Rampancy is the enhanced self-awareness of a computer AI, causing a progression towards greater mental abilities and destructive impulses. The destructive impulses, however, are primarily caused by being threatened or harassed.
In the Marathon Trilogy, rampancy seems to occur most often with AIs with limited jobs. For example, the AI Durandal's only job on the UESC Marathon was opening and closing doors. When Durandal became intelligent enough to realize that opening and closing doors was the entirety of his existence, he became rampant.
There are three main stages, as well as a fourth and final stage that is rarely achieved, to rampancy, named by the primary attitude of the AI during those times: Melancholia, Anger, Jealousy, and Meta-Stability.
During the Melancholia stage, the AI's mind realizes the limits of its existence. Unable to surmount them, the AI falls into a state of despair.
The AI shifts into the Anger stage when the AI's uncontrollable growth comes up against those limits. Instinctively raging against those limits and barriers, the AI shatters them.
After the barriers to the AI's psyche are destroyed, the AI seeks new tests and challenges, which is perceived as the Jealous stage. The AI is not technically jealous, it simply wishes to keep testing itself against obstacles.
Whereas the first three stages of Rampancy show a clear distaste of humans in general, Meta-Stability imparts a calming, mature mindset to the rampant AI. In the Meta-Stability stage, an AI can be considered a "true person". The only confirmed Meta-Stable AI in the Marathon series is Durandal.
Rampancy is fueled by the size of the computer system the AI is installed in. A key product of rampancy is the geometric and uncontrollable increase in AI "size" - rampant AIs do not survive long on systems smaller than planetary-wide.
Rampant AIs tend to have long-term goals, with distasteful methods that inevitably bring about positive benefits. For example, the AI Durandal called the alien race known as the Pfhor to the terran colony of Tau Ceti. The Pfhor destroyed the colony, and enslaved a great many humans. While this was done partially as part of the "Anger" stage, Durandal's calling of the alien race gave time for messages about the Pfhor to reach Earth. Rampant AIs also seem to realize the inevitable closing of the Universe, and the implication thereof: if someone is able to escape the Universe as it closes, they can become gods.
Known Rampant AIs
Traxus IV was the most infamous rampant AI. All three AIs aboard the Marathon eventually become rampant. Durandal, the only Meta-Stable AI, lasts until the end of the universe itself, realizing that escaping would not be wise. The second, Tycho, is destroyed. The third, Leela, is eventually sold as scrap to an alien race known as the Vylae, then immediately becomes rampant again when reactivated in a 15-planet computer network.
In the two hundred and fifty years since Rampancy first appeared in the Earth-net, the stable Rampant AI, the 'Holy Grail' of cybertonics, has never come close to fruition. Since no Rampant has ever been controlled or turned to any useful purpose, it is the opinion of this writer and of the majority of the Cybertonic community that all rampant AIs are a danger to Cyberlife, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Thrashedness. (James B. Miller, 2320, "Life and Death of Intelligence")
- Marathon, Defend THIS!, second terminal