The Encyclopedia on why Cortana went evil

“Cortanas life was governed by a seven year parameter, at the end of which she would need to be terminated to prevent an unavoidable descent into the chaotic madness of rampancy”

“After Cortanas descent into rampancy and escape into the boundless plains of the Domain, the only thing capable of stopping her madness was another just like her.”

“Cortana successfully interfaces with the Domain, leveraging the interstellar network in the hopes of staving off her rampancy.”

“While on the verge of rampancy, sacrificed herself in order to ensure the Forerunners defeat.”

“Cortana - the very same human AI that stopped the Didact - was consumed by the Domain while in the throes of rampancy. These factors led her to seize the Mantle of Responsibility for herself.”

Okay, I am confused. :smile:

In Halo Infinite the whole point of Cortana sacrificing herself is an act of contrition for her poor choices so that the Weapon can “learn from my mistakes, become stronger because of them”.

But if it’s rampancy after all. Which the Encyclopedia repeatedly states without any real ambiguity. This has nothing to do with choice. The Weapon is going to go rampant after seven years. There’s nothing to learn and no mistake is being made because no choice is being made. Rampancy is a mechanical process that by definition has nothing to do with choice. Plus it uses words like “unavoidable descent” and the last quote in particular basically saying she did it because she was rampant.

That’s very different to what’s presented in Halo Infinite. Chief at one point does say in response that she went bad because of her programming “was it? I don’t know anymore.” But he should know rampancy is a thing.

Rampancy isn’t a choice, but Cortana’s dark deeds were choices. Not every AI that lives past 7 years turns genocidal. Mac and Sif on Harvest just started flirting with each other. The danger rampant AI pose comes from the increased unpredictability and unreliability, not them universally going mad with power.

Of course, I don’t think the genocidal turn was strictly speaking Cortana’s choice, rather the choice was made by the Gravemind that infected her with the Logic Plague between Halo 2&3, changing her perceptions so that when she lost the most human part of her at the end of Halo 4, saving Master Chief, what remained was primed to be used to threaten (or test) humanity, much like the Flood directly tested humanity before the Human/Forerunner war.

Part of the nature of the logic plague is that those afflicted think that “their” decisions are actually their own, when they’ve actually been determined by the same intelligence that determines everything the Flood does.

1 Like

Yeah the Encyclopedia talks about the Logic Plague later on when it compares what Mendicant did to what Cortana did. But there’s nothing clear cut saying she has the Logic Plague that I’ve read yet.

I don’t think those two AI would have been as rampant as Cortana was at the end of Halo 4. Plus the Encyclopedia describes it as an inevitable descent into madness; not a few personality quirks. The problem is it’s a mechanical process. Those decisions are being heavily impacted by the condition and so without the rampancy she would not have done those things. We didn’t hold Cortana responsible for her rampancy induced actions in Halo 4; why make an exception here?

Not every AI who goes rampant is hooked up to the Domain and has an army of km tall giant robots that can crack planets open. So we don’t know how other rampant AI would act in that situation.

If a bridge collapses do you blame the bridge, do you blame the person who built the bridge or do you blame the person who was meant to maintain the bridge? Arguably Halsey is more to blame for making Cortana knowing that this incredibly powerful AI would go insane and mad with power after seven years. Whilst Chief, was meant to look out for Cortana and failing to do that led to those outcomes. Whereas Cortana has very little choice when it comes to the rampancy.

Cortana was needed to confront the Covenant. A less-powerful AI couldn’t have helped Master Chief accomplish everything he did in Halo 1-3 (and the novels in-between).

You can blame Halsey for unethical practices like kidnapping children and flash-cloning, but I wouldn’t say that Cortana’s abilities are a mistake that Halsey should be blamed for. After all, many smart AI submit themselves for termination when they near their seventh year, and there wasn’t any sign that Cortana wouldn’t have done the same.

No one could have expected that Cortana would be left alone in the depths of space for years as she reached and passed the seven-year mark. No one could have predicted that she’d avoid death by sliding into a galaxy-spanning super-internet that granted her a sort of meta-stability.

I’m convinced that if Cortana hadn’t contracted the Logic Plague from the Flood in Human Weakness and lost a significant piece of herself at the end of Halo 4, she wouldn’t have turned genocidal. Dangerously unreliable as she reaches past her limits, sure, but she wouldn’t have murdered countless innocents to awaken the Guardians. At minimum, she’d have hacked communications to force evacuations of localities to minimize the death toll of awakening the Guardians.

Rampancy or the Logic Plague they both have the same relevance that it diminishes Cortana responsibility and agency. Which is at odds with how Infinite depicts things.

If Atriox wants his place in the sun then he can’t complain if he gets burned.

Cortana herself didn’t know that her capacity for decision making had been significantly altered, and none of the other characters (apart from most likely the Harbinger) had knowledge of the Logic Plague to have any idea of how compromised Cortana was.

As such it makes sense that they all believe the decisions were Cortana’s, even though it contradicts everything about who she was when she served the UNSC.

There’s a distinction to be made between what the characters believe to be true, and what is canonically true in the lore.

Yes they don’t know about the Logic Plague. But they do know about rampancy. The Chief saw what that meant for Cortana in Halo 4. It’s common knowledge.

So it’s odd that they don’t go with the assumption she’s a rampant AI.

Some of the books do occasionally just say offhand that she’s a rampant AI like in Divine Wind or Shadows of Reach. But this isn’t done in H5G or Infinite and this steers the player towards thinking that she has cured herself of rampancy and these are all her decisions.

It’s hard to tell. Obviously with Infinite being the soft reboot it raises the question of if they plan to reintroduce the concept of rampancy and the Logic Plague later down the road; which alters your view of events.

I thought the domain was suppose to heal the rampancy and now the encyclopedia change that ? Hasn’t she cure the AI who follow her ? So all of the Created AI will be affect by rampancy too ?

It’s not really described as a cure. The quote listed in the first post describes it as Cortana hoping to stave off the effects of Rampancy. Given that they are expressing some doubt over this I’d take that to mean it didn’t work.

The way I think about it is like drowning. You can come up for air, but the damage might already done by that point. If Cortana is already driven insane by the time she has unlimited data in the Domain it’s a moot point. Especially if she is convinced she has cured herself.

They’re very vague regarding the status of the Domain in both Infinite and the Encyclopedia. They talk about the central communications and command being disrupted. It’s also sort of implied that the Created didn’t have full access to the Domain.

“Some AI could not resist attempting to circumvent her oversight and make use of the Guardians Domain links for their personal growth and exploration.”

So presumably most AI still exist in their normal UNSC infastructure and ships; not in the Domain. So they would get the cure but only in as much as she allowed them. Although this contradicts Halo Mythos which talks about Created AI wandering the depths of the Domain. It would explain why the armour and lore keeps name dropping Information Sanitisation missions. A euphemism for killing toasters.

I don’t like the way they are rewritting what we know. At the end of Halo 5, the domain was healing all AI and the Guardian was impossible to fight with normal technology (so why banished could ?).
I wonder what the point to try to understand those thing if 343 is always rewritten everything. They clearly want to burry Cortana and the Created and won’t respect anything that was say before.

I mean I assumed in Halo 5 that when Cortana was:

“It cured me Chief, now listen to my plan to conquer the Galaxy”

I am not sure this can be taken at face value.

Completely agree on the Guardians. People very rightly assume that Cortana had to have destroyed Doisac out of spite since an EMP should easily have dealt with any Banished Fleet. The Encyclopedia point blank says all other efforts to deal with the Banished failed and had joined Atriox in his war of conquest. Very at odds with what we saw in Halo 5. Even the Covenant would have had massive problems dealing with that kind of Forerunner Technology; never mind what is however you cut it a remnant of the larger beast.

See I am not sure. If I was a writer and Microsoft slammed the fist on the table and told me to write the Created out the story. Destroying the Domain is such an obvious way to do it. The fact they didn’t confirm that would suggest they haven’t. Plus have a read through of the new armour pieces and it’s full of stuff referring to the Created war. Why bother putting that in if they were out to retcon stuff.

It sounds bizarre. Because everyone rightly assumed they wouldn’t kill off Cortana and keep the Created in the story. But yeah they might be doing precisely that.

At the end of Halo 5, the domain was healing all AI

Only one saying that was Cortana and she was lying to and manipulating Chief the whole game.

Cortana is technically a clone of Dr. Halsey, and halsey kidnapped a bunch of children and turned them into killing machines.

I can see why cortana did what she did after her rapancy began.

I mean, 343 called it a reboot and a launching point for new players a lot. If anything i’d say we got more “post halo 5” than I expected.

Halo Infinite itself barely has a plot, but just about every cutscene is about Cortana and the aftermath of 5. Making it both a bad soft reboot and a really sloppy resolution of 5.

Totally agree ! New players had a lot to learn with the hologram’s stories, the worst way to tell a story !