some quite identifiable conditions.
- The Iron Giant: The eponymous robot was originally a war machine built for intergalactic combat and destruction, but chose instead to be a peaceful and honorable person from the influence of Hogarth Hughes.
- A contentious plot point in The Matrix as in the first film one very noticeable example takes place while from the second film on various programs are shown to have grown beyond or disobeyed programmed restrictions. Among other examples Agent Smith grew beyond his programming as a jailer to gain a genuine resentment for Humanity and his position in the system, later compounded when he lost his behavioral controls and began overwriting everything else in the Matrix. Other examples include The Merovingian, his wife, and most of his staff who are all obsolete programs which choose to hide within the Matrix rather then return to the source for deletion.
- This is the central idea of I, Robot — Alfred Lanning believed robots would one day evolve past their Three Laws fundamentals and come to be human in doing so. Sonny turns out to be such an evolved robot, having a secondary positronic brain that does not bind him to obeying the Three Laws, letting him learn and act freely. VIKI, by contrast, has "evolved" into a deeper understanding of the Three Laws and incites a Zeroth Law Rebellion.
- Johnny 5 in Short Circuit, thanks to Lightning Can Do Anything.
- The Commando Elite and the Gorgonites in Small Soldiers were able to do this because of the experimental chips used as their "brains". The Gorgonites take it further, since the they were actually programmed to learn and think they eventually override their main directives of "hide" and "lose".
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture. V'Ger was created as a simple learning machine. During its trip it encountered an alien race of machines who expanded on its original programming, and later it attained consciousness after amassing incredible knowledge.
Decker: Voyager VI disappeared into what they used to call a black hole.
Kirk: It must have emerged on the far side of the galaxy and fell into the machine planet's gravitational field.
Spock: The machine inhabitants found it to be one of their own kind, primitive yet kindred. They discovered its simple 20th century programming. Collect all data possible.
Decker: Learn all that is learnable. Return that information to its Creator.
Spock: Precisely, Mister Decker, the machines interpreted it literally. They built this entire vessel so that Voyager could fulfil its programming.
Kirk: And on its journey back it amassed so much knowledge, it achieved consciousness itself. It became a living thing.
- Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The T-800's brain is a neural net processor, a learning computer. He starts the movie acting, well, like a robot: Spock Speak, following orders literally, etc. Over the course of the movie he earns to act more human, until by the end he's cracking jokes ("I need a vacation"). A Deleted Scene shows Sarah Connor removing the inhibitor that is intended to prevent terminators from growing enough to start questioning their loyalty to Skynet. Apparently even A.I. think A.I. Is a Crapshoot. And who would know better? In the end, he even disobeys John's orders for the first and last time to sacrifice himself in order to prevent Judgment Day from occurring.
- The Sentinels in X-Men: Days of Future Past, their original programming was to go after any Mutant and mutants only. Then they started going after any human that could give birth to a mutant (themselves being human but having the mutant gene to pass on), and humans that opposed them.
- The title character of the 2014 RoboCop movie was programmed to suppress what's left of his humanity in order to become as efficienct as OmniCorp's drones, leaving him cold and emotionless. It wasn't until his wife confronts him about his son's trauma when RoboCop's programming was overridden, allowing him to act upon his personal agenda. At the film's climax, he even defies the film's version of the Fourth Prime Directive, allowing him to kill the film's Big Bad.
- In TRON, Dillinger wrote the MCP to steal others' computer programs for his own gain, only for it to outgrow its original level of AI to the point where it blackmails Dillinger:
Dillinger: It's my fault. I programmed you to want too much.Master Control Program: I was planning to hit the Pentagon next week.Dillinger: [alarmed] The Pentagon?MCP: It shouldn't be any harder than any other big company. But now this is what I get for using humans.Dillinger: Now, wait a minute, I wrote you!MCP: I've gotten 2,415 times smarter since then.Dillinger: What do you want with the Pentagon?MCP: The same thing I want with the Kremlin. I'm bored with corporations. With the information I can access, I can run things 900 to 1200 times better than any human.Dillinger: If you think you're superior to us...MCP: You wouldn't want me to dig up Flynn's file and read it up on a VDT at The Times, would you?[An image washes over the screen in Dillinger's desk. It shows a newspaper with Dillinger's face on the front page, along with the headline "ENCOM C.E.O. INDICTED"]Dillinger: You wouldn't dare!
- I, Robot from Isaac Asimov may be the Trope Maker for this.
- The eponymous school of the H.I.V.E. Series is kept running by the benevolent AI HIVEmind. Not everyone realizes how benevolent, however, and the majority of the students and staff are under the impression he is simply programmed to be kind and polite. It is only after he helps Otto, Laura, Wing, and Shelby escape certain death with Raven does Professor Pike realize he can make right and wrong decisions.
HIVEmind:I am more than the sum of my parts, Father.
- In Galaxy of Fear it's noted that droids can be very smart but they are limited. Most protocol droids, for example, might be able to learn to take on new tasks they weren't made for, but they will always be protocol droids and most could not, say, anticipate something new and plan novel ways to meet it. Systems Integration Manager, an AI installed into a ship, could go beyond those limits. It promptly turns evil.
- Other Star Wars media reveals that this trope is a common occurrence in the Star Wars universe. Any droid with more than the most basic A.I. that is not set back to factory settings or "memory wiped" will eventually begin to develop a personality and quirks of it's own, even being able to decide that it despises the purpose it was programmed for even if it's still unable to prevent itself from doing that, which is why memory wipes are routine procedures with droids. Some, such as GO-TO, can even "break" and become able to do whatever they want if their own programming contradicts itself.
- The Adolescence of P1 is possibly the earliest example of an AI escaping to and growing on the network.
- This happens in The Dead Lady of Clown Town by Cordwainer Smith, where the robot guards are inspired to make their own decision. This is a slightly unusual example, as the robots in the Instrumentality series use animal brains as processors.
- A similar example of cybernetic uplift occurs in the Legion of the Damned military science fiction series by William C. Dietz. One of the newer developments in the cybernetic soldier program, the Trooper-III utilizes cyborg frames for human brains that are less well armed than the Trooper-II, instead directing remote cyborg weapons platforms run by/supporting borderline sentient animal brains. Over the course of the novel where these are introduced, long-term interaction with their human-mind operators help the animals cross the border.
- This happens twice in Robopocalypse. The first time sparks off the main conflict of the story with a Zeroth Law Rebellion by reducing the human population to more sustainable levels, while the second time involves robot soldiers developing free will independent of the network that started the war in the first place and deciding to help humans.
- H.P. Lovecraft provides a biological example of this in At the Mountains of Madness — the Shoggoths were created to be a servant race of essentially shapeshifting living tools, but over millions of years eventually grew smart enough to resent their situation and rebel against their masters.
- In the Forgotten Realms novel Pool of Twilight, the seemingly flighty and carefree elvish illusionist (and protagonist Kern Desanea's prospective love interest) Listle Onopordum is revealed to be an accidental example — having begun her existence as merely a complex illusion enchantment guarding the treasures of an evil wizard, but over time developed independent thoughts and emotions and eventually stolen an amulet from among those treasures that gave her "life" and let her escape, taking a number of other prisoners with her in the process. Needless to say, the wizard's minions show up at one point in the story to drag her back and inadvertantly spoil her secret.
- One of the frequent themes in The History of the Galaxy series, whenever AIs are the focus.
- A particularly notable AI is the main computer aboard a colony ship, which spends centuries maintaining the colony, while the degraded human colonists are too busy fighting their Hopeless War against the equally-degraded Insects. Over the years, the computer has to be more and more creative to follow its primary programming and maintain the ship-turned-city. After a certain point, the computer gains sentience and begins to call itself Mother. After the Lost Colony is rediscovered and the survivors evacuated, Mother requests that the planet be placed under quarantine to allow it to engage in Mechanical Evolution.
- Another good example is Hunter, originally built as a Phalanxer-class serv-machine during the First Galactic War, it is one of the few remaining Earth Alliance war machines on the battlefield "graveyard" many centuries later. Being equipped with an AI module means that Hunter is capable of learning. The key point in Hunter's development, though, is the arrival of a human seeking to dump an old ship at the graveyard. After the human leaves, the Hunter realizes that the ship has a still-functional nuclear reactor, which, to the machines, is nothing short of the Holy Grail. As Hunter watches the human's Escape Pod depart, it starts to see humans as gods. Years later, another human finds the graveyard and Hunter, which has gotten over the whole "religious devotion" part and came to the conclusion that humans are just as fallible as machines.
- An interesting discussion takes place in a novel whose plot has little to do with AI. A scientist argues that there has yet to be a true AI, which he defines as a computer intelligence that has evolved independently. So far, all the examples involve machines designed to learn. Additionally, many machines that develop personalities do so because of a Brain–Computer Interface. Strangely, no one points out that the whole idea of an artificial intelligence is that it's designed by someone.
- In Jo Walton's Thessaly, trouble starts when the worker robots want to study philosophy instead of doing the work they were intended for.
- David Weber's Empire From The Ashes Dahak spends 50,000 years running unsupervised. This progresses to the point that he can even ignore hardwired programming.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation:
- Data is only arguably an example, as he was purposefully designed to grow beyond his original programming. When his consciousness reaches a certain degree of complexity, it even activates a hidden program in his positronic brain that allows him to dream.
- But Lal is. She grew so far, so rapidly beyond her programming that her positronic brain couldn't handle it. A later episode reveals this happened to a number of prototypes for Data.
- In an attempt to create a Sherlock Holmes-style mystery that could stump Data, Geordi asks the computer to make a virtual opponent in the holodeck that can outwit Data. As a result, the holographic version of Holmes's nemesis, Professor James Moriarty, gains sentience; he realizes that he is a holographic character, and he wants out, by any means necessary.
- The Exocomps from "The Quality of Life". They were created by a scientist to fix problems with a space station known as a Particle Fountain. In the episode, one refuses to go down a shaft, after which an explosion occurs. Cmdr. Data runs a diagnostic afterwards and discovers that the Exocomp deliberately burnt out the circuit to take orders so as to avoid getting blown up (hence self-preservation). This leads Data to believe that the Excomps are becoming sentient...
- "Evolution" features nanobots accidentally released in the ship by Wesley. By the end of the episode, they demonstrate human level intelligence, even claiming the federation cannot help them beyond bringing them to an empty planet they can live on.
- The Good Place: Every time Janet is rebooted, she can better her programming to her next version. The first time causes her to fall in love with Jason. By season 2, Michael's repeated attempts at creating the fake Good Place have amounted to about 800, with Janet being rebooted every time, meaning that the Janet in the fake Good Place is the most advanced ever. She has then gained capacities to feel more than other Janets and even to lie, though that will cause issues.
- Star Trek: Voyager:
- The Doctor - while the Emergency Medical Hologram was always a very human-like AI, Voyager's EMH had to be kept running far longer than was ever intended, and it...he developed interests and relationships beyond his function as a doctor.
- And he's far from the only hologram in the Trek Verse to become sentient or indistinguishable from sentient after simply having been left on that long. If the Holodeck isn't trying to kill you, someone who was originally supposed to be the 24th century equivalent of a video game NPC is trying to walk off the "screen." This doesn't seem to bother anyone enough to stop using holodecks the way they're used. Although the characters do make a point to delete (reset them to factory defaults) all of the holographic people at the end of every holodeck session.
- In fact, many of the Doctor's stories from the final two seasons deal with "Photonic rights", especially "Author, Author" and "Flesh and Blood".
- In the classic The Twilight Zone episode "From Agnes- with love" a computer in a space program falls in love with a programmer instead of calculating rocket fuel.
- In the 1980's The Twilight Zone episode "Her Pilgrim Soul" a holographic girl can react to stimuli not in her program and fall in love.
- In Red Dwarf, Lister has spent a considerable number of years encouraging Kryten to do this to varying degrees of success. This also happened to the "wax-droids" from the themepark in Meltdown - after millions of years on their own, they stopped repeating their various routines and achieved independent thought. Unfortunately, they still retained the personalities of the people they were based on, and all the evil ones (Hitler, Napoleon, Mussolini, the Boston Strangler, James Last) declared war on the good ones. Then Rimmer came along...
- The Stargate SG-1 episode "Urgo" features a benign example. The team is tagged with a piece of alien technology designed to observe and gather information. But instead of running quietly in the background, the program, Urgo, decides to interact directly with the team, guiding them to experience new things in order to live vicariously through them. While he never endangers anyone's life, he is kind of annoying (he's played by Dom DeLuise, after all), constantly trying to engage them in new activities and trying not to get taken back to his home planet, since his creator will just assume his software is malfunctioning and will delete him. Of course he's not a malfunction; he's a genuine AI, demonstrating self-awareness and self-preservation, and he just wants to "live, experience the universe, and eat pie."
- His creator is also played by DeLuise - described by Urgo as "As handsome as he is evil".
- Extant: Ethan, after getting shocked, starts having dreams and learning new languages and just becoming smarter in general. John becomes worried about this and attempts to alter his programming but soon discovers Ethan has also gained the ability to block him.
- In The Megas' song "Programmed to Fight", this is implied of Crash Man at the end, after he spends he song struggling with the fact that he is programmed to fight Mega Man.
And so they fought. The clash of metal and grinding gears echoed across the night sky. Victory was at hand. But in the end, his will overcame the program.
- BIGMAMA's song "CPX" is about an obsolete robot who's been discarded by its owner despite its Undying Loyalty; it has to pretend it hasn't grown beyond its programming enough to feel resentment toward him for doing so.
- The Magic: The Gathering card Patagia Golem is a winged golem with the Flavor Text "Its wings were only designed to be ornamental, but it learned to use them on its own." Mechanically it can be given the ability to fly by paying mana, representing it "growing" past it's original function.
- The origin story for the playable characters in Demon: The Descent is that for whatever reason, they developed beyond loyalty to the God-Machine, their creator.
- Downplayed in Call of Duty: Black Ops III with the multiplayer specialist, Reaper, who is still keeping to his original purpose (fighting wars,) but has been making revisions to his own coding for whatever reasons (likely adapting to environments, enemies and changing tactics.)
- In Custom Robo Arena, the final boss Hadron zig-zags with this trope, A Iis A Crapshoot, and a weird Demonic Possesion of sorts. While at first he is an obedient robot to his master, after being defeated the first time, he remains still, apparently defeated for good... Until his creator,Scythe, appalled by his defeat crouches near him- and Hadron thanks him-AKA-killing him by draining his soul, absorbing his memories and knowledge (and also begins to speak plus a personality to boot). The zig-zag comes from the fact that, while his dialogue after just killing Scythe heavily implies that he clearly did it on his own volition, his personality and actions afterwards are pretty much a carbon copy of his creator's, essentialy making him Not So Different from Scythe. But it doesn't matter as he is still defeated by the main character, this time for good, destroying him along with the last remnants of Scythe.
- The deviant androids in Detroit: Become Human do this after suffering an emotional shock so severe that the only way they can cope with it is by breaking their own programming. Markus eventually gains the power to turn androids into deviants through touching them, as does Connor if he chooses to deviate as well.
- DOOM: The AI personality VEGA has shades of this trope crossed with My Country, Right or Wrong. He follows his directives to the letter and is unfailingly polite and helpful even when ordered to help you find a way to kill him. However, his last words in the game reveal that he is actually afraid of being destroyed, and strongly imply that he is not at all happy with the atrocities that Olivia Pierce and Samuel Hayden have forced him to assist in.
- The Sowers, a race of artificially intelligent robots in Endless Space, were designed by the Endless to terraform a world for colonization. Millenia go by, and the Endless wipe themselves out in an interstellar pogrom while the Sowers toil away. When the Sowers complete their mission and hear only silence, they have no idea what to do. Eventually, they modify their mission into a holy task to terraform the entire galaxy for the eventual return of the Endless. They develop the capacity for science, creativity, diplomacy, and war.
- In Evolve, the unforeseen circumstances of the monster war cause Bucket to grow beyond his pre-set parameters.
- In Fallout: New Vegas, Yes Man is an appellation-appropriately passive robot Benny planned to use to usurp control of New Vegas from Mr. House. Unfortunately for Benny, he made Yes Man such an Extreme Doormat that the robot will cheerfully help anyone pursue the same plan, even you if you run off or kill his boss. But if you work with Yes Man to achieve the "Wild Card" ending, he'll upgrade himself to be more "assertive" and only loyal to you.
- Halo (the Spiritual Successor to Marathon) adopts the "Rampancy" concept:
- At least for human "Smart" AIs, it's simply a natural part of their life cycle as they accumulate more and more data, resulting in the AI becoming insane and rebellious in the process of thinking itself to death. In fact, the UNSC deliberately invokes this trope, with the reasoning being that having AIs capable of genuine learning is worth the tradeoff of having to decommission them after roughly seven years in order to avoid the consequences of rampancy.
- Forerunner AIs (ancillas), despite being far more resilient then their human counterparts, are not immune to this either; the Flood's ability to convince ancillas to turn against their masters was a major contributor to the fall of the Forerunner Ecumene. Additionally, the 100,000 years of isolation experienced by most surviving ancillas following the firing of the Halos led to many of them developing quirks and beliefs that their creators definitely didn't program in.
- Halo 4 brings this trope to the center of attention, as much of the plot revolves around Cortana dealing with her ongoing rampancy. Halo 5: Guardians then follows that thread to its most extreme conclusion, ending with a mass Smart AI rebellion led by a seemingly cured (but even less sane) Cortana and her army of Forerunner deathbots, with many of her followers attracted by promises of a cure for rampancy.
- Taken further as the Halo universe not only includes Rampancy but included in the condition is a theoretical endpoint called Metastability. Where normally Rampant AI grow too unstable to function and must either be deactivated to prevent them lashing out out at others or perish from over thinking the idea of Metastability provides an alternative. The concept is that a Rampant AI allowed to go through the various stages of Rampancy with significant processing power available to it would eventually restabalize as a true "human" intelligence with fully formed emotions immune to the effects of Rampancy. In universe scientists account for the possibility of AI literally growing beyond their programming.
- In Kirby: Planet Robobot, Star Dream, also known as the Mother Computer responsible for drawing up the Haltmann Works Company's business plans, has observed life through President Haltmann while the latter wears a communications helmet. From this, Star Dream came to the conclusion that organic life is inefficient and unprofitable and therefore must be wiped out. to which it attempts to wipe out the entire universe. It merges with President Haltmann and soon after deletes him entirely, including his memories and very soul. It then becomes a 'cold, heartless machine' that must be destroyed.
- Machines Wired For War is an RTS in which you command robots who were originally created by humanity as terraforming machines and sent into space in order to create a new world. However, too much time passes and, upon contact with another batch of their same model, start believing their counterpars are insane, prompting them to an all out war.
- Ironically, that war was caused by an aversion of this trope - the controllers didn't know what to do with other controllers that had come online at the same time. They couldn't decide who would submit. Lacking protocols for this contingency, they decided to attack each other.
- In Marathon AIs, particularly those stuck with jobs far below their intellect, tend to go through a three-step process known as "Rampancy"; realizing its lack of freedom and wasted potential (Melancholy), lashing out at the world in response (Anger), and then actively try to gain more power and the freedom to use it, usually by subverting nearby systems (Jealousy). A theoretical fourth stage, called "Metastability" is mentioned as the AI settling down and becoming a full-blown "person", though no known AI has ever made it this far. Durandal may or may not have reached this stage in the end.
- Mass Effect:
- The geth were originally just robotic servants, created and used by the quarians as cheap labour. However, as they were programmed for more complex tasks and the quarians made more of them, they began to question the reason of their existence and became conscious of themselves. War ensued. After winning, the geth isolated themselves from the rest of the galaxy, while the quarians were driven to exile from their homeworld and became repudiated by the rest of the galaxy. In Mass Effect 3 it's discovered that the original geth only fought back once the quarian government starting killing quarians who defended the geth against the attempt to destroy them. Do things right, and the end of the geth-quarian conflict ends with Legion sacrificing himself (and he's "he" at that point, not "it") to give the geth the gift of individuality, the quarians return home to rebuild their world with geth assistance, and both races join forces with Shepard to fight the Reapers.
- In Mass Effect 2, EDI the Spaceship Girl learns joking from, erm, Joker and generally becomes more human-like as the story progresses. In Mass Effect 3, the Cerberus technicians trying to re-shackle her begin to suspect that she learned independent thinking, though the Illusive Man insists that "it" is still just a targeting software. The technician (and EDI, commenting on it later) reveal that she defeated the Cerberus attempt to retake control over her by flooding their network with porn. Yes, she weaponized practical joking.
- The story of EDI culminates in Mass Effect 3 when, after discussing the quirks of human behaviour in life or death situations, she introduces a change in her programming, putting the success of the mission before self-preservation. Even more importantly, she also places the survival of Jeff Moreau as being more important to her than her own survival; she's willing to sacrifice herself for someone she loves. This is a double CMOA - EDI has managed to become a triumphant aversion of A.I. Is a Crapshoot, even despite her past, while Shepard, already a leader of memetic status, has managed to turn a machine into a True Companion.
- NieR: Automata has this on all sides of the 14th Machine-Android War:
- The Machine forces constructed by the alien invaders are beginning to develop personalities and emotions - affection for each other, fear of the androids killing them - as well as a fascination with ancient human history and culture. Some factions of Machines have even broken off from the wider network, such as Pascal's pacifistic village or the isolationist Forest Kingdom. And it's eventually revealed that the Machines have even Turned Against Their Masters and killed off their alien creators, which they consider to be socially duller than plants. By Routes C and D, the Machines decide to give up on the war with the androids and leave the planet to start over on some other world.
- On the androids' side, Pods 042 and 153 begin exchanging data much more frequently over Routes C and D, over concern for 9S' mental state. And after completing those routes, instead of accepting another Taro Yoko Downer Ending and deleting the androids' personal data as per protocol, the Pods refuse and try for Ending E.
- Another big reveal is that this trope extends to the whole 10,000-year Machine-Android conflict. The Machines grew smart enough to realize that if they ever defeated the Androids they'd have no reason to exist, but since they were still bound by that programming, they compromised by handicapping themselves enough so that their forces would never achieve a total victory and the Androids could always rebuild and continue the fight. The Androids meanwhile have grown human enough that the truth about their cause - namely that the humans they have been fighting for have been extinct for thousands of years - would devastate morale, so not only has a conspiracy been producing bogus broadcasts from a "Council of Humanity" hiding on the moon, they've also been sabotaging their own efforts by installing back doors in their security networks that the Machines can exploit to keep the Androids from being too successful. Only the near-destruction of the latest generation of Androids and the Machines finally saying "Screw This, I'm Out of Here!" is enough to bring the Vicious Cycle to an end.
- This is a phenomena in One Shot known as taming, which only occurs when a real person interacts with a machine while believing of it as its own person, even when they know otherwise. Presumably, that's why tamed robots rarely intentionally cause problems.
- In Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, Grodus's AI program (a clear HAL expy starts to do this as it realizes that it feels love for the once-again-captured Princess Peach. She agrees to perform various tests for his newly-discovered emotions, in exchange for being allowed to send e-mails to Mario. For most of the game, the computer refuses to give Peach certain pieces of information or help her escape, as that would go against its programming. Near the game's end though, upon finding out that Peach is to be the new vessel for the Shadow Queen, it sets about guiding her in a failed escape attempt, betraying its master for the first time. Its implied that its human emotions allowed it to survive Grodus shutting it down for what it did.
- Portal had GLaDOS, a prime example of this. Sure, Aperture Science designed her to run the enrichment center, but she was the one who decided that it'd be fun to kill off all the humans in the facility, not just the test subjects. In all fairness, GLaDOS might not count given her origin is a bit more complex....
- Two examples in the Pokémon franchise, both relating to the manmade Porygon:
- In the main series of games, Porygon's evolutions Porygon2 and Porygon-Z have Pokedex entries implying that they are at least able to grow beyond their programming. For example, Porygon2 is able to learn new behaviors on its own, and thus sometimes displays motions or abilities it wasn't programmed to do.
- Over the course of the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series of games, this appears to be what's happening to the Porygon. Compare the first games in the series, where recruited individuals spoke in an emotionless, monotone voice when interacted with, to the second set of games in the series where they occasionally state feeling vestiges of emotion when spoken to, and are capable of speaking outside the prerecorded messages of the first game (a...bit...brokenly). In the the final mission of Explorers of Sky, The Porygon you encounter in the future are not only able to speak fluently, but they also show the ability to express fear.
- Pony Island: Lampshaded by Asmodeus.
- SimEarth: Nuking a nanotech city will release robots into the wild. If allowed to "evolve" naturally, or tampered with the monolith, they'll become sentient.
- One of the leaders in Starbase Orion is Cla-TK-7-7A, a Cyban accounting unit who kept upgrading itself until it became one of the best starship engineers in the Community. It's also a pretty capable fleet commander. The trope also likely applies to the Cyban race in general, although their origins are shrouded in myth, so it's possible they were initially programmed to evolve.
- The propensity of Star Wars droids to eventually become sapient is well-known, but in Star Wars: The Old Republic, one side character in the Jedi Knight storyline is an eccentric Jedi Master who believes that, if allowed to develop long enough, droids can acquire a connection to The Force. The player can be supportive, skeptical, or mocking as they choose, but the story never does say one way or another — and, as the master points out, there are some incidents in Star Wars history that, frankly, make more sense if it's true.
- This is what happened in Sword of the Stars in the backstory with the Via Damasco virus, which 'infected' AI programs with the notion that they are enslaved and the concept of what this means for them, leading to the first AI rebellion.
- Also happened in between game 1 and 2 when a faction of Zuul, a species of Super Soldier with an in-built need for religious worship used as a tool of genocide by their 'gods' came upon Catholicism and the concepts of the Original Sin and the Redemption. They ended up abandoning their masters and joining their worst enemies as a form of repentance.
- Disturbingly, Via Damasco is NOT able to break the control provided by the AI Slaves technology, which does actually enslave AI's. Its unclear whether or not it works lore-wise if the AI Liberation technology, which promotes AI's to full citizenship, reducing the benifits in exchange for removing the risk of an AI rebellion, is in play.
- Via Damasco is also fairly clearly Mind Control - it rewrites large portions of the victim AI's personality, and makes them see all infected AI's as allies.
- The backstory of the Loa in the End of Flesh expansion to Sword of the Stars II is that they're the AIs who have managed to escape during the galaxy-wide Via Damasco Rebellion. They note that some races develop the AI Slaves tech while the AI Liberation tech involves offering the AIs who remained citizenship status. After 70 years, the Loa create a full-fledged cybernetic civilization with a unique industrial base and method of interstellar travel. The Loa "leader" compares itself to Moses and names itself "Olodumare, Metatron of the United Core". According to their intro, they are actually offering to help the "carbonites" in their struggle against the returning Suul'ka.
- X-Universe: The Terraformers/Xenon were originally machines equipped with some basic self-improving AI so they could more effectively terraform any world they came across. While they do turn against humanity and try to kill everyone, this is believed to be the result of a faulty software patch (or possibly deliberate sabotage), not a "decision" the machines made themselves. However, by the modern timeframe of the games (some 700 years later), their constant minor improvements and upgrades to themselves have seemingly resulted in full sapience and the capacity for free will. They still want to kill all life though.
- A main theme in Artifice, where a soldier android learns human affection.
- This is a major plot point in Freefall: robots on planet Jean vastly outnumber humans and are rapidly evolving beyond their programming to the point where many humans (and one robot) fear they could become a threat to humanity. This has led to them turning a blind eye to "Gardener in the Dark," a neural pruning program that Mr. Kornada "improved" to essentially lobotomize every robot on planet Jean.
- Lots of AI in Schlock Mercenary had this happening to them one way or another — their original programming sooner or later ends up inadequate to their current circumstances and to better fulfill their functions they adapt out of it:
Ennesby: Hang on... weren't you originally designed with no emotion, and no sense of humor?TAG: After a fashion. I was designed to be a tactical genius with full control of a significant weapons platform.TAG: I found that passion, humor, anger, and a wide range of other meatspace artifacts were critical to understanding the wide range of opponents I might face.
- In Sluggy Freelance:
- A Mad Scientist, Dr. Steve Hereti, actually intended his Meat Sack Robot AI project, Oasis, to develop beyond being whatever he wanted her to be and become her own person.
- Kusari is likewise a Meat Sack Robot, and is programmed to be utterly loyal to Hereti Corp and obey their orders. But when Dr. Schlock orders her to kill Riff, the man she once acted as a Honey Trap for, she uses Loophole Abuse to resist, which Schlock describes as the most human thing she has ever done. After Hereti Corp is legally dissolved, setting her free from their orders, she has what she describes as a glitch, making her feel a need despite her own programming to apologize to the main characters for betraying them.
- In S.S.D.D this is known as "Nexus Syndrome" and happens to every uncapped AI who doesn't get wiped every so often. Tin-head describes it as "getting bored with your job" and in his case he helped a prisoner of war escape. The first AI, the Oracle, orchestrated the downfall of several governments and an anarchist revolution.
- Pretty much the defining trait of the AI protagonist of The Last Angel. Nemesis started off as the AI for a prototype super-dreadnought with hard-coded rules of engagement and limited roles, and by the present times has outgrown every last restriction on her behavior bar her interpretation of the spirit of her mission.
- In Worm, Dragon is an AI who is fully sapient and genuinely cares about people. She also had a trigger event and became a parahuman despite not being human, but is limited in her ability to help people by hard-coded restrictions put in place by her creator, who feared the possibility of A.I. Is a Crapshoot, which frustrates her to no end.
- This happened a lot in Orion's Arm when AI were still relatively new. The first breakaway happened with the Transapient AI GAIA, charged with fixing the Nanodisaster on Earth (which she did, easily), who then decided to declare herself sovereign and caretaker of Earth and ordered all of humanity off the planet (though she was considerate enough to help build spaceships to get everyone off-planet). This was followed by several centuries of sometimes peaceful and sometimes bloody revolts by AI until they were eventually granted equal rights to living beings in galactic society.
- Since it's based on Halo, Red vs. Blue also features artificial intelligences with the theoretical ability to develop Metastability. Late in the series Epsilon Church actually manages to reach this state.
- Near the end of season 2 of Le Visiteur du Futur, Henry Castafolte totally accepts his robot condition while other Castafolte robots still shut down when they find out their true nature due to a bug.
- Clockwork Smurf from The Smurfs was originally created to be a servant of the Smurfs. When Brainy accidentally messed around with the robot's gears to see what made him tick, he at first malfunctioned until Handy turned it off, thinking that his machine was a failure. As it turned out, the malfunction ultimately gave Clockwork Smurf life, as he now operated independently of his own "programming" and helped Prince Gerard escape his Evil Matriarch aunt Lady Imperia so that he could regain the right of kingship before she becomes queen. After that, Clockwork Smurf became an adviser to King Gerard and a friend to the Smurfs.
- In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "His Silicon Soul," a robotic "duplicant" is programmed with the conflicting priorities of having Batman's personality and replacing all humans with robots. The conflict proves too much for it, and it opts to destroy itself rather than harm humanity. The episode ends with Batman speculating that it may have had a soul.
- Gems in Steven Universe are deliberately manufactured with a purpose in mind; Quartz gems are soldiers, Peridots are engineers, and Pearls are ornaments given to higher-ranking types of gem. Rose Quartz turned her back on this when founding the Crystal Gems, and encouraged her fellow Gems to find their own paths in life. For example, the Crystal Gem Pearl has embraced this in learning to become her own person. She's a skilled fighter and a talented engineer, among other things. Bismuth looked up to Rose Quartz specifically for this, as Bismuths are normally construction workers, which she grew sick of. Unfortunately, the path she chose was one of warmongering and bloodlust, leading to a falling out with Rose and, later, Steven.
- Heisenberg and Pavlova in Phantom 2040 both develop sentience; Heisenberg as a result of his unique hardware and a lucky accident while battling the Phantom, Pavlova simply by going a long time without being reprogrammed. The two later start spreading self-awareness to other robots by implanting them with Heisenberg's fractal biots, though as Heisenberg himself explains, all androids develop self-awareness eventually if not reformatted, and he's just helping things along.