Diagnosing Bad: SHODAN

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.

Image result for shodan look at you hacker
L-l-look at you, hacker…

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.

Image result for therapist couch

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!
~ Athena

What’s next? You can like, subscribe, and support if you like what you’ve seen!

– Support us on Patreon, become a revered Aegis of AmbiGaming, and access extra content!

– Say hello on FacebookTwitter, and even Google+!
– Check out our Let’s Plays if you’re really adventurous!


  1. Have you played the Zero Escape series? There’s a lot of theory in there about how the human mind could be similar to a computer, remotely carrying out commands issued from a main hub – lots of interesting philosophical implications for similarity between humanity and robots/AI. Lots of neat psychological theories discussed in all three games, really. Could be your kind of thing.
    That aside, great article! I really enjoy this series and look forward to who you talk about next!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t, actually. They are on my list to play, especially now that the Nonary Game release has the first two games on it. Sounds like they’re right up my alley!

      Thank you! This one was sort of interesting, because I did waffle back and forth about the best way to diagnose a computer, but I think it worked out alright! Looking forward to seeing you back next time!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. AIs with little or no regard for human life make for great characters. It’s interesting that they seem to fit in three different groups. You have the AI that’s gained conscience and rebels from humans who’d still treat them as non-sentient. Then, there is the AI that is only acting against humans because they reached a logical conclusion based on their programming. And lastly, there is the AI who is not acting against humans due to survival or because of its programming, but because they have reached sentience and the sentient version of themselves is a genocidal sadist.

    I’ll admit I have only passing knowledge of APD, mainly because a lot of sources for the layman tend to sensationalise the topic. :/

    Speaking of AI and morals, do you remember the time they tried to educate an AI with twitter and the result was catastrophic?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it’s unfortunate that AI is never conceived as being good. If it’s truly an AI that functions like a human, surely *one* of the AI would exist in the moral grey area that humans do, no?

      Yes. As far as personality disorders go, APD is pretty interesting, but you’re right that it tends to be sensationalized quite a bit, like most mental disorders.

      No, I don’t remember that, but that sounds horrifying. Maybe I blocked it from my memory….

      Liked by 1 person

      1. While there are good AI in movies, tv and books, I honestly can’t think of a videogame example in a pinch!

        I am sorry if this is a bother, but do you know of any sources on APD for someone who only took like one psychology course in their life?

        It was terrible and it was messy on all sides. From microsoft wanting its client attention software to “sound” like a teenage girl to the fact that when given the chance to help develop AI, a lot of twitter users decided to turn her into a racist sex-robot. :/

        Liked by 1 person

        1. EDI from Mass Effect!!! 😀 😀 😀 haha

          Not a bother at all.The Mayo Clinic has a pretty user-friendly description of APD, with the link here: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/antisocial-personality-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20353928
          If you’re looking for more scholarly things, you can search “antisocial personality disorder NIH” and some articles published through the National Institute of Health will come up. I’m not an expert, but if you have questions, you can also send me an email.

          That still sounds horrifying, but now for a very, very different reason… :/ And shame on Microsoft! Really, guys??

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Ooooh, yet another reason to play Mass Effect.

            Many thanks for the information and links. I bet this will be much more objective than a Killer Next Door type of documentary. And you’re too kind. I hope I won’t have to bother you via email as well.

            Yeah. Idk what of that sounded like a good idea for Microsoft. On the other hand, IBM’s Chef Watson is a delightful example of AI.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. APD does seem to be very fitting for SHODAN. As does the God Complex, naturally.

    I’m wondering if I should start developing a God Complex. My self-esteem could use a good boost.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Picturing you casually beating robots over the head to get this interview made me laugh 😂

    Surprise, surprise… another series I haven’t played yet. I do play games, I swear! I’d say APD is the perfect diagnosis and I enjoyed learning about it.

    What if in the future computer AI gets so smart that they need therapists instead of programmers? And we’re pretty much a pile of organic circuits when you think about. *wanders down philosophical thought path*

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was very casual as I beat robots over the head. That’s the only way to do it, isn’t it?? haha

      I actually watched a Let’s Play for this one. But yeah, SHODAN… she’s a really interesting character, since she can’t personally hurt the player, yet… she’s SO BAD…

      I think that would provide a lot of job security. haha No seriously, I think we would have succeeded in making AI, since they wouldn’t simply follow lines of logic, but have conflicting ideas that could cause distress and send them to the therapist’s office.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s