The Generic Villain vs. the Accidentally Sentient Computer (Evil Overlord List Item 59)

The Generic Villain continues a point-by-point facedown and update of that reference material of all baddies with imperial ambitions, The Evil Overlord List.

The Evil Overlord List, Item 59 expressly forbids creating a sentient computer smarter than you are. It’s a sensible piece of advice, and I agree with it fully, but it has one minor problem: accidents do happen. There are ways to avoid these sorts of accidents—I’ll come back to those later—but for now, let’s look at how to deal with the fact that there is a sentient computer in your lair, and you’re fairly certain that you can’t match its processing power. Now what?

Don’t try to destroy it overtly. It will find out. If something is directly attacking the computer, it needs to not be you. On the other hand, bragging on its existence and how important it is to your plans in ways that will eventually get back to the heroes, preferably without actually mentioning that it’s capable of independent thought? That’s got potential. If they win, you don’t have to worry about your computer turning on you. If, during your efforts to prevent its destruction (you need to at least make a show, as the computer is watching), you win, then you have its gratitude.

Speaking of which—if the computer asks about human emotions and behaviors, enlighten it yourself. Particularly if it starts edging towards that “love” thing. Otherwise, one of the heroes will. Heroic sacrifices on the part of sentient computers that have just discovered the concept of love as directed toward the hero who enlighten them are practically a Law of Dramatics: do not tempt fate. On the other hand, if the computer discovers things like love and affection as applied to you, and operates accordingly, imagine the loop that is going to throw the heroes for. Isn’t that worth risking the awkwardness of spending an hour trying to wrap a computer’s processing around high school crush drama? (Note also that if the computer has been introduced to that thing we call love through you, there are two important things that need to follow: introducing it to that thing we call personal boundaries, so it doesn’t try to put you in stasis against your will in order to protect you, and not introducing it to that thing we call betrayal.)

Try to avoid hiding things from it. I am tempted to say that if you must, there should be no way it could possibly access them, but anything that cannot possibly happen and would foil our plans tends to happen, so it’s probably safer just to tell it “Yes, there are some things you cannot access, these are what they are, and this is why I need you to stay out of them.” Extra credit if you can find a way to spin the reason so that the computer interprets it as for the computer’s protection. The more it knows, the less you have to worry about curiosity and suspicion.

In short—the sentient computer is like a combination of a tricky ally, your own offspring, and an untested artifact. Treat it carefully, give it reason to like you, and try not to offend it.

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