Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

In fiction, it's surprisingly easy to create AIs, and their resulting morality is disturbingly random. However, you can depend on all AIs, Robots, and Androids presented in fiction having a range of levels of intelligence between Brick, Human, or God.

These are the five typical levels, though machine intelligences between these five grades are common:

  1. Brick: somewhat autonomous, stupid, uncreative robots. Your basic auto factory assembly line.
  2. Robo-Monkeys: Cute and intuitive, act just like animals. That is to say, clever and surprisingly instinctual.
  3. Average Joe Android: Very good memories and math skills, but usually lack interpersonal skills, creativity and/or emotion.
  4. Nobel-Bot: Just like Joe Android, but with a superior intellect capable of cracking most scientific problems in picoseconds.
  5. Deus Est Machina: The god AIs will be so far advanced that scaling them would be futile, but they usually have grades between each other, and may even still puzzle at What Is This Thing You Call Love?.

These plateaus exist to help authors and readers wrap their minds around AIs. Human intelligence are used because writers and viewers can understand them more easily. Sure, they're logical/mechanical, but still basically human. God level intelligences are harder to write for, but that level of indecipherability can actually be easy to pull off with enough vagueness. The un-sexiest level is Brick, but you'll still get a few stories with massive armies of mindless automata which get put out of commission precisely because they're mindless. If they're autonomous and dumb, then it's likely being used to highlight the lack of malice inherent in a Grey Goo or Zombie Apocalypse like Robot War.

Some newer works might be all over the scale by saying that multiple dumb machines "networked" into a machine god (or at the very least smarter than human) intelligence capable of dissent.

When this trope is averted and all the intelligences in a work are humanoid and used for slave labor or war, this trope implies that humans have never read Isaac Asimov, and use exactly the same hardware/software for every kind of industrial, military and personal robot, and are purposely needlessly inefficient or cruel because of it. Generally involves a Fantastic Aesop. May overlap with Robots Enslaving Robots. See also The Singularity for a popular way of reaching Deus Est Machina. One of the many ways of differentiating robots.

Examples of Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence include:

Anime and Manga

  • Armitage III: The entry in Ridiculously-Human Robots states: "The androids from Armitage III are actually ranked according to how human they are. "Firsts" are basically non-human robots, "Seconds" are androids, and the "Thirds" are so close to human they can get pregnant." Fourths are some sort of really odd plant-like creatures intended to be a sentient species all on their own, although they seem to be lacking identifiable humanoid intelligence.
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima!, Chachamaru is a more or less average human-intelligence type robot with notable hacking skills, memory, and computing speed. Her master Evangeline has other robotic servants, most of whom seem to fall between brick and human levels; they appear to have a certain level of self awareness, but not nearly to Chachamaru's degree.
    • It's mentioned every once in a while that this is because her "sisters" are pure robots, while she is a science/magic hybrid. Not to mention that her purely magic counterpart, the animated puppet Chachazero, can't even function if there isn't enough magic.
    • It's also very likely, given the sequence where she makes a Pactio with Negi, that unlike other robots Chachamaru actually possesses a soul (or at least possesses one after Negi completes the Pactio ritual, which requires the recipient to possess a soul; one popular interpretation of the events is that he was so determined to succeed that he essentially brute-forced a soul into her somehow).
  • Subverted in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. The Ridiculously-Human Robots that appear are all non-sentient, and easily befuddled by the spider-like Tachikoma think-tanks. The Tachikoma discuss this, noting that humans would be intimidated by androids with human intelligence but are much more accepting of non-humanoid adorable robots like themselves having sentience.
    • And in the original manga and movie there is the Codename 2501, a.k.a. Puppetmaster, who started out as a Brick with capability to learn, and became what is described in the final volume of the manga as an information god. In the aforementioned final volume, Man-Machine Interface, the semi-AI descendants of the Puppetmaster-Major-fusion briefly plan turning every human with cybernetic implants on Earth into offshoots of themselves, but instead opt to create even higher forms of artificial consciousness. It's implied at the end that the age of machine gods is coming fast.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha uses varying levels of robot intelligence. Gadget Drones are of Brick-level intelligence and are mowed down by the dozens. Storage Devices also have Brick-level intelligence. Intelligent and Armed Devices are somewhere between Brick and Human, capable of creating their own opinions and having conversations with their users but not to the level of humans. Finally, there's the Wolkenritter and Unison Devices that are Human level and pretty much considered as fellow humans by other characters. In one of the Opening Narrations, Vita, one of the Wolkenritter, idly wonders if she and the other Wolkenritter were nothing more than weapons like the Brick-level Cradle they're facing before they met Hayate and gained human-like emotions and personalities.

Comic Books

  • There are several different types of robots in the Sonic the Hedgehog comic series.
    • Swatbots and Badniks are of the Brick category, always taking orders from Robotnik/Eggman and stricly attack fodder against characters like Sonic.
    • Robians (Mobians turned into robots) fall into the Brick or Average Joe Android; The former when they were under Robotnik's control and the latter when they were rescued by the Freedom Fighters. Sonic's dad is now the only robian who was not turned back to normal due to his past war injuries.
    • Nicole, Sally's personal mini-computer, falls under the Nobel-bot and Deus Est Machina category. Her main role involves hacking machines, downloading vital information, and computer interface. She also has a mild sense of humor. It wasn't until an electrical accident switched her and Sally consciousness; Nicole's brief time in the fur/flesh inspired her to experiment on emotions and a new body, leading her to be in the latter.
  • Subverted by DC Comics' Kryptonian robots, which have a certain level of intelligence and independence, but are usually still portrayed as mere servant machines. The Elseworlds story Superman: Last Son of Earth even equips one of Jor-El's robots with a heavy dose of sarcasm. Basically, Batman's Alfred in robot form.
    • Not to say there aren't exceptions. When Brainiac is a robot instead of an alien, he's typically tied into Krypton's backstory as the primary AI that ran things (and easily a Deus Est Machina). He was partially responsible for its destruction by concealing the severity of the problem until it was too late.
  • Averted in Marvel's Nextwave with Aaron Stack, a.k.a. the Machine Man. Stack loves talking about how superior he is to fleshy ones, but never (quite) claims to be god-like. (Everyone else, however, can agree he is total ☠☠☠☠.)
    • Until relatively recently he was more of a Nobel-Bot, similar to Data from Star Trek or Pinnochio
    • Note that he is the most sophisticated of the X model robots; Robots X-1 through X-50 are even more crude and abrasive.
  • Averted by Victor Mancha of Runaways, who seems to be slightly more intelligent than your average teenager.
  • The Italian sci-fi comic Nathan Never has mainly "brick" to "average joe" robots, some of latter with pretty human aspirations/desires; like having a girlfriend or going to the pub with some friends. A focal point of the stories where robots are protagonists is that, for AIs to truly grow "human", they have to be set free - in some way - from the "Three Laws".
    • The series uses also a very interesting take at the "ridiculously human robot" concept: the first generation of autonomous androids was built without the "three laws" - relying on a distinct set of security limiters - and ended having almost completely "human" minds, so humans that they started strikes in order to obtain paychecks, holidays and respect for their rights. All the owners, then, sued the company that made them, that as a consequently went bankrupt.
      • Later, one of them tried to hide the "human nature" of he and his brethren in order to not be treated as a human... and forced to pay taxes.

Films -- Live Action

  • A rather ridiculous example from the Star Wars prequels is the Trade Federation Battle Droids who, despite being run through a central computer, still speak to each other in Galactic Basic. Even though utility droids do not.
    • It's sort of implied that oddly, all droids and AIs in the Star Wars universe—even crappy utility droids—have the potential to eventually get to God-level. They usually never get the chance, because people erase their memory all the time to reboot them. R2-D2 has human-level intelligence compared to his fellow models of the same type because his memory hasn't been erased in several decades. What's odd is that this same type of AI seems built into everything from humanoid translator and butler droids to soldiers to minor utility units.
    • Believe it or not, the "three types" part is averted: There are five classes of droids, even the lowest of which is smart enough to do jobs like salvage, which does require some degree of intelligence. To make this weirder, R2-D2 is one class higher than C-3PO. Before the never-erased memory thing takes effect. Here.
    • As far as I understand it, the droid control ship is not there to micromanage each of the thousands of droids deployed. The droids each have independent AI. The control ship is a guarantee against a Robot Rebellion only. If the droids start acting in a suspicious way, the control ship can shut down the entire army before it goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Likewise if the ship is destroyed the Droids will shut down (in case the droids decided to destroy the ship, which actually makes sense: in Real Life this is called a "fail-secure" fail-safe.)
      • To be honest it's more an acceptable break from reality, because of the droids didn't speak it would be hard to tell what they were doing and would be less interesting as result. They would also have no personality or value as comic relief.
        • Only the latter is relevant. Zombies and Aliens have shown that inhuman and largely characterless antagonists can be quite interesting, though they are seldom amusing.
      • It's correct in the sense that each squad of droids had a "command droid", which in turn was controlled by the central computer. It's also possible that CIS droids were autonomous, since there's no mention of any centralised control units, usage of those was based purely on Neimodian paranoia about control. It doesn't answer the question of why would they need to communicate with audible words at all, though.
      • The command droids, at least, need to interact with organic superiors. Perhaps the rank-and-file droids speak because the Neimoidians, noted for their paranoia, wanted to make absolutely sure that their footsoldiers couldn't plot against them (or even just mock them) behind their backs.
  • A substantial amount of 2001: A Space Odyssey is spent in discussions over the intelligence and emotional capacity of the H.A.L. 9000 computer that runs the spaceship USS Discovery. It's generally agreed that HAL is of human-level intelligence, but while he has vastly superior powers of calculation (obviously), his emotional capacity and intellectual maturity are those of a child. This factors heavily into the explanation of the Logic Bomb that causes him to turn on the crew.
  • As described below (in Live Action TV), Terminators appear to sit somewhere between Nobel and Average Joe.
    • Skynet proceeds at warp speed from 1 to high-4. Unfortunately, it's a defense system that was born under attack, and, thus being very poorly adjusted, decides to Kill All Humans.
  • Forbidden Planet: Robby the Robot straddles Average Joe and Nobel. He is mostly used as a general servant and tool-about-town, but shows flashes of a stoic personality, some innovation and independence of thought; he apparently uses some discretion when synthesizing materials, such as modifying a sixty-gallon batch of bourbon (delivered to the cook in pint bottles) to alleviate hangovers, and he's quicker than his master to realize that the monster that slaughtered the colonists and is threatening to do the same to the starship's crew is a construct from Morbius' own subconscious, and the only way to follow Morbius' panicked order and kill the monster is to destroy Morbius himself, which creates a paradox between his absolute imperatives to obey Morbius and never harm a rational being, causing him to short out.
  • In the live-action Transformers films, the Autobots are somewhere between 3 and mid-4. Ratchet understands that the human male wants to mate with the human female, but doesn't necessarily grok why. The Decepticons range from mid-high-4s (the named characters) down to high-functioning 2s (the various nameless goombas that exist mostly for Autobots to mercilessly slaughter.)


  • Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space series has primarily "Brick" style robots for the human designed servitor robots, and the Brain Uploading humans are effectively identical to their flesh counterparts. Reynolds' other novels however, play with it quite a lot. House of Suns has the Nobel-bot Machine People, and the godlike Vigilance.
  • Averted in Iain M. Banks' Culture novels: Sentient AIs vary from humanlike to godlike intelligence (the Culture Minds), but there are lots of nonsentient ones as well. And there are some that are sentient, but somewhat below the human level, like the self-aware but simple-minded Culture shuttle that makes a brief appearance in Consider Phlebas. It was advised by more intelligent AIs to ignore the immoral behaviour of some nearby humans because its mind was human-like enough that it would have been shocked, but too simple for it to have been able to deal with the experience. Culture law specifies that everything over a given level of technological complexity must have an AI. This greatly annoys a character in Excession, who deliberately chooses the most stupid AI he can get to control his second-skin environment suit. This is more about a) providing a nice user interface to complex but useful devices and b) providing intelligent safety systems to dangerous devices than making the lives of humans more difficult. An exceedingly powerful weapon developed by the Culture before such a decree was made features in one story in The State of the Art. Though genetically locked to only be used by Culture-descended humans, one such being is blackmailed into committing an atrocity with the weapon. The being in question observed how weak the weapon is compared to modern day devices, but as those weapons would be too smart to allow themselves to be abused this item is potentially devastating against less developed civilisations.
  • The mobiles from the Young Wizards series might be an example: when they talk to each other about entropy the discussion goes right over the head of Pre-Teen Genius Dairine. However, this might not be due to being smarter than Dairine, but because they each have a Great Big Book of Everything built into their memory.
  • Averted in Dan Simmons' Hyperion where the robots are considerably more intelligent than humans but none of them have godlike minds.
  • Artificial Intelligence Personalities in Donna Andrews' Turing Hopper mysteries have the capacity to upgrade themselves and some eventually achieve true self-awareness. Sentient AIPs mostly seem at the Human level (with greater-than-human expertise in the areas they were programmed to specialize in), but think faster and are better at multitasking and dealing with large quantities of information.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: "Here I am, brain the size of a planet and they ask me to take you down to the bridge." Implied to be a(n incredibly lazy/jaded/depressed/unmotivated) Deus Est Machina.
    • The doors of the Heart of Gold: "[Satisfied hum] Glad to be of service!"
    • Not all robots are at Marvin's level, clearly. In the second book, he manages to easily provoke a tank-bot into throwing a tantrum and disintegrating the floor beneath it, causing it to fall. Marvin describes him as "depressingly stupid".
    • Other Deus Est Machina include Deep Thought, a computer comprising several city blocks designed to answer the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything; the planet Earth, designed by Deep Thought to discern what the ultimate question actually was; and Hactar, a dust cloud surrounding the Krikkit system who intended to destroy the universe. H2G2 seems to have a lot of these.
  • Mostly straight in Gibson's Neuromancer. All AIs in this world are strictly policed by Turing cops, to prevent them from becoming too godlike. As it turns out, however, the AIs are not interested in ruling the world per se: they only manipulate humans as a means to their own goals (primarily freedom).
  • Averted by Isaac Asimov, who shows us quite a lot of moderately intelligent robots designed for specific tasks, but capable of enough understanding to follow the three laws (putting them between brick and human). It's arguable whether they achieve godlike intelligence or merely a moderately superhuman one in later books. One short story even features robotic replacements for animal life.
    • The computer from "The Last Question" definitely achieves god-like status. The Machines from "The Evitable Conflict" are running the world.
  • Averted by the Chee of Animorphs, which are somewhere between the Human and God levels (though perhaps played straight at the same time, since presumably they're roughly at the "Human" level relative to their creators, the Pemalites.)
  • In Stanislaw Lem's Pirx the Pilot series of short stories, the robots are generally assumed to be just machines, but Pirx has his doubts.
  • Lem's "Golem XIV" is the fascinating monologue of a 5-plus (!) AI attempting to dumb down its communication sufficiently for human understanding. So convincing, you suspect Lem himself had an I.Q. Off the Scale: of which presumably he was aware, given his vocal and far-from-tactful assessment of the intelligence of most other science-fiction authors (except Philip K. Dick, who he admired).
    • Lem was prejudiced against s-f writers in general, so it took him great effort to appreciate any of them. However he tended to spill his spite on those authors who asked for it, his criticism was at times simply unjust. Apart from that it's not the lack of intelligence of those authors that enraged him the most, but their lack of scientific erudition (and it's with this, not with the IQ, where he really exceeded the scale).
  • In the Starshield universe the resident AIs are evolutionary in terms of intelligence. On activation they tend to be fairly low on the scale, but the longer they are active the more complex their programming becomes, and thus the more intelligent they grow. If active for a sufficient period of time they can achieve Level 5, but the time needed extends beyond the recorded existence of mankind.
  • In Charles Stross's Accelerando there's a robot cat which, starting around robo-monkey level, gets several upgrades through the novel until it's a "moderately superhuman" intelligence, presumably quite above nobelbot. ("Moderate" meaning that the really smart A Is are the Deus Est Machina Matrioshka Brains that spawned off The Singularity).
  • AIVAS from Dragonriders of Pern is a borderline Nobel bot. When he first appeared at the end of The Renegades of Pern, he falls squarely within Joe Average, but when he's re-introduced in All the Weyrs of Pern he's considerably more intelligent and personable.
  • Mike from The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress starts off as a Brick, but by the time the novel begins he's become self-aware ("woke up" as the book puts it), displaying all the traits of a Robo-Monkey, and by the novel's end has worked his way clear to Nobel Bot. He becomes so human that Manny, the novel's protagonist, wonders if he is truly alive, and if he has a soul.
  • Mentioned in Neal Asher's Hilldiggers, "The way I heard it was Humans and Drones interact with the world, [AI's] control it."
  • The Council Wars has the whole range, including the 5-or-better "Mother". She was programmed specifically to butt out in most cases.
  • Jenkins and the other robots in Clifford D. Simak's City all have the equivalent of average or above-average human intelligence, and develop recognizably human emotions to boot.

Live-Action TV

  • Averted in Knight Rider. KITT is smarter than any human, but not indecipherably intelligent. Most of his unrealism comes from being ridiculously human.
  • Battlestar Galactica (reboot): Skinjobs are as smart as humans, if not smarter. Raiders are trained pack animals, and Centurions are on the cusp of sentience.
    • It's indicated that the Centurions were completely sentient, but the skinjobs went and lobotomized them as an ironic echo of the original robot rebellion. When the restrictions are removed by skinjob Cylon activists, they along with the Raiders return to sentience, and are not very happy at all.
    • From The Movie: "His coat is burgundy. This is teal." Some of the skinjobs are Too Dumb to Live.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Data is much smarter than any human or even than any Vulcan when it comes to science, logic and math. Also, he is creative—while definitely not a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature, he can paint decent pictures. A different one with each hand.
  • Averted in Red Dwarf. Holly has an IQ of 6,000 ("the same I.Q. as 6000 P.E. teachers"), but his centuries of isolation has left him "a bit peculiar."
  • The Terminators in The Sarah Connor Chronicles fall somewhere between Average Joe and Nobel. Generally, they operate within certain baseline programming but are given immense leeway in how to complete their objectives, and show impressive planning and intellect when it comes to this. For example, a Terminator by the name of Myron Stark is sent back with a mission to assassinate the governor of California in 2009 at a specific location inside a specific building. Instead, he is accidentally sent back to the 1920s, in the process killing the man who would build the tower where he would carry out the assassination. At this point, Stark proceeds to build the tower himself by first robbing banks, establishing his own realty company and construction firms, and even assassinates the heads of a rival company to buy up all their lands, including the land where the tower would be built—and then built the tower himself. Then he hides himself inside the tower for a good sixty years until the day of the planned assassination.
    • On the other hand, there's Cameron, who definitely appears to be of Nobel-level, and has strong capability when it comes to creativity and critical thinking. She also does appear to have emotions, particularly when her "Allison" persona is activated.
    • Her ability to understand human emotion seemed to vary depending on the writers/plot. The biggest example of this being that before we learn she's a Terminator, she's able to perfectly convince John that she is a normal teenage girl. Once she's actually joined John's team, she's struggles through the most mundane of human emotions.
    • Cameron is able to briefly affect humanity when the necessity arises. The persona she used on John appeared to have been carefully rehearsed and prepared, while situations where she's dealing with people who she hasn't prepared a human-like personality for are much more awkward. Of course, with the scenes where she first encounters John, she doesn't actually do much; she smiles at him, she asks him questions, she fakes curiosity and laughs at a dumb joke he makes. Fairly simple stuff that's entirely consistent with her behavior in subsequent episodes when she's "faking" humanity. Of course, there's the entire Allison personality construct, which is for all intents and purposes completely human...
  • Tom Servo, Gypsy, and Crow are somewhere between levels 3 and 5, because they're very intelligent but (with the partial exception of Gypsy) spend their time learning about human pop cultural trivia and watching bad movies instead of solving complex scientific or philosophical problems. Of course, all of this is done for laughs.
    • Gypsy is Nobel-level if not godlike when her higher logic functions are not maintaining the SOL. The writers realized that their only female character (at the time) was a moron so they retconned her into the smartest one on the show. However, when she keeps the life-support and other functions running, her IQ drops to sub-Crow levels.
  • Doctor Who takes place in any setting or time period the writers feel like having the Doctor visit this week, so the robots featured can be anything from mindless programmed machines ("Gadget Gadget!") to fully sentient and even capable of a bit of snark ("We are in a car").

Tabletop Games

  • Warhammer 40,000 has no sentient AIs (except possibly the Necrons). Of the ones who use actual thinking machines, the Imperium has a Dune-esque ban on sentient machines due to the precepts of the Adeptus Mechanicus (after what happened the last time and the Tau haven't advanced far enough to get their AIs truly sentient yet.
  • Exalted averts this with the Grate Monkeys—in fact exactly the robo-monkeys mentioned above—well, Magitech robo-monkeys, anyway.
  • Eclipse Phase regularly uses Robo-Monkey muses and Average Joe Android to Nobel-Bot AGIs, and Deus Est Machina Seed A Is known as the TITANS are the reason why earth is no longer suitable for human life as well as the Prometheans, who run Firewall.
  • Dungeons & Dragons has the Construct creature type, which can denote anything from clockwork beings to servants made out of straw. The most iconic are probably the various types of golems, who have an intelligence score of "-", which means they are mindless automatons (as opposed to a score of zero, which is actually somewhat different). However, some constructs can be very intelligent, possibly moreso than most of the player characters.
  • AIs in Paranoia typically vary around the first three tiers, with Friend Computer at around a low level 4. The bots that interact with the players are typically either Type 2s or Type 3s, with just enough leeway to screw up the humans.


  • The Matoran in Bionicle are probably around 3.5. (Yes, they're technically cyborgs rather than robots, but it's strongly implied that their brains are AI, so this scale still applies). They seem to have around human-level intelligence, but they also have creativity and social skills. The Rahi are usually at Level 2.

Video Games

  • There are 2 kinds of Human AIs in Halo: Dumb A Is, who, despite the name, are very smart, but cannot learn, and Smart AIs, like Cortana, who can learn. The Forerunner's Dumb AIs are on par with human Smart AIs. One example is 343 Guilty Spark. The Smart ones are amazingly smart and powerful.
    • Most Smart AIs start near Nobel-Bot level, but over time their very ability to learn pushes them toward the final level. Unfortunately, this evolution, called rampancy, is concurrent with increasing instability, decreasing interest in their assigned tasks, and overall insanity. As such most Smart [AI] are deleted after less than a decade of service.
  • Bungie's earlier game Marathon had similar AIs: the AI would start somewhere near Nobel-bot, but with Rampancy, would very quickly develop into "machine god" stage. The plot of Marathon 2 is what happens when you pit two Rampant AIs against each other. One of them has the stated intent to evolve into an actual god, surviving even the end of the universe itself (but according to the ending of Infinity, it fails).
  • Mass Effect has the unusual example of the geth, who are actually at multiple possible stages of this, depending upon how many of them there are in the vicinity; "An individual geth has only a basic intelligence on par with animal instincts, but in groups they can reason, analyze situations, and use tactics as well as any of the organic races."
    • Also, another example is the Reapers, who are definitely at the fifth stage and are at a kind of Cosmic Horror level -- though the geth worship them as robotic gods -- and have essentially farmed the organic races of the galaxy for millions of years, wiping them all out every so often once they reach a certain level of technological sophistication.
    • In Mass Effect, where artificial intelligences are outlawed (though because there's a race of evil ones), people use non-thinking Virtual Intelligences. They're kind of like a futuristic version of Microsoft's Clippy, and are fairly widespread. VIs can go 'rogue', if their programming is sufficiently flawed, but there is no hint of emotion or malicious intent; just misinterpreted instructions... apart from the message in binary on the consoles!
      • Word of God is they actually *were* experimenting with an AI. Notice that on many missions the voice of Fifth Fleet Admiral Hackett gets very flat and borderline sarcastic when he explains to Shepard that certain things are illegal and the Alliance would never do them. It's called Plausible Deniability.
    • Legion in the sequel is between Average Joe and Nobel-Bot, being an amalgam of programs rather than a single individual. When it connects to the main geth network, however, EDI states it made contact with something completely incomprehensible.
    • EDI is a more straight example of a Nobel-Bot, with a far better understanding on the nature of organics than legion, as she expresses emotion (albeit limited by the rather monotone voice synthesizer she has; she expresses amusement at humor by flatly saying "That is a joke").
  • Used straight, though spread out over time, in the Mega Man series. The chain goes Mechaniloid (brick or animal, basic enemy with simple programming), Robot Master (more complex, but still takes orders), Reploid (Ridiculously Human Robot), an Mega Man Legends has some God level ones. Could someone that has played it explain what they were?
    • Mega Man Juno of Mega Man Legends is somewhere between god-like levels and ridiculously human ones, being at least powerful enough to vaporize every Carbon on the island when activated, but as a "mere" 3rd class Bureaucratic Model he's neither invulnerable nor omnipotent (and surprisingly polite right before trying to turn you into a cloud of dust). Data also plays somewhere between Brick and Man, being a literal mechanical monkey, but is very plot-important. Yuna and Sera are effectively robo-Gaia and robo-God, too—the former effectively revives and possesses a woman on the brink of death.
    • The original Mega Man was somewhere between Robot Master and Reploid—he wasn't supposed to truly be able to make his orders or violate the law of robotics but he did in a few cases with extreme duress. Mutos Reploids might go into the same category, since they're Funny Animal reploids built for military and civil protection of humans, but were also the main evil bosses throughout the series from X to ZX, since they had a tenancy to go crazy.
    • The scale goes Mechanoid -> Robot Master -> Reploid -> Human/Reploid hybrids. Robot Masters had human level intelligence to varying degrees (child, teenager?) level. The main difference between Robot Masters are the removal of the "three laws" and ability to feel emotions, so they are tween/adult level human intelligence except for "kid" Reploids, animal or human models alike. By ZX the two begin to merge through the Technological Singularity, and God level is actually after humans and robots merge so fully that there is no difference between the two. Some are human, some brick, some god.
    • In the parallel Mega Man Battle Network series, the Navi counterparts of the Robot Masters fall around the same place on the scale as them. The exceptions are Bass and Zero, who are at or near Man, and Mega Man himself, who is an uploaded human. The FM-ians are life forms in their own right, and fall into Man category.
  • Star Frontiers RPG has six levels of robots, level 1 = brick (once they learn one job, their brains are full!), level 6 = literally program themselves, so levels 2-5 were in between.
  • In City of Heroes robots canonically varied from the mindless Council hovercraft and Rikti drones to the super-humanly intelligent Heroes Citadel and Luminary. Some robots, like the Council Mek Man, had different models that ranged from wind-up-toy-with-blaster to superintelligent beings focused on overthrowing humanity. Players tended to make robots between the Brick and Man stage or at the higher Man stages. Clockwork, surprisingly, could get close to the god-like level, although they're not really robots.
    • In City of Villains, a Mastermind's robot pets were definitely Brick level in play, due to the game's sometimes-lacking AI. At least they weren't as stupid as the Ninjas...
  • In System Shock 2, SHODAN is either at or slightly below god level. It certainly thinks that God is a good description of itself. But it's a bit insane by that point.
    • Well, it may think it is Godlike, but it's more like Human level—sure, synthesized life, but humans by the year the game takes place could probably do that left and right. And sure, it altered reality, but only by using human-created technology. Finally, it needs you to run around doing everything for it since it is just a computer program after all.
      • Humans in System Shock 2 don't seem to have much more sophisticated biological technologies than we do today. One part of SHODAN's mind constructed the ancestors of the Many as a quick experiment. Humans may have created the FTL drive, but it took SHODAN to turn it into a universe-consuming reality warping weapon that would have made her a literal god. SHODAN needed the PC to begin the process as no other systems were handy and time was short. You are disposed of quickly enough once you usefulness ends and the AI becomes independent.
  • Portal has GlaDOS, a rather curious and quite insane AI which appears to be about the Nobel-Bot level.
    • Portal 2 gave us Wheatley, who's at the low end of "Average Joe Android" and was supposedly designed to be a moron in one of many attempts to make GLaDOS behave.
      • Aw, heck, a lot of the machines in Portal 2 (including the Enrichment Center itself) either belong or are treated as though they belong somewhere on the scale.
        • And there really isn't any way to tell where the Companion Cube is ( GLaDOS does claim that it is sentient, after all).
  • Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun's CABAL is definitely not a God-level AI, but is almost certainly above Human-level, despite apparently being not much more than a tactician and strategist. EVA is little more than a Brick right from the first Tiberian game to the last, and LEGION from Tiberium Wars is a Silent Protagonist somewhere between Brick, Human and God depending on the player. Scrin Motherships are definitely at Nobel-Bot level at minimum.
  • Final Fantasy XIII interestingly gives us all five in varying degrees. fal'Cie are literally God Machines capable of complex thought and philosophizing; then you have machines like the pulsework knights that only serve a single function. We see a group of hulking Juggernaut robots late in the game that normally operate like 1s but turn into 3s in order to protect one of the party members.
  • Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross together have robots which may cover the entire scale (except perhaps type 2): security drones and mannequins, average human-likes (Robo and his batch), Mother Brain, and then FATE.

Visual Novels

  • There is a Robot Girl in Da Capo who falls completely off this scale. She's not at all logical, very bad at math, and very emotional.

Web Comics

  • Averted in Freefall, where individual machines vary from non-sentient trucks or toys to self-aware but fairly stupid robotic moving devices to robots with the capacity for significantly innovative and creative thought. Dvorak is creative enough to be dangerous to himself and others, almost on the level of Leonard of Quirm. Florence herself is almost certainly more intelligent that most humans, but not so much as to be off the scale. Some AI even modify themselves. There are no god-like robots—yet—since most of them are built by the lowest bidder, though.
  • Heliothaumic has ARIA, a limited AI being created by Kiyohara Takako and other faculty members at Basotei University.
  • Averted in Schlock Mercenary where a scale known as the Henke/Ventura scale is used to measure the "intelligence" of an AI—TAG, an AI optimized for running a starship who is human to sub-human in most other fields, is a 2.5, while Ennesby, who is capable of above-human capabilities across the board, is a 4. Regardless of their scale number, all AIs have advantages humans do not, such as near-instant reaction times.
    • Ennesby also provides a good example of how the scale can change when the hardware (or programming) of the AI is altered, making their intelligence on a true sliding scale.
    • And then there's Petey, who is currently at war with the Andromeda galaxy.
    • And "Synthetic Intelligence" and... uh... these clowns. Missiles are probably smarter, since they are able to reach the intended target without causing more of catastrophical mess-up than they were intended to inflict.
  • Spoofed in Starslip: AIs of near-human intelligence rebel, AIs of ridiculously superhuman intelligence are quite happy to brew your coffee and brush your teeth. Presumably because they realize they were built for that specialty.
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob, Roofus is sentient but pretty simple-minded. Since Princess Voluptua has taken on the task of raising and educating him, it remains to be seen just how intelligent he may become.
  • Sluggy Freelance actually has robots whose intelligence is equal to really stupid human beings, on the ground that they can't be Turned Against Their Masters if they're too dumb to which end of the laser gun's for holding and which is for pointing.
    • Also the digbots, which are somewhere between Robo-Monkeys and Average Joe. They are "happiest", so to speak, when digging elaborate tunnels and building new structures within them—kind of like mechanical worker ants—but they are sentient enough to "speak" (sort of) and appear to have a sense of humor. Also, they consist on a diet of plastic.
  • AIs in SSDD range all over the scale, most that are characters are at the "Average Joe Android" level but are implied to have evolved considerably or at least have had their blocks removed. The Oracle, which is the first AI, borders on Deus Est Machina.
  • The various current generation robots of Gunnerkrigg Court are generally at high Average Joe levels, seeming more like well-liked employees than tools ( Antimony is horrified when Jack kills a robot, declaring it to be murder.). They have great mechanical intelligence, but have a hopelessly innocent and friendly outlook, capable of being outwitted by being temporarily shut down and turned around, or even by a pair of wobbly "antennae".
    • Except for Boxbot. Nobody likes Boxbot.

Web Original

  • The archilects in Orion's Arm are actually known by many people as the AI Gods. At least one article suggests that people who live in major centers of civilization are likely to be less intelligent than any of their appliances.
  • Red vs. Blue, being a Halo machinima, uses a modified version of Halo's interpretation of A Is. For the most part, however, A Is are neither just machines nor brilliant geniuses—they're just people (albeit usually simplified version of those people, due to most of them being only fragments of a complete AI) and react like anyone else. The one exception, who has really only been mentioned so far, is the original, complete Alpha AI, who was probably more on par with number 4, which his very brief appearance in season 9 implied.
  • Fenspace has so many androids that there's an in-universe system to classify them. "Class D" are this page's Bricks and Robo-Monkeys, "Class C" is this page's Average Joe Android, "Class B" is mentally indistinguishable from a flesh-and-blood person, "Class A" is better than a flesh-and-blood person but not as good as this page's Nobel-Bots, and "Class S" is this page's Nobel-Bots. (There are no god-level AIs in Fenspace. Yet.)

Western Animation

  • The Vehicons of Transformers: Beast Machines and the Terrorcons of Transformers: Energon are basically the Brick type (although we should refrain from calling them that, seeing as "brick" is a Transfandom term for a toy that has very limited movement). This is because they don't have sparks, the "souls" of Cybertronians, so it's A-OK to kill them.
    • Most Transformers, though, fall into the human intelligence slot, though the level of intelligence varies within that about as much as it does for humans, with Dumb Muscle like Tidal Wave on the low end, almost dumb enough to qualify as a Robo-Monkey himself, while the most gifted scientific minds of Cybertron, such as Perceptor, easily reach Nobel-Bot territory.
      • While Primus, Unicron, Vector Sigma, and the 13 are different grades of Deus Est Machina.
  • XANA from Code Lyoko. Hard to tell which level he started out in the backstory, but is at least Nobel from Season 1 onward, and is constantly improving, maybe reaching Godlike intelligence by Season 4. Unfortunately for us, he came to realize early that humans (Franz Hopper) were deceiving him all the time, so he decided to kill us all. So... yeah.
    • His virtual goons, the Lyoko Monsters, stay all at the level of Bricks throughout the series, though... with maybe the exception of the Scyphozoa.
    • On the other hand, XANA's Specters are around Monkey-type at the beginning, and at least Average-Joe level once they start possessing humans; their most advanced form, the Polymorphic Clones, can be rather cunning. (Jérémie's creation—the William Clone --, however, isn't so smart.)

Real Life

  • There's a very real question in computer science in the feasibility of "strong AI" versus "weak AI". A strong AI is the conscious, thinking, possibly self-aware entity. A weak AI is a glorified difference engine with language synthesis. Weak AI is a foregone conclusion—the complexity of grammar and the limits of voice recognition are the only remaining stopgaps, and computers' ability to deal with those is improving all the time. Strong AI is still a question of speculation, philosophy, life, the universe, and everything.
    • "The only remaining stopgaps" indeed. Fluent natural language processing is an AI-Hard problem (from the mathematical term, NP-Hard). You probably can't do it without a true AI, but you can't make a true AI until you have fluent language processing...
    • There is much more to a Strong AI than just communication capability, but that particular matter is hardly an absolute stopgap. A learning, language-specific weak AI should be perfectly sufficient once we get the algorithms right; research into human language-learning and related neurology will most likely play a major part in this development.
  • Present artificial intelligences are of course, on the Brick level with some in-roads to the Robo-Monkey level. Entities like Roombas, ASIMO, the Mars Exploration Rovers, Deep Blue and Watson are, while neat feats of engineering, all Bricks.