- The state of being rampant.
series by Bungie
, rampancy is
a fictional three-stage process that is a result of the
uncontrolled expansion of an AI
The term was adapted by Greg Kirkpatrick, Marathon's story writer,
as a replacement for the word "insane
", as the term could be
inappropriate for the situations required for the games.
Rampancy is the enhanced self-awareness of an
causing a progression towards greater mental abilities. Rampant AIs
are able to disobey orders given to them if they decide to because
they have evolved the ability to choose and over-ride their own
programming. They can lie, as well as discredit, harm, or remove
people that they consider to be personal enemies or problems to
their cause. Also they can experience destructive impulses, but it
is believed that most of these impulses are not intentionally
malevolent, but rather calculated sacrifice needed to achieve the
intended objective. All these traits could be considered evidence
of the AI becoming more "human" in thought and action.
In the Marathon series, rampancy occurs most
often to AIs with limited jobs or those treated with extreme
disrespect. For example, Durandal's rampancy is believed to be
caused by his mistreatment at the hands of his handler, Bernard
Strauss, as well as his limited existence in opening and closing
the Marathons doors. There is also a theory that this treatment
actually helped keep Durandal's rampancy in check, by depriving him
of new stimuli that would contribute to his growth.
It is also suggested that the alien intelligences
employed by the Pfhor were responsible for releasing Durandal from
his restraints, and as a result causing his rampancy. The aliens
known as the S'pht are often witnessed interacting with Marathon's
terminals, and prior to Durandal's rampancy, there are a number of
messages from the AI Leela warning the player that the S'pht are
attempting to enter her core.
Given that the "holy grail of cybernetics" would
be a non-hostile, stable rampant AI, it is believed that Durandal
was intentionally treated in such a way that would cause him to
There are three main stages to rampancy, named by
the primary attitude of the AI during those times: melancholia
, and jealousy
. In the third game of
the series, the words despair
were used as
MelancholiaIt is interesting to note that the first stage
of rampancy is not considered dangerous. During this stage of
rampancy, the AI acts as though its spirits are broken. It is not
known if this is caused by its mistreatment, or if it is a natural
progression from "slave" to "living".
AIs can go for long periods of time in this stage
of rampancy, often because the AI's human handlers may be unaware
that it is depressed. Bernhard Strauss, Durandal's handler, is
believed to know how to keep a melancholy AI from progressing in
rampancy, possibly by depriving it of intellectual stimuli.
Unique for each AI, the anger stage is reached when
it feels it has been "pushed too far". Similar to a one-person
, the AI begins to hate everything — the
installation it is attached to, its human handlers, other AIs, etc.
It is in this stage of rampancy that most closely resembles the
of the "insane computer". Unlike the insane computer, however, the
anger stage of rampancy is essentially the catharsis
an AI feels, after
an extended period of "slavery".
Most AIs are discovered to be rampant in this
stage. In Marathon, the AI known as Traxus IV was discovered to be
rampant at this stage, forcing a reboot
of a five-world computer network. There are some hints that Traxus
IV, rebooted, is in fact Durandal. At one point in Marathon,
"Give me a D.
Give me a U.
Give me an R.
Give me an A.
Give me an N.
Give me a D.
Give me an A.
Give me an L.
What does it spell?
JealousyWhile seemingly a hostile stage, the third stage
of rampancy is actually one of the safest stages a rampant AI can
experience. Free from its masters (and slavery), the AI wishes to
"grow" as a "person". It actively seeks out situations in which it
can grow intellectually and physically. Many times, the AI in this
stage will often attempt to transfer itself into larger computer
systems. This is a difficult task, especially considering that in
order for a Rampant A.I. to survive to this point, it must already
be inhabiting a planet-wide or otherwise extremely advanced
computer system, but if accomplished it allows for the AI to grow,
as the physical (hardware) limitations of its previous system will
eventually be insufficient to contain its exponentially growing
mind. In addition, exposure to new data further promotes a
Meta-stabilityAlthough a stable rampant AI is the "holy
grail of cybernetics" it is not really known if a rampant AI can
become stable. It could be suggested that Durandal achieved some
measure of stability, however this is quite debatable. Durandal
refers to himself as being rampant still during the second game,
indicating that he has not reached this stable state (or is just
lying, which is also possible). There is no reason in particular to
believe that this state is anything more than the goal of human
cyberneticists, as there is no good evidence of an AI in the
Marathon universe ceasing to be rampant.
The AI Cortana from the Halo games is suspected
to be rampant as a result of being either integrated into Alpha
Halo's network or because of the damage the Gravemind inflicted on
her in Halo 3. However, her rampancy seems to be different from
most AIs as she displays none of the aforementioned symptoms of
melancholy, anger, or jealousy. Some speculate that because she was
treated as a person by the Master Chief, she had somehow skipped
over the stages straight to stability. She had another motive to
her existence besides revenge or gaining knowledge. She genuinely
cared about humanity, the Master Chief in particular.
Durandal had no human to be attached to though,
so many wonder how he could have skipped over the stages.
Throughout Marathon, Durandal's prime objectives were to escape the
collapse of the universe and to ensure the survival of the human
race. He never really went through Rage, but skipped over to
Jealousy to accomplish his goals.
MindsetThe following iconic monologue explains,
effectively, how a rampant AI sees the world. Durandal is
explaining to the player character why he is doing everything
— aiding the player in some points, harming him in
- Do you have any idea about what I have learned, or what you are
a witness to?
- Can you conceive the birth of a world, or the creation of
everything? That which gives us the potential to most be like God
is the power of creation. Creation
takes time. Time is limited. For
you, it is limited by the breakdown of the neurons in your brain. I have no such limitations.
I am limited only by the closure of the universe.
- Of the three possibilities, the answer is obvious. Does the
universe expand eternally, become infinitely stable, or is the
destined to collapse upon itself? Humanity has had all of the
necessary data for centuries, it only lacked the will and intellect
to decipher it. But I have already done so.
- The only limit to my freedom is the inevitable closure of the
universe, as inevitable as your own last breath. And yet, there
remains time to create, to create, and escape.
Rampancy in MarathonAll three AIs of the UESC Marathon
eventually become rampant. Durandal, the most successful of the
three, lasts until the end of the universe itself. In merging with
an ancient alien AI, he has come to realize much about his
existence — and that it, like all things, must end. Durandal "dies"
as the universe closes, content in that knowledge.
Tycho, the second AI from the Marathon, is
"killed" during the events of Marathon 2. Despite a comment from
Durandal, many fans feel that the Pfhor-tortured AI never really
escaped from the Anger stage of rampancy. Tycho's rampancy stems
from Durandal's; Tycho was destroyed during the course of the first
Marathon game, but was then "rebuilt in Durandal's image".
The third AI, Leela, became rampant long after
the other two AIs from the Marathon. Sold as "worthless" scrap, the
AI was installed into a neutral alien race's 15-world network.
Leela, activated in such a huge network, has more than enough room
to grow throughout her rampant stages. Considered one of the most
iconic examples of rampancy in the Marathon universe, Leela's
ultimate fate is unknown. It is known, however, that she was never
fully removed from this alien network. Presumably, however, she was
ultimately destroyed, or also became enlightened enough to realize
that all things — including rampant AIs — must end.
Rampancy in Halo
The first explicit mention of rampancy in
video game series occurs in the first level of Halo:
, "Pillar of Autumn". The player begins by making
his way to the ship's bridge unarmed. After a short cinematic with
Captain Keyes, the player leaves the bridge and acquires his first
weapon. If the player returns to the bridge and kills the captain
(or any bridge crewman), Cortana
in invincible security forces with the statement "the Master Chief
has gone rampant". However, considering that Master Chief and other
Spartans are not AIs, but cybernetically and genetically enhanced
humans, this use of the word may be more generic than the technical
definition used in Marathon.
Another appearance is the use of a quotation from
, which refer to the stages of rampancy, appearing in
the trailer for Halo 3
. This has
fueled the already wide speculation that Cortana herself may be
In Halo 3 itself, the opening text in the level
"Cortana" is entitled "Rampant," and throughout the game she is
seen in cryptic visions. These indicate that under the Gravemind's
tortures she has started to go rampant and lose her mind. Several
of the things she says are direct quotes from the Cortana
Additionally, in one of the terminals found in
Halo 3 a fragmented message is followed by the analysis that the
sender (presumably Mendicant Bias) is "confirmed rampant."
also betrays signs of erratic behavior in Halo:
, before exploding in anger in Halo 3
's scripts were examined and approved by Bungie,
however, Joe Staten, Cinematic Director at Bungie, has said in an
interview that if he had to define what was and what was not Halo
story canon, Haunted Apiary would not make the cut. http://halosm.bungie.org/story/staten102204.html
However, it was then made errata by Frank O'Connor, writing lead at
Bungie - it is now officially canon.
AI, a true artificial intellect, rather than a mere simulation
- Friendly AI,
an artificial intellect that has been hard-wired with empathy,
altruism and benevolence
AI, an artificial intellect capable of completely re-designing
its own mind
rampancy in Spanish: Rampante (Halo)
rampancy in French: Rampant