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Morality Dial

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Surprisingly, it's still kid friendly and safety compliant.

"I was set to 'EVIL' once."

Whether comedy or parody, many robots have a dial that can switch their morality from Good to Evil, usually entailing a good old Killer Robot when turned to Evil.

Some especially evil robots have Bad / Worse for their dials, or other stranger settings. Usually a built-in form of brainwashing/Faceā€“Heel Turn that means robot A.I. Is a Crapshoot.

Any robot with a Morality Dial will always, always have it flipped to the other setting at some point.

See also "Second Law" My Ass!, Inventional Wisdom, and Mirror Morality Machine. Compare Restraining Bolt, Morality Chip, and Berserk Button. A robot with a broken Morality Dial tends to default to Evil.


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    Comic Books 
  • Judge Dredd:
    • The cyborg "Mean Machine" Angel has a dial on his head that controls his personality. The lowest setting is "Surly". Unfortunately for him and everyone around him, the dial is completely mechanical and thus is highly vulnerable to getting stuck, resulting in Unstoppable Rage. It was later removed, returning Mean to his original kind and sensitive personality, and released him to be looked after by his equally gentle son.
    • Mean's son also has a dial, but it goes from "Kind" to "Messiah".
    • Most robots have it, and rampages are due to a malfunctioning of this.
  • In Scud the Disposable Assassin, robots have a contempt level which allows you to decide how sadistic your assassin should be. There's even a jingle for it: "Set it to one, get the job done. Set it to ten, never see them again." In issue #3, Scud infiltrates a prison in order to kill one of the inmates, but is spotted. During the ensuing fight, the warden managed to hit Scud's Contempt Input, hoping to fry his brain. Technically, this worked; a Scud's contempt level usually only goes up to 10. When his input was destroyed, his contempt managed to jump up to 15. Scud then claimed to be "Jesus with a laser gun!" and proceeded to slaughter almost the entire security team. The warden was eventually forced to open the outer doors and pray that Scud would leave of his own accord.
  • Solaris, the Living Sun (actually an evil AI surrounded by a star-sized plasma field) in DC One Million was reprogrammed by the Superman of the 505th century with subservience and goodwill. It doesn't stick, though; Solaris never entirely gets the hang of being good, and eventually goes back to being outright evil.
  • Tik-Tok's spring in Oz Squad runs his morality rather than just himself. If allowed to wind down, he still functions, but becomes violent and lewd.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin installs one of these in his Duplicator, and can create either Good or Bad clones of himself. We've only ever seen the Good duplicate, but seeing as that clone disappeared in a Puff of Logic after having a bad thought, it's probably best that he never made a clone out of pure metaphysical evil later on.
    Calvin: I've got to say, Hobbes, I've really perfected my old Duplicator this time!
    Hobbes: I'll grant it needed perfecting.
    Calvin: It was so simple to add an Ethicator! I don't know why I didn't think of it before!

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The "Destruction Chip" in Robot is implanted into the robot as sabotage to cause it to go evil.
  • Interstellar: TARS and CASE have adjustable settings for humour, honesty and trust. Honesty is usually locked at 90%: they don't think that total honesty is a good idea when communicating with emotional beings (Coop, for all the shit he gives the robots, seems to actually agree with that one). They also have a light on their panels to indicate whenever they are talking in Humor Mode or Sarcasm Mode, but if their humour setting is set sufficiently high they sometimes "forget" to use it as they find the results of having some of their jokes being taken seriously funnier.
  • Judge Dredd, like the comic it was based on, had a cyborg with a dial.
  • Revenge of the Sith: Order 66 seems to have this effect on the clones, going beyond the specific orders to kill the Jedi, as their personalities instantly switch from being generally heroic types to thuggish jackboots.

  • This example from the 1967 Doctor Who annual appears to have been written without any intention of parody:
    "There was a single switch on the master panel. It was set to 'Rebellion'. Dr Who wrenched it violently in the opposite direction. Now it was pointing to 'Peace'."
  • Played for drama in Animorphs. The Chee androids are normally programmed to be pacifistic, yet they are very powerful. When the Animorphs need their Chee friend Erek King to fight some Controllers, they use a Pemalite processor to allow him to use violence. Erek brutally kills all the Controllers. Once he is returned to normal, Erek is horrified by his actions, the Animorphs are unnerved, and they all agree to never do that again.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Star Trek:
    • In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Data's predecessor/older-brother, Lore, has some bad programming that overrode his ethics in favor of indulging his emotional whims, making him a Robotic Psychopath. In the two-part episode "Descent", Lore finds a way to feed Data his own negative emotions (mostly just anger) while disabling Data's ethical subroutines, in order to sway his younger brother to join him in a quest to Kill All Humans.
    • The Doctor from Star Trek: Voyager has a ethical subroutine which can be disabled.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place: Wizards vs. Angels story arc had the Moral Compass which made people act according to what the dial was set on.
  • In Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, reprogrammed Terminators are generally helpful to the Resistance, but in some cases they will "go bad" with no warning and revert to previous Skynet programming to Kill All Humans. Cameron disposes of one such hostile machine, and later on she herself reverts after being hit with a car bomb. After being disabled again and reactivated by John, she overrides her hostile programming, but warns John that doing it was foolish and he should never do it again.
  • Doctor Who: In the 2014 episode "Into The Dalek", it's revealed that while the Daleks are born hate-filled, they are actually capable of empathy and caring; it's just that the robot bodies they're contained in are programmed to purge any memories that might teach them such things, effectively keeping them monsters.
  • Bunsen Honeydew's Mood Snacks in the Heather Lockwood episode of Muppets Tonight, which Heather herself unfortunately gets her hands on and starts eating by mistake.
  • In Red Dwarf, removing Kryten's morality chip is a big mistake for Lister. Always the most competent of the team, the only thing holding Kryten back from being a snarky self-serving asshole who sets up humilitating situations for the others purely For the Lulz is the mechanoid's deeply embedded sense of service and moral ethics. Take this away and you get a complete asshole.
  • In The Vampire Diaries, vampires have the ability to turn their humanity on and off like a switch in their brains.

  • Drumbot Brian from The Mechanisms has a switch on his back that switches him between two modes: MJE (Means Justify Ends) and EJM (Ends Justify Means) that was added by Dr. Carmilla when she mechanized him. While on MJE, Brian does his best to consider what is most moral in the present moment and typically avoids needless violence. On EJM, alternatively, he does basically whatever he wants with no regard to who it hurts, as long as he can justify it as paying off in the long run. The other Mechanisms jokingly refer to these modes as "Fun Brian" (EJM) and "Boring Brian" (MJE). They definitely prefer him on EJM.

    Video Games 
  • In The Neverhood, Big Robot Bil must be turned from evil to good by pulling a lever in his chest cavity. In the writings of the Hall of Records, Hoborg theorizes that the lever was Bil's creator's clumsy way of giving Bil free will and the ability to choose between good and evil.
  • In Portal 2, Aperture Science's Turrets have been all outfitted with an Empathy Generator. To keep them able to kill, they also have an Empathy Suppressor.
  • Fallout 3's security bots have easily accessible "Combat Inhibitors" which can be hacked or destroyed to disable their Friend or Foe? sensors. Hacking the local security terminal similarly lets you set all nearby robots to be inactive, select targets according to Friend or Foe?, or Kill Everything.
  • The bots in Starship Titanic all have cellpoint settings that determine their personalities, which as a result of the ship's general decay are completely out of whack, rendering most of them too forgetful (Fentible), lazy (Krage), or downright unfriendly (Marsinta) to help the player. Each bot has a sculpture in the Sculpture Room with levers that allow you to reset their cellpoint settings to more helpful levels. This is essential for some puzzles, like getting a class upgrade.
  • Sasuke of the Ganbare Goemon series had one, installed by Wiseman for no apparent reason.

    Web Animation 
  • In Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse, Barbie's robot computer, Closet, has a button that can change it from good to evil. Lampshaded when the characters wonder aloud why that button exists.


    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • "Treehouse of Horror III" has an evil Krusty the Clown doll with one. It's revealed that this was why it keeps trying to kill Homer. When it is switched to "Good", it becomes Homer's unwilling servant.
    • Bart once set a dozen Roombas from "off" to "malevolent sentience".
  • Futurama:
  • And played straight in the "Cops and Robots" episode of The Backyardigans. Turns out that the all robots, including the robotic villains, have a good/bad lever, and somehow the villain robots' lever have been set to the 'bad' position. It also provides for the plot in which the villain plans to infiltrate a robot factory and change the position of the switch of all the robots produced by the factory to 'bad'.
  • Invader Zim: GIR is usually harmless and incredibly stupid, but when locked into "duty mode" by a new remote control in "GIR Goes Crazy and Stuff", he becomes ruthlessly effective and decides Zim is holding the mission back.
  • Time Squad: One episode shows that Larry has an emotional dial. It is accidentally set to "Dramatic" causing him to utter a parody of one of the most famous lines from Planet of the Apes, in an episode which parodies the story/movie.
  • The Venture Brothers: "Arrears in Science" reveals the tragic origins of the Cyborg villain Vendata. Years ago, Dr. Z found the remains of Venturion; he explains that he rebuilt the cyborg, erased his memory, and "reprogrammed him for calamitous intent!" In a Flashback, young Dr. Z flips a switch on Venturion's head from "GOOD" to "EVIL".


Video Example(s):


Murderous Rampage Mode

For some reason, the Bot Best Friend that Ian's Mom purchased for Ian and Anthony has a mode called "Murderous Rampage", and it does exactly what you expect that mode to do.

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