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Personality Chip

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"Good news, everyone! I've taught the toaster to feel love!"
Professor Farnsworth, Futurama

Computers. They're wonderful machines and valuable assets to any mission. They can perform calculations and operations with pinpoint accuracy at the speed of light and never forget anything they learn. There's just one problem: a computer doesn't make a very good friend. Try to get one to empathize with you, and they'll probably just rattle off Techno Babble, tell you why you're wrong, and explain their theories on the pointlessness of human emotion, all in a hollow, monotone voice. Hmm, could there possibly be any way to make an AI entity seem more... human?

Why, yes, there is: just give it a personality chip. Soon, your robot will be emulating happiness, anger, depression, sexual attraction, and any other multitude of feelings it's programmed for.

However, be warned: when a robot has a personality chip installed, they will make a point of excessively referring to it. Also, feelings aren't always emulated very well and can result in very odd behavior.

Personality chips also have various bits that fail or overheat or turn off easily, leading to robots blowing their anger circuits or engaging sarcasm mode at you. They can't say "That Makes Me Feel Angry" or phrases useful in human form; this is a feature, not a bug.

Compare Morality Chip, Heart Drive.


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     Anime and Manga  
  • Saber Marionette J has "Maiden Chips". For some reason, having a full-scale female personality in one android is too much, so they had to split it into The Three Faces of Eve.
  • Full Metal Panic! pulled this off to some extent. When Al (the Arbalest's AI) was first introduced, he was purely there for coordinating the Arbalest's systems; Sousuke didn't like him one bit because Al refused to give out potentially life-saving information regarding the Lambda Driver. In fact, Al's creator gave him a basic grasp of human emotions and concepts, much to Sousuke's surprise. By the third season, he started demonstrating some human traits, even trying to crack a joke in the series finale when Sousuke was being frustrated at the Lambda Driver's instability.
    • This goes further in the novels; Al is eventually transferred to the Laevatein and, in order to be able to handle all its new equipment, gets upgraded to the point where he verges on full-fledged sentience. After the Final Battle, Sosuke is stranded on an island with a nuclear missile inbound, and with the Laevatein wrecked it doesn't look like there's any way out. Al says there's something he wants to try, but first asks Sosuke if he's a human or a machine; Sosuke responds "Decide for yourself...that's what humans do." With this urging, Al is able to activate the Lambda Driver on his own, allowing him to save their lives by shielding them from the nuke.

     Comic Books 
  • As seen in the comic book incarnation of Mega Man (Archie Comics), as well as other takes, most robots have an integrated circuit chip, called an IC Chip, that acts as this. Its unique properties also make it extremely difficult to recreate once it's been destroyed, which probably serves as the reason why Dr. Wily can't just mass-rebuild his Robot Masters all the time.

     Films — Live-Action  
  • Bicentennial Man: All NDR114 robots come with an optional "personality chip", with pre-programmed personality quirks. The first time we see one with the chip activated is Galatea, whose Genki Girl behaviour is the result of Rupert's choices. Andrew gives her an "upgrade", which makes her surly and uncooperative, but he lets Rupert change her back. Andrew's personality chip, however, was never activated, and his quirks are unique to him.
  • The premise in A.I.: Artificial Intelligence is built around this trope. What would happen if robots felt emotion, if they had the ability to love? In the case of David, an endangered child, a road trip to a red-light district, and a two-thousand-year hibernation in ice... just to find a fictional blue fairy that could change him into a real boy so his "mommy" would love him again.
  • Star Trek: Generations. The B plot of the movie is Data having an emotion chipnote  implanted in his computer brain. It malfunctions and he has to learn how to control his emotions.

  • Isaac Asimov's "Escape!": US Robotics has a super-thinker robot (essentially a supercomputer) that has a personality of a young child. Dr Susan Calvin believes that this personality will give their robot more resilience against a Logic Bomb involving the First Law compared to their competitor's emotionless super-thinker. She turns out to be right.
  • Isaac Asimov and Janet Asimov's Norby's Other Secret: One of the things that Admiral Yobo thinks the Inventors Guild would really like to understand is how Norby, a Robot Buddy, can demonstrate emotions, like shame, pride, loyalty, and fear. Human-made robots appear dumb because they don't have the ability to recite poems or critique William Shakespeare. This ability in robots to feel emotions is based on the assumption of an "emotive chip".
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Parodied by The Sirius Cybernetics Corporation and its robots with "Genuine People Personalities." The result is the sullen, sarcastic Marvin.
    Marvin: I'm a personality prototype. You can tell, can't you.
    • And, of course, the "happiness" factor can be made permanent by replacing the chip involved with a piece of wire, resulting in the permanently euphoric (and subservient) Colin.
    • Eddie the Shipboard Computer is annoyingly upbeat and cheerful. At one point they try to use the 'backup personality', but it's even worse.
  • The Lunar Chronicles: Androids come with programming that develops a personality over time. Sometimes these chips are defective and they already come with one, such as the case with Iko, who is naturally a Genki Girl.
  • Charles Stross's Saturn's Children: Robots have "soul chips", which contain a recording of their experiences and thoughts, so if they were to wear someone else's soul chip, they would wear that other robot's personality as well.
  • Wild Cards: The Modular Man was built with a removable Personality Chip. Within the first fifteen minutes, his self-optimizing programming had analyzed the chip and permanently integrated the subroutines into the rest of his software. The Mad Scientist Manchild who created him apparently couldn't be bothered to notice.

     Live-Action TV  
  • Babylon 5, 3rd season episode "Ceremonies of Light and Dark". One of the sub-plots involved Security Chief Michael Garibaldi investigating some problems which may or may not have involved hacking computer records. Garibaldi is forced to switch personality modules from the rather dry and straightforward one that we have heard all along, and gets an argumentative and sarcastic module, which is brilliantly voiced by Harlan Ellison.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • Kryten is famous for the way his guilt chip constantly acts up. Rimmer's slideshow of his field trip to the diesel engine deck made his interest chip melt.
    • The more advanced mechanoid who was supposed to replace Kryten wore out his sanity chip in some three million years of flying through space trying to find him. Somehow, the status of Kryten's sanity chip has never come up (his sanity is questioned, given that he was discovered caring for three crew members that have been dead for so long that they are just skeletons dressed in uniforms propped up at the table, but not his sanity chip).
  • On Star Trek: The Next Generation, Data eventually acquires an emotion chip. This doesn't immediately solve every problem he's had with relating to humans up to this point, unfortunately - he still gets confused by a lot of things, and occasionally has trouble dealing with the emotional impact of various situations. So much so that one of the Star Trek Novels has him ordered to have it removed.
    Data: Captain, I believe I am feeling... anxiety. It is an intriguing sensation. A most distracting...
    Jean-Luc Picard: Data, I'm sure it's a fascinating experience, but perhaps you should deactivate your emotion chip for now.
    Data: Good idea, sir. [beep] Done.
    Jean-Luc Picard: Data, there are times that I envy you.
  • Lexx's robot head 790 was never meant to have a personality, but one was imprinted by a brainwashing machine on the tiny cube of human brain tissue that was installed to drive the interface with his organic body. Remove the cube, and he reverts to monotonically uttering "you are not an authorized person."
  • In Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Cameron has the "Allison" persona, an apparently complete personality that is stored in her chip that is activated by damage to her processor. "Allison" is based on a series of interviews she had in the future with a girl named Allison Young, whom Cameron subsequently killed. While being "Allison," Cameron feels a wide range of emotions: happiness, sadness, surprise, grief, panic, and -especially- anger.
  • The "synthetic soul" chips in Almost Human. MX series androids don't have them, DRN series do. This makes the DRNs better at dealing with humans and able to make leaps of logic, but also makes them more erratic.
  • Kamen Rider Drive Direct to Video movie Kamen Rider Chaser introduces a Dark Messiah Roidmude named Angel whose feathers can grant emotions to other Roidmudes and effectively begins building a cult; even the eponymous Chase receives a feather that helps him connect to humanity. Then drawbacks start to appear: Chase can't transform anymore because his "perfect dedication to justice" has been compromised, and it all turns out to be a plot by Angel to absorb the other Roidmudes to power herself up. Chase ends up removing his feather by gouging it out of his chest so he can save the day.
    • Also, the Big Bad of the season used special chips that contain negative emotions to make Roidmudes evil. In fact, 002/Heart Roidmude was the only one with actual reason to hate humanity.

     Newspaper Comics  
  • Dilbert built a robot at one point that became a jerkass. In the end Dogbert installed a "shame module" programed with the combined shame and guilt of every religion on earth which turned him into a worrying, guilt-ridden machine that rued the day it was created. Dogbert named it Ruebert.

     Video Games  
  • Portal: GLaDOS has cores for morality, curiosity, anger, and...let's call it "cake." You can watch how her personality degenerates as you destroy them all.
  • Aigis from Persona 3 has one of these, located on the back of her neck. When you max her Social Link, she asks you to touch it, tells you not to be alarmed if she screams or makes any sudden movements when you do so, and asks you to remove her ribbon to get at it.
    • In the same mold, the Innocents in Shin Megami Tensei IMAGINE were created as mere mechanical beings, but as they started accruing experiences and memories, started acquiring human traits, eventually rejecting the idea their feelings were simulated and becoming more and more humanlike as time passes. Rasputin from Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army is a Cyborg, yet he appears to have developed an openly hedonistic personality most likely based on his Real Life persona, taking to bars with quite a lot of gusto and openly and frequently visiting the Capital's Red Light District.
  • In the webgame Viricide, EXADI, the computer that you are helping to disinfect from an unknown corruption, has a Human Emotion Simulation Core. As you continue to clean out the corruption she was suffering, it becomes clear that she has developed abandonment issues. Said Human Emotion Simulation Core is the final boss of the game, and EXADI will basically 'die' when the boss is defeated. She'll still be mostly operational, yes, but any sense of awareness and self she had will be completely gone. She wants this due to the fact that her creator committed suicide, and she justifies it by telling you, the player, that she's not human.
  • The Vocaloid song "Kokoro" is based around this trope.
  • Retrieving and re-installing a series of Personality Chips (and their associated upgrades) forms a chain of side quests in the Fallout: New Vegas add-on Old World Blues. Though the merchant interface does note that they are all "simulated personalities."
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's Portable: The Gears of Destiny, the main difference between the first Eltria Gears and the later ones is that Granz Florian got a bit too overenthusiastic in programming them, accidentally giving them human-level personalities. He removed this feature in the later versions since they're meant to be mere tools for restoring Eltria and raised the first Gears as his daughters.
  • In the Visual Novel Bionic Heart, it seems odd that the android Tanya has memories and is able to express emotions. It's less confusing when you learn that the personality chip in her head is actually a human brain.
  • In The Sims 3 expansion pack "Into the Future", you can craft PlumBots (which differ from SimBots or the Servos from The Sims 2) and equip them with Trait chips that replicate certain aspects of basic Sim behavior.
  • In the Mega Man (Classic) series, the kind of robots known as Robot Masters (generally the most advanced robots of their time) are built with something called an I.C., or integrated circuit, a chip which grants the robot its distinct personality as well as a range of humanlike emotions and reactions. Fortunately, so long as a robot's I.C. chip is unharmed, a destroyed or otherwise off-lined robot can be rebuilt as many times as needed and retain their core personality.
  • Taken much further with X and the Reploids that were based on him in Mega Man X, as unlike the Robot Masters of the classic games which usually follow their base programming, X can truly feel and make decisions independent of any kind of code. Dr. Light knew there was an inherent danger to giving robots free will, however, and put X through thirty years of ethics testing so that he'd be able to better differentiate right from wrong. When his design was copied for the Reploids, Dr. Cain kind of forgot about that last part; with predictable results. It's ambiguous if Zero has this level of free will, as he was designed by Dr. Wily sometime after the events of the Classic games specifically to take down Mega Man, but ended up being delayed and became active in the timespan of the X series. He seems to display the same level of independence as other Reploids but is decidedly less conflicted about taking down Mavericks with lethal force than X is.

     Web Comics  
  • Ping from Megatokyo has a personality system which, being made for non-erotic dating sims, also includes a shame subroutine. She also reverses this trope by saying her feelings are real, not simulated.
  • A Personality Chip is all that's left of the #13 robot from Gunnerkrigg Court.
  • Kinesis' Computer from Evil Plan has an emoticon for a face, which changes along with its emotions. The gleeful way it constantly teases Kinesis and the minions is also to be noted.
  • In Starslip Vanderbeam tells the new robotic captain that it is missing "the human element". The robot has a subroutine to emulate this which requires only 58Kb
  • Nine Planets Without Intelligent Life's "erogenous zone circuits" allow robots to experience...well, you know. "Bohemian drive circuits" make robots more individualistic and adventurous via the placebo effect.

    Web Video 

     Western Animation  
  • Futurama:
    • "I Second That Emotion": After callously flushing Nibbler down the toilet, Bender gets an "empathy chip" installed so that he feels every emotion Leela was feeling. When the gang gets in trouble and Bender is the only one able to help, Leela has to channel her greedy, selfish side to get him to be his former self.
    • "How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back": Bender's personality is downloaded into a disk, leaving him unable to do anything except say in a monotone voice, "I am Bender. Please insert girder."
    • "Anthology of Interest II": Bender says, "As a robot, I have no human emotions, and that makes me feel sad." This precedes his request to see what it would be like if he was human.
  • In Samurai Jack, X9, one of the X model robots built by mad scientists for Aku, is given an experimental emotion chip by one of the scientists ("He was... funny that way"). It's the reason he was the most effective of the X models, and the only one still alive: None of the others had the capacity to care about living or any feeling for the other X models, so they had no sense of self-preservation or feeling enraged at seeing their "brothers" die. X9s' emotions prove to be his downfall, when his love for his dog Lulu forces him to go after Jack.
  • The 1990s cartoon The Bots Master had an evil, monolithic computer corporation trying to use brute force processing upgrades to create sentient AI's for its own sinister purposes, and failing every step of the way. Its robots reacted much as a robot built today would: they only had a limited ability to recognize and react to situations, and clearly no actual personality. The hero, meanwhile, had already solved the problem by installing a specific DNA pattern into each personality chip, then having the computer run a simulation of the brain that'd result from that DNA strand, and then having that simulated brain control the robot. The result was a group of robots with individual personalities that acted as the show's supporting cast.
  • At the end of The Zeta Project, it turns out Dr. Selig secretly installed a sentience chip in Zeta, to rebel against his use as an assassin.
  • While in ReBoot all the people are actually software intelligences, they have also constructed "droids" who are perceived as being robot-like in their virtual world. At one point the virus-controlled Guardians come after AndrAIa and Matrix, and AndrAIa asks whether they have "personality chips" because she has scruples about destroying the ones who do. The first batch don't. The second batch do, but it doesn't help much since that means Matrix can scare them away.

Alternative Title(s): Emotion Chip, Personality Software


Data's Emotion Chip

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