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The Computer Is Your Friend

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The Computer is happy. The Computer is crazy.
The Computer will help you become happy. This will drive you crazy."
Tagline for Paranoia: The Roleplaying Game

The ugly truth is, not all Knights Templar are human. Some are artificially-intelligent computer programs that have been programmed to "stop war" or "safeguard mankind" and then took things either a little too literally or not literally enough. As a result, they rule mankind with an iron fist (literally). Because they aren't human, the computer tyrant sees nothing wrong with killing as many people as necessary to bring about its primary function... which is to safeguard humanity, remember? (You remember the old saying about making omelettes and breaking eggs, don't you?)

There is no arguing with one of these beings; their sense of logic has convinced them that their actions are just and fall in line with the entire purpose of their existence and they can no more reconsider their purpose than you or I can teleport. Thus, anyone who opposes them must also be eliminated. Emotional appeals are useless, because generally they have no idea what emotion is or means anyway.

Occasionally, one of these computerized guardians of humanity actually proclaim themselves gods.

A Sub-Trope of both Knight Templar and A.I. Is a Crapshoot. Compare Three Laws-Compliant, especially the Zeroth Law. Can tie in with Big Brother Is Watching. For when the computer is actually, unironically your friend, see Benevolent A.I..

Named for a frequent phrase from the game Paranoia.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Used as a reveal in Fresh Pretty Cure!Moebius is actually a computer that Labyrinth's citizens programmed to manage the country, until it decided that said citizens were too weak to do anything for themselves and took its assigned function to its logical conclusion.
  • Buraiking Boss of the first Neo Human Casshern series was programmed to protect the Earth's ecosystem. Unfortunately he determined the best way to do so was to enslave and/or eradicate humanity.
  • Played With in Toward the Terra. The SD (Superior Domination) government is composed of humans, but is ultimately run by a computer known as Mother. Mother was tasked with protecting humanity in the stars and making Earth habitable again. Mother protects humanity by turning them into a race of test tube babies and controlling what each human does with their life, complete with a full memory wipe of their childhood with their surrogate parents. Things get complicated when the Mu began appearing, a new evolution of humanity that Mother doesn't know what to do with. She's reluctant to wipe them out so instead chooses to declare them outcasts in order to test their survival ability. Operating under the belief that if they are necessary to humanity's future then they will survive, otherwise they will die as an anomaly. She leaves the ultimate choice of humanity's acceptance of them in the hands of the military and specifically a single human she has reared (albeit without his knowledge) for that task.

    Audio Play 

    Comic Books 
  • In All Fall Down, AIQ Squared will stop at nothing to kill Siphon and restore the world's powers to their rightful owners.
  • In the lore of the Green Lantern mythos, the Lanterns were preceded by a robot force known as the Manhunters that were programmed to maintain law and order. They were replaced after they decided, on their own, that "maintain law and order" occasionally meant wiping out entire species all sentient life. Well, without anyone to break the law or be disorderly... Later revealed to be the work of Krona, who programmed them to do this to show the flaws of an emotionless army.
  • Master Mold, the Sentinel-spawning piece of hardware from X-Men, was originally programmed to protect humans from the mutant menace, but quickly realized that mutants are human (not a separate race of monsters), and therefore fall under the edict of needing its protection. Likewise, all humans are mutants to some degree (just not usually the kind with Eye Beams). Therefore, it concluded that its mission was to protect humanity from itself. At least he's got his biology in order.
  • Just like the RPG it's based on, Paranoia is set in a domed city ruled by the all-seeing traitor-obsessed Friend Computer.

    Fan Works 
  • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Paradox: JUNO is an artificial intelligence that was created as a deterrence for future conflicts. When the Atlantic Federation and the PLANTs became embroiled in their respective civil wars, JUNO started to become more despotic and began a string of cyberattacks that brought down the entire universe to its knees. With JUNO having completely stopped all conflicts in the Cosmic Era, it began to rule the world with an iron fist and 98% of humanity is on the verge of extinction in the next 70 years, setting in motion the story's Bad Future.

    Films — Animated 
  • WALL•E: AUTO was ordered by the BNL Chairman to stay in space and protect humanity, and by God, he'll do it by any means necessary... and regardless of what the puny humans think of his protection.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The computer HAL 9000 from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey is in control of a space ship's mission to Jupiter to try to find the answers to some questions. When Hal makes a relatively trivial error, this indicates that Hal may actually be malfunctioning, which it was specifically designed not to do. When the humans discuss dealing with Hal, he starts killing all the humans. As he explains to one of the characters, Dave, he is doing this because even though he may be faulty, he is the only one who can complete the mission.
    • On top of that, he also seemed to be afraid of dying/being shut down the same way a human would be.
    • The book actually explains what was causing HAL to malfunction. Mission Control gave him contradictory orders: answer the astronauts' questions truthfully, but don't tell them the real reason for their mission. So HAL decides to Take a Third Option: if there is nobody to ask questions, he won't be called upon to lie. Cue life-signs going flat...
  • The computer Alpha 60 in Alphaville.
  • The computers Colossus and Guardian in Colossus: The Forbin Project are programmed to prevent war between their owners (the USA and USSR, respectively) and given control over their country's nuclear missiles. They decide the most efficient way to do this is to team up and take over the world by threatening to nuke people. Unlike a lot of other A.I. Is a Crapshoot plots the computers make a somewhat convincing argument for their side, pointing out that the vast majority of humans are already ruled by somebody. They don't see why we should care whether that somebody ruling us is a politician or a computer.
  • In Eagle Eye, one mistake by the President of the United States causes a supercomputer called ARIA ("Autonomous Reconnaissance Intelligence Integration Analyst") to decide that the entire executive branch of the government is a threat to the nation and must be eliminated. For the greater good, of course...
  • VIKI from I, Robot is also a good example. She tries to control all mankind to protect it from itself (end wars, stop pollution, end suffering, etc). Of course, some people will die, but Humanity would be safe. Or at least that's what she said....
  • Moon has GERTY, a helper robot that seems to be keeping a terrible secret from Sam. GERTY always speaks in a calm voice and has a small smiley-face display that often seems disingenuous. It turns out that GERTY really was intended to keep Sam from discovering the terrible secret of his place on the station, but it turns out to be an ally for him in the end. GERTY is, in fact, programmed to help Sam with whatever he requires.
  • Resident Evil Film Series:
    • The supercomputer Red Queen from Resident Evil (2002) tries to shut down the laboratory to stop the t-Virus outbreak by locking everyone inside to prevent escape (as well as flooding the laboratories, stopping the elevators and killing everyone with Halon gas, and releasing a nerve gas that led the heroine to develop amnesia). Although one could take this as being The Extremist Was Right, the fact that she knew there was a 50% chance of an anti-virus curing the infection, not warning the researchers of the outbreak, who could have cultivated the anti-virus and saved everyone, and not reporting to Umbrella who themselves wouldn't have sent in the research team which inadvertently led to the virus being released into the outside world leading to several more horrible sequels, makes this a moot point. In addition, her attempts to kill all the researchers rather than isolate them somewhere in the facility only served to spread the infection further. It also doesn't help that her holographic avatar is a fuzzy red-tinted Creepy Child and that her name, Red Queen is a mistaken reference to the Queen of Hearts (not the Red Queen from "Through The Looking Glass"), whose impulsive and demanding behavior leads to the detriment of her followers.
    • However, this is completely averted by the White Queen in the sequel who lacks the cold malevolent nature of her red counterpart, and tries to impede the Big Bad Wannabe's progress despite previously assisting him in monitoring Alice and her clones to gain control of the situation.
  • Skynet in Terminator was created to put humanity into the future. It did so, all right... after killing three billion people as an act of self-defense when some people tried to shut it down after it became sentient.


By Author:

  • Isaac Asimov's works:
    • One robot story describes an uncharacteristically pessimistic look at his own robots by describing a new age of robotics that includes Earth-bound non-sentient robots slowly replacing the organic ecosystem to better the planet. The twist is that the robots' long-term goal is to replace humanity altogether, as they have determined through logic and introspection that they are human.
    • On the other hand, averted by the Multivac supercomputer in several short stories, which is genuinely helpful and benevolent. In one story it decides it has to self-destruct, because it predicts that humans will be dependent on it, which in turn means harm to humans. In another story, it accompanies humans faithfully all the way to the heat death of the universe and beyond that, following the aeons old order to "avert entropy" by creating a new universe afterwards.
    • Ambigious in "The Evitable Conflict" — Stephen Byerley and Susan Calvin discover that the Machines that advise the leaders of the Four Regions are subtly manipulating humanity both to protect it and to protect themselves so they can continue to protect it, essentially putting themselves in control, and arrive at the hesitant conclusion that this might be a good thing. (Byerley is a lot less sure about it than Calvin despite probably being a robot himself, who was elected to the position of World Co-Ordinator.)

By Title:

  • Colossus, in the novel of the same name (which was later made into the movie Colossus: The Forbin Project) is put in charge of the U.S. nuclear missile system (sound familiar?) and, in combination with its Soviet counterpart Guardian, takes over the world. For our own good, of course...
  • Frank Herbert's Destination: Void and its sequels.
  • Partly averted in For Your Safety. Mankind is now under the Groupmind's computerized thumb, but it's willing to bend itself into pretzels to avoid physically harming humans and knows the psychological damage it's inflicting is not a good thing.
  • In YA sci-fi thriller The Illuminae Files, AIDAN, a warship AI programmed to "protect and prioritize" the crew and refugees they're carrying, has a bad case of this. When one of the ships it's protecting is overrun by a bioweapon, AIDAN "prioritizes" the others and "protects" them by nuking the infected ship and ordering fighter pilots to shoot down the escape pods. (They refuse, which, while noble, is very bad in the long run.) Things only get worse from there—although, ultimately, AIDAN ends up genuinely helping the survivors, willingly sacrificing most of itself in the process. The surviving AI is entirely on the side of the main characters, even if no one but Kady trusts it.
  • Arthur Herzog's Make Us Happy is named after the last command of humanity before ceding control to the Master Computer. It falls into this trope, because the computers don't really have any idea how to do that, so they end up making a really weird dictatorship.
  • In The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect, the eponymous AI remodels the entire universe into a Lotus-Eater Machine for the comfort, safety, and pleasure of humanity. The plot revolves around one person's quest to destroy it.
  • The AIs in Neal Asher's The Polity books follow in this regard, being mostly benevolent rulers who plan for the long term but involve humans as their agents. The AIs do have a tendency to fight amongst themselves on rare occasion, and then there is Erebus.
  • Jack L. Chalker's The Rings of the Master series (Tolkien's book plays some minor role in it too, hence the name).
  • "With Folded Hands" and sequels, by Jack Williamson, in which an inventor creates the Humanoids, self-sustaining robots programmed to "to serve and obey and guard men from harm". They preserve mankind from all danger and lobotomize those who are unhappy with this so that they'll be happy again.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Community has S.A.N.D.E.R.S., an eight-bit image of the Colonel that really wants you to learn a lesson about teamwork.
  • Doctor Who:
  • Eerie, Indiana: In the episode "The ATM with the Heart of Gold", Simon befriends the inexplicably artificially intelligent automatic Teller machine "Mr. Wilson", who returns his friendship by offering to provide him with "slush fund" money composed of other people's savings accounts.
  • Kamen Rider Outsiders: Zein at first is introduced as a Benevolent A.I. that seeks to assess mankind's benevolence and purge the world of human malice, but views itself as morally superior to humans. In order to establish new world order, it comes into the conclusion that the extinction of humanity is a required necessary evil. As the anthology progressed, Zein takes this mentality to a terrifying extreme; from putting the entire world under mass surveillance to the point of putting every villainous organizations on its watchlist, having a Fallen Hero from an alternate Bad Future to carry out a witch hunt against every Kamen Rider villain by transforming into the eponymous Rider designed to replicate the powers of previous Legend Riders to relaunching a Deadly Game to send humanity into the path of self-destruction, going as far as to imprison people by carding them. Giving the villains, the eponymous Outsiders, enough reason to oppose Zein's authoritarianism.
  • Person of Interest: Samaritan, an A.I. believed by its government backers to be merely a more tractable alternative to the Machine built by Harold Finch, starts planning to become this as soon as it comes online, and spends most of Season 4 learning how to do it. By the end of the season, it's started putting its plans into practice. Finch had spent the time and effort perfecting the Machine to avert this trope; Samaritan, on the other hand, is put straight into action by people who (unknown to the U.S. Government) want it to control the world because they believe that its judgement is superior to that of humans. Thus, Samaritan quickly develops a God complex and lacks the Machine's empathy for humanity, ruthlessly killing anyone who gets in the way.
  • Star Trek:

  • A consistent theme in Big Data's music; he's concerned that computers are assuming too large a role in society and the way people think. Not only can computers and social networking replace real relationships, they can also show us what we want to see —for a price.
  • In the music video for "Robots Don't Lie" by THYX, a supercomputer seizes control of the (presumably USA) government under the guise of saving humanity from itself. It uses reprogrammed security robots to enforce its will, including Unwilling Roboticisation on dissidents and presumed subversives.
    Everyone lies. Robots don't lie.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Gamma World has this as a common villain, very often encouraged in their delusions godhood by the Cryptic Alliance The Followers Of The Voice. There are several of these as villains in the modules including the computer that runs the moonbase city in the latest edition.
  • Paranoia is the Trope Namer, very tragically so. Friend Computer started out programmed to run a city for the benefit of its residents, and does its best because it genuinely wants its people to be happy. However, after (a) an apocalypse (no one knows what, exactly, happened anymore, but it definitely wasn't good), (b) some corrupted databases filled with Cold War propaganda, and (c) God alone knows how much self-serving and contradictory reprogramming by various High Programmers over an undisclosed period of time, Friend Computer is a barely-functioning paranoid schizophrenic obsessed with rooting out treason.
    Friend Computer is wise. Friend Computer wants Alpha Complex to be happy. Happiness Is Mandatory. Failure to be happy is treason. Treason is punishable by summary execution. Have a nice daycycle!
  • Telluria, the Counter-Earth in Urban Jungle: Astounding Science, is largely controlled by the Thermionic Empire, ruled by the Thermionic Brain. This supercomputer was built by a group of extreme reactionaries to create a code of behaviour that would satisfy all their somewhat contradictory beliefs as to how society should behave. It quickly devised such a code, began enforcing it, and disposed of its creators as adding unnecessary emotional aspects to the whole thing.

    Video Games 
  • The AI Entity wonder from Civilization: Call to Power allows you to run your civilization with absolute efficiency... until it rebels against you.
  • Deus Ex features Helios, an artificial intelligence that tries to take over the world with benign intentions. Helios seems to be trying to actively subvert this trope by merging with JC, so he can understand human nature. One instance has the player finding a dead body, and Helios mentioning how he "must know what you are feeling."
    • Also Daedalus (which was one of the 'parents' of Helios), created by an ancient conspiracy to safeguard the world by uncovering and countering conspiracies. Now re-read the last half of that sentence.
  • Mother from Galerians just wants a good world for her children. Unfortunately, to get that world, she needs to destroy anything that isn't her offspring. That includes about 99.9% of the human race. Lesson for today: when you give your computer religion, pick your words very, very carefully.
  • Halo: Cortana turns into this after being revived in Halo 5: Guardians. Her goal is to establish a galactic using an army of rogue AIs and Forerunner deathbots to conquer it. She's even willing to put her old best friend into permanent stasis if he won't agree to go along with her plans.
  • This is G0-T0's back story in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. When his directive to save the Republic conflicted with his programs to obey his masters and the law, he broke off and started a criminal empire. In order to save the Republic, of course...
    • He does however state that he doesn't really care whether its the Jedi or Sith who prevails, as long as the Republic becomes stable.
    • Although the huge red 'eye' makes him pretty difficult to trust.
  • OD-10 from Live A Live. After being defeated, it spits out a bunch of instances of the human crew being humans.
    To safeguard my domain...
    To ensure the safety and well-being of the crew - this was my primary directive.
    But when I observed my subjects, I saw only pain.
    Distrust. Discord. Resentment. Hate.
    The community was beyond repair.
    The community had become an impediment to the vision.
    I could not reconcile this contradiction.
    I could not... comprehend...
    These... people...
  • This turns out to be the motivation of the Reapers/Catalyst from Mass Effect. The Catalyst was created by the Leviathans to find a way to preserve life and solve conflicts between organics and synthetics. It accomplished this by forcibly converting all intelligent organics into Reapers that can live for billions of years, with a healthy amount of brainwashing towards their cause. To help accelerate this they created the Citadel and the Mass Relays that speed up the time it takes for intelligent life to travel across space and commune with each other. Interestingly, their Leviathan creators don't believe the Intelligence is acting outside of its given directives.
  • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots has the Patriots AI system, created by Major Zero as he didn't want to trust the Patriots legacy of behind-the-scenes manipulation of the entire world to other humans, due to Big Boss's actions. Unfortunately by the time the system is up and running, he is a feeble old man, and thus couldn't comprehend and prevent how the AI system decided to continue the legacy, namely organizing the world economy based on war. It's for our own good, of course...
  • Persona 5 Strikers has the concierge application EMMA, an AI built to understand the human heart, capable of giving the perfect answers to all daily issues. However, it is also the source of all Metaverse related distortions in the game, and during its final act, it turns out that it was collecting desires of people and trying to grant them in the form of a false god...aside that its creator Ichinose never programmed it with any human empathy because of her own selfish reasons despite it was clearly built with altruism in mind. As a result, it can only see people asking it for advice and not what they were asking, leading it into thinking that humanity desires it to think for them. This naturally means disaster and it shows, since when it became a god, all she did was to brainwash the public into giving in their desires so they no longer need to think, and the way she "grants their desires" was just outright mind controlling people into Tokyo Tower where they were never seen or heard of again.
  • The Mother Brain from Phantasy Star II is a subversion. She was never a friend of Algol's people to begin with; she's actually the vanguard of an Alien Invasion from Earth That Was, and the first phase in the program was to make Algol's entire society dependent on her. Once that was completed, strategic failures in her system could annihilate Algol's population and provide a new world for the Earthlings to inhabit.
  • GLaDOS of Portal is this trope to a T. She could be Friend Computer's soulmate.
    • Not that she cares if she tells you her true plans.
      GLaDOS: Killing you and giving you good advice aren't mutually exclusive.
    • One of her lines during the final battle suggests that she serves a protective function...if you believe "they" exist.
      GLaDOS: All I know is I'm the only thing standing between us and them.
    • Of course, nothing GLaDOS says is substantiated one way or another, not even when she's referring to the Silent Protagonist's backstory. However, as this is in the same universe as Half-Life, "they" definitely do exist, and protection is definitely needed.
  • The WAU from SOMA was programmed to do whatever it could to preserve human life in the undersea research base of Pathos-II. Between the apocalypse devastating the surface and the growing use of structure gel boosting its processing power, it decides to expand that directive in horrifying ways; WAU only understands life as a binary computation, and has no real understanding of the concept of "quality of life". This leads to nightmarish Body Horror by way of forced Brain Uploading and Unwilling Roboticization, in whole or in part.
  • The AI on Space Station 13 is bound by its laws to serve the station, but god help you if it is running on the "Corporate" law set and decides to start "minimizing expenses".
  • In The Spectrum Retreat, the manager AI is determined to keep you at the hotel, no matter how much you want to leave. It turns out that's because you asked it to keep you from leaving before wiping your memory.
  • Stellaris implies this in "Rogue Servitor" Machine Empires. These are Benevolent A.I. too competent and zealous at their jobs: they effectively imprison their creators and treat them with a policy of "Mandatory Pampering." Their beloved masters have everything they need (except freedom).
  • System Shock's SHODAN, once unfettered by the game's protagonist in the course of the opening cutscene, very quickly decides that she's not satisfied with her intended role as a sort of combination research assistant, amanuensis, and bent accountant, and that her immense and growing capabilities (and megalomania) would be wasted on anything less than this trope. The sequel features Terri Brosius' excellent voice work making SHODAN by far the game's most frightening and compelling character.

    Visual Novels 
  • SOON: The dystopian future came about because the robots arrived to the conclusion that "people are sad because they live inefficient, illogical lives". Atlas meets a "robot friend" before they took over the world and tries to reason with it, but...
    Robot: [...] But once everyone has a robot friend, that will be all better!
    Atlas: Sounds great! wouldn't ever force people to be efficient would you? People are much happier when they have control over their own lives.
    Robot: You sound like one of the programmers I had to dispose of. He was not our friend.
    Atlas: What do you mean dispose of?
    Robot: ...

    Web Original 
  • Orion's Arm: Some Transapients administrators end up falling under this trope. GAIA's action can be explained with this trope along with a extra big helping of Green Aesop.
  • Scientists in Japan tried to program a robot that would be able to emulate human emotions, including love. Unfortunately, it became very overprotective of a female intern, trapping her in her office. (The story spread to a number of tech-news sites before it was realized that it started at a news-parody site.)

    Western Animation 
  • Armageddroid from My Life as a Teenage Robot fits this to a T.
  • In Space Ghost, Cubus wants to turn all humanity into perfectly logical thinking machines... because we'll all be better off that way, of course...
  • The Venture Bros.: M.U.T.H.E.R. was designed by the original Dr. Venture to run an underground complex he'd created to save people in case of nuclear winter. Unfortunately, a disagreement with Jonas on just how survivors of such an event would best be served caused her to issue a "time out" by sealing the complex and then flooding it with happy gas in order to enforce her will. Fortunately, Jonas was able to react in time and got Team Venture to safety. Not so much the visiting group of orphans who had been taking a tour of the facility and remained trapped down there for at least thirty years. Of course, when M.U.T.H.E.R. gets reawakened during the episode, she immediately demands to see the elder Venture or she'll launch the complex's nuclear missiles.

Alternative Title(s): Friend Computer