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GLaDOS


Full Title:
Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System
Property/Overseer of:
Aperture Science Enrichment Center
Personality Derived From:
Caroline
Activated: April 23, 1998
Featured In:
Portal 1 & 2
Voiced By: Ellen McLain

It has been a longstanding belief that one of the most likely causes of mankind’s Armageddon is through a war with robotic lifeforms and/or from artificial intelligences that question both their existence and our own upon this planet. Ironic though it might be, it was a professor of biochemistry and novelist, Isaac Asimov, who coined the popular “Three Laws of Robotics” which states:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

However, there are actual laws currently in place towards robotics and even artificial intelligences as crafted by two distinctive councils hailing from Great Britain. The Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPRSC) and the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) have together published initially a set of five principles in 2011 with an additional sixth added in 2013 that states:

  1. Robots should not be designed solely or primarily to kill or harm humans.
  2. Humans, not robots, are responsible agents. Robots are tools designed to achieve human goals.
  3. Robots should be designed in ways that assure their safety and security.
  4. Robots are artifacts; they should not be designed to exploit vulnerable users by evoking an emotional response or dependency. It should always be possible to tell a robot from a human.
  5. It should always be possible to find out who is legally responsible for a robot.
  6. All robots endowed with comparable human reason and conscience should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Looking at them now… I’m so sure that Rule Two isn’t going to come back and bite us all in the behinds never mind that last one…

Anyway, on to my main point, the thing about villains of a robotic design or persuasion is that they are, oftentimes, more human than the respected heroes trying to combat against them. In the case of GLaDOS, that’s disturbingly accurate as it is quite likely that she, and several other personality cores found in both Portal games, were derived from real living people. And by derived I mean likely having their minds plugged into the hardware via disgusting examples of science at its worst.

The place that created her, Aperture Science, is a company found by one Cave Johnson with the sole purpose of creating shower curtains. Yeah, no joke, the place was originally called Aperture Fixtures before being renamed and relocated in 1947 and their focus went straight to creating scientific devices and contraptions that landed them second in the running for highest military contractor in the early 1950’s. However… due either to Cave’s eccentricities, or the severe lack of human ethics he and his scientists portrayed to test subjects, money became a huge issue and Aperture Science changed its test subjects from highly paid and highly sought after war heroes and Olympians to forcibly making the low ranked employees participate.

It didn’t help that due to the testing of moon rocks for the use of a portal device, Cave Johnson became so terminally ill that he ordered that his chief assistant, a Miss Caroline, be made in charge of the facility, including having her consciousness be placed in the Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System.

Whether she wanted to or not.

Despite GLaDOS showing clear signs of vicious and outright murderous behaviors in initial start up tests, she was fully activated and granted near complete access to the entirety of the Enrichment Center wherein she promptly killed off over 90% of the occupants inside with neurotoxin. Save for one scientist by the name of Rattman who managed to hide himself away in the back walls of the facility. It is also highly likely that GLaDOS ensured that the visiting families, including women and children, were put into stasis to be used as test subjects later on.

What makes this event particularly disheartening is the idea that GLaDOS was not only a human being prior to being activated but that she was in fact limited to what she could do by her creators and still managed to nearly wipe them all out. These limitations come in the form of various personality cores that are, in effect, literal embodiments of certain personality types ranging from anger, to morality, to obsessions over space and adventure. Without them, GLaDOS is surprisingly more human sounding in both voice and mannerisms.

Slightly mad both emotionally and mentally, and more than a little narcissistic and mean-spirited but human nonetheless.

Being the operating system behind the entirety of the Aperture Science Enrichment Center, GLaDOS doesn’t necessarily have minions so much as the both the entirety of the facility and anything created within it, primarily these wee little things aptly named as turrets. Weird little buggers that despite having legs don’t seem capable of moving or emoting some seriously odd bits of dialogue even while they’re attempting to kill you. Aside from them, GLaDOS can reshape the facility’s vast testing chambers as she sees fit and can create near impossible mazes and obstacles to hinder people from reaching her and shutting her down permanently.

GLaDOS has only one focus, one drive, towards everything she does and that’s the completion of scientific experiments, particularly those that test the ingenuity and capabilities of sentient, or near sentient, test subjects. In this case, it was one mute young woman by name of Chell who not only beat the murderous AI, but she also managed to inadvertently restore her back to life in the game’s sequel thanks in no small part to a distinctively eccentric personality core by name of Wheatley.

Though, to be fair, it is because of Wheatley that we not only discover the truth of GLaDOS’ origins but the likely source of her psychosis in the first place. Her “body,” or at least her chassis’ hardware, is geared towards testing to such a high degree that even when if she wanted to do anything else, she has to test. She has to or she will literally drive herself even further insane than she already is. Though she concluded that the easiest solution to ridding herself of Chell was to simply let her go, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a sequel is made revealing the fact that GLaDOS simply cannot survive without her.

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