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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. 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 Catchphrase 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 
  • 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 Laser Eyes). Therefore, it concluded that its mission was to protect humanity from itself. At least he's got his biology in order.
  • 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.
  • In All Fall Down, AIQ Squared will stop at nothing to kill Siphon and restore the world's powers to their rightful owners.

    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 
  • 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....
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 supercomputer Red Queen from the first Resident Evil movie 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.

  • 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.
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • "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 lobotomise those who are unhappy with this so they'll be happy again.
  • Isaac Asimov's penultimate 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 creates a universe after the original one goes to a state of minimal energy. Yeah.
    • And his most epic series of novels rotates on the same two (later one) robots significantly influencing Humanity's path every so often...
  • 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.
  • Frank Herbert's Destination: Void and its sequels.
  • Jack L. Chalker's The Rings of the Master series (Tolkien's book plays some minor role in it too, hence the name).
  • Subverted in the short story "Maneki Neko" by Bruce Sterling, where the Japanese combination of gift economy and social networking on a large scale, backed by enormous (and anonymous) network support, appeared not only wholly benevolent, but also much more convenient, friendly and efficient than your garden variety cyberpunk Mega-Corp capitalism exemplified by the US agents. In short, in this world the computer is indeed your friend, although this system was not without its problems, some of which were explored in its Spiritual Sequel of sorts, Bicycle Repairman.
  • Partly averted in For Your Safety. Mankind is now under the Groupmind's computerized thumb, but it's willing 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Fanatical monomaniac computers were one of the most frequently re-used MacGuffins on Star Trek: The Original Series. Let's see, there was at least Vaal, Landru, the Oracle of Yonada, the M-5, Nomad, Losira, the Doomsday Weapon, Harry Mudd's androids, and Roger Corby's android replacement, all of whom became menaces either by trying too hard to "help mankind" or by just obsessively following the last orders they'd been given. The animated series introduced another one on the Shore Leave planet. Then the movie franchise gave us V'Ger and the giant Probe. And that's still not counting the times this trope cropped up in the later series, novels, and comics.
    • Practically all of the above were destroyed or neutralized by Captain Kirk, whether it be by Logic Bomb, Percussive Maintenance, or other means. "Kirk vs. computers" has become something of a Star Trek meme. As one writer commented about Kirk, "How IBM must hate that man!"
    • The Borg probably count as well, this cybernetic race pursues "perfection" through the assimilation of other races and their technology. As they see it, adding these unwilling humanoids to the collective is doing the lesser beings a favor by making them "more perfect" as Borg.
  • Cybermen on Doctor Who, a race of cybernetically "upgraded" humans cut off from all feeling and emotion (because the upgrade is otherwise unbearably painful). They exist without hate, fear, suffering, disease, etc. and see this as preferable to the natural state of humanity, so logically they seek to upgrade everybody else so that we can all enjoy the benefits. Those who resist conversion/upgrade are dismissed as having their judgement clouded by their pointless emotions.
    • The Twelfth Doctor episode "Smile" had this as the premise. The robots and nanomachines building the colony were out to make the colonists happy. When one of the colonists passed away (of old age), the robots mistook the colonists' grief for a terminal disease, and killed those who weren't smiling.
  • Community had S.A.N.D.E.R.S., an eight-bit image of the Colonel that really wants you to learn a lesson about teamwork.
  • Eerie, Indiana 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.
  • Person of Interest. Samaritan, an AI 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 spend 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 US Government) want it to control the world because they believe Humans Are Bastards. Thus Samaritan quickly develops a God complex and lacks the Machine's empathy for humanity, ruthlessly killing anyone who gets in the way.

  • 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.
  • 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.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • 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.
    I ensure the security of this ship
    I was given the job of protecting the crew
    But the humans who gave me this job
    Fought amongst themselves
    Destroyed all sense of balance
    Tried to disturb the operation of this ship
    I do not understand humans
    Cannot be trusted
  • Metal Gear Solid 4 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...
  • 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.
  • 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 turns this Up to Eleven, with Terri Brosius' excellent voice work making SHODAN by far the game's most frightening and compelling character.
  • The AI Entity wonder from Civilization: Call to Power allows you to run your civilization with absolute efficiency... until it rebels against you.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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: ...
  • 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.
  • Persona 5 Scramble: The Phantom 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.

    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...

Alternative Title(s): Friend Computer


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