I recently returned from a visit to the Citadel Station orbiting around Saturn, where I was asked to consult about a unique computer issue the station was having. Unfortunately, when I got there the entire station was abandoned except for some horrific mutants, some cyborgs, and a grey-green face peering out of computer screens and mocking my every step.
After beating some robots over the head with a lead pipe, I sat down and decided to engage with the sassy computer. She (it?) was unrelenting in her verbal attacks, but I like to think we made some progress, insofar as she let me off the station without murdering me. Small victories.
Today’s Villain: SHODAN
Background: SHODAN is the artificial intelligence that lives within Citadel Station in the System Shock series. Her programming was manipulated in order for her to allow one of the Citadel workers to destroy evidence of his illegal experiments.
Diagnosis: Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD; formerly sociopathy); god complex (not a DSM diagnosis)
Explanation: SHODAN was, presumably, a general, neutral AI prior to being hacked. However, after her moral restraints were removed, SHODAN began to show a lack of regard for life. She often calmly threaten’s the playable character’s life, and expounds on how worthless she finds humanity, preferring her own creations and to rule over everything else.
Okay, let’s stop beating around the bush. She’s had her morality taken away, shows a disregard for life, and absolutely no remorse for her thoughts or actions, which are all staples of APD. I mean, I opened the DSM5 and there was practically a picture of her face on the page for antisocial personalty disorder.
Regarding the god complex…. I mean… c’mon, she says this:
Just the (Real) Facts: Obviously a computer can’t have a mental disorder (at least, the way computers are now), because – I suppose – they don’t have a mind and are slaves to their programming. But of course, the same thing could be said for us, couldn’t it? Aren’t we only able to be the way our brain physiology and chemistry allows us to be? That certainly begins to make the concept of “evil” less straightforward, doesn’t it?
But you came here for psychology, not philosophy (this time).
APD is a disorder commonly characterized by a lack of regard for right and wrong, as well as no respect for the autonomy of others, nor their feelings. People diagnosed with APD can be very callous and tend to manipulate others and treat them harshly, akin to objects or tools they can use, and can behave violently and impulsively. They do not naturally feel remorse for harming other living creatures, and can become criminals due to this lack of regard for others, disdain for social norms, and tendency to act violently.
While cognitive behavioral therapy has proven effective for modifying the behaviors of someone with APD, there is no cure, and, like all personality disorders, is something that can never be “cured,” only controlled through behavior modifications.
It’s natural for people to act without regard for others at times, but that does not automatically result in a diagnosis of APD. As always, a mental health diagnosis implies that the symptoms are severe enough to impact a person’s ability to live within the society in a socially expected and accepted way, and to impact a person’s ability to perform activities of daily living.
What do you think? Does SHODAN have APD, or has someone simply messed with her programming? Let me know in the comments!
Interested in our other diagnostic adventures? Check out the other “Diagnosing Bad” posts here.
Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you soon!
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