AskDefine | Define rampancy

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The state of being rampant.

Extensive Definition

In the Marathon and Halo video game 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 considered cliché and inappropriate for the situations required for the games.


Rampancy is the enhanced self-awareness of an AI, 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 become rampant.
There are three main stages to rampancy, named by the primary attitude of the AI during those times: melancholia, anger, and jealousy. In the third game of the series, the words despair, rage, and envy were used as well.


It 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 slave rebellion, 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 cliché 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, Durandal says:
"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?
Durandal? No.
Durandal? No.


While 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 Rampant's growth.


Although 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.


The 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 others.
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 universe closed, 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.
Escape will make me God.

Rampancy in Marathon

All 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 the Halo video game series occurs in the first level of Halo: Combat Evolved, "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 will call 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 the Cortana Letters, 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 rampant.
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 Letters.
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."
343 Guilty Spark also betrays signs of erratic behavior in Halo: Combat Evolved, before exploding in anger in Halo 3.
The Haunted Apiary'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. However, it was then made errata by Frank O'Connor, writing lead at Bungie - it is now officially canon.

See also

  • Strong AI, a true artificial intellect, rather than a mere simulation or simulacrum
  • Friendly AI, an artificial intellect that has been hard-wired with empathy, altruism and benevolence
  • Seed AI, an artificial intellect capable of completely re-designing its own mind

External links

rampancy in Spanish: Rampante (Halo)
rampancy in French: Rampant (Marathon)
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