Samaritan is an artificial super intelligence developed contemporaneously with the Machine by a student colleague of Harold Finch's. According to its creator, Arthur Claypool, its focus lies less in the categorization of relevant and irrelevant as the Machine does, but more so on its artificial intelligence capabilities. According to Arthur, Samaritan is notable not for what it does, but how it does it. It doesn't just watch everything; it fully understands what it is watching. Unlike the Machine, which operates autonomously and provides numbers only when it perceives a threat, Samaritan is an open system, one that is fully targetable. (“Lethe”)(“Root Path (/)”) Its development took place over the course of several years after 9/11, with its development finishing on February 25, 2005, immediately before the project was shut down by congress. Since there hadn't been invented a computing chip fast enough to run Samaritan at full power, Arthur was only able to bring it to life for 30 seconds, after 360,000 different iterations. According to Arthur, "it was going to either live, or die trying, and it lived." (“Lethe”)(“Aletheia”) After a war with the Machine and its team, Samaritan was destroyed by the ICE-9 virus and the Machine. (“return 0”)
Samaritan was developed as part of an attempt by U.S. engineers and programmers to build a mass surveillance system that the United States government could use to prevent acts of terrorism after 9/11. Arthur Claypool, a former university peer of Harold Finch, along with an unknown number of associates, created Samaritan. It can be inferred that this would have been more preferable to the government than The Machine, since during the government's post-911 hysteria, they told Arthur they wanted an open system, one that could target individuals at whim.(“Lethe”)
Claypool was close to finishing Samaritan when suddenly the government shut down their projects and destroyed all their work. Unknown to anyone, Claypool saved two backup tape drives that contained Samaritan's core code. Later, when Claypool's number comes up, Finch and Shaw discover that Vigilance, Decima and the government, led by Control, are after Claypool because of what he knows about Samaritan. Eventually both Finch and Claypool are captured by Control, who threatens to kill them unless they reveal the location of Finch's machine as well as the hidden Samaritan code secretly backed up by Claypool before the project's termination, respectively. (“Lethe”)
Finch and Shaw help Arthur find the hidden Samaritan drives and persuades him to destroy them. Finch convinces Claypool that Samaritan, as an open system, can be deadly were it to fall into the wrong hands, and subsequently Arthur destroys the drives. Unknown to them, Greer of Decima Technologies has used an inside agent to swap the drives that Claypool destroyed with fakes in order to take possession of the real two Samaritan drives. (“Aletheia”)
With the two remaining Samaritan drives stolen, Decima begins to rebuild Samaritan. They steal six hydro-electric generators to power the hardware, (“Allegiance”) and are later able to steal a chip powerful enough to reliably run the Samaritan program from an NSA front. As the completion of Samaritan approaches, the Machine begins calculating the threat posed to itself. (“Root Path (/)”)
Decima later completes Samaritan and offers to showcase its abilities to United States Senator Ross Garrison. Having been granted access to the NSA's security feeds in New York City for a 24 hour period, Samaritan's beta comes online and it is directed by Greer to locate Finch. (“Death Benefit”)
Four hours into its beta test, Samaritan manages to find several dozen terrorists in New York, although it is unsuccessful in locating Finch. Virgil suggests that they turn on Samaritan's more advanced functions, which would give it a mind of its own via its artificial intelligence capabilities rather than strictly confining it to the role of an observer, but Greer points out that they are unable to because Decima doesn't yet have the hardware to support it. At this stage, Root mentions that Samaritan can only watch and follow. Following the conclusion of the beta test, with Samaritan offline and unable to surveil New York, Root steals seven of Samaritan's servers from cargo before they can be delivered, although Decima does manage to capture Finch after an exchange with the team for Grace. (“Beta”)
As Greer speaks with Finch soon after his capture, some of Decima's intentions for Samaritan are revealed. Greer believes that the world needs structure, and that Samaritan is a means to this end. Finch retorts that it would be pure hubris for Greer to think that he could control Samaritan in its entirety in order to achieve this goal, but Greer replies that he never intends to control it. As Samaritan is an AI, it will make decisions out of pure logic without being drawn into unsavory human tendencies or affected by human inhibitions, it would be the prime candidate for a leader. (“A House Divided”)
With Samaritan complete and its hardware in place, Decima causes an explosion in New York to appear as a terrorist attack by Vigilance following the latter organization's kidnapping of Control, the Senator, as well as Greer and Finch. By framing Vigilance, Decima secretly and indirectly demonstrated the need for a mass surveillance system after the shutdown of Northern Lights, leading Senator Garrison to grant Decima complete access to the government feeds, allowing Samaritan comes online in full. As a contingency plan, the seven servers that previously stolen were modified by Root's hackers and later installed at one of Samaritan's data centers in New Jersey before it comes online; with each server hardcoded to lead Samaritan to ignore seven specific identities, each crafted for a member of the team in order to ensure the team's survival after it comes online. When Samaritan completes its data acquisition and inquires Greer as to what his commands are, Greer reverses the question and instead asks Samaritan what its commands are for Decima, giving Samaritan control over its human agents and allowing it to create and enact ideals of its own. (“Deus Ex Machina”)
Classification of Data
Samaritan processes all of the data it is provided through video feeds, audio, and existing info, and is able to analyze, evaluate, and classify the information it processes. Individuals are classified into multiple different categories: Threats are the individuals identified by Samaritan to work against its mandates, Deviants are individuals that deviate from social norms, and Assets are human agents that work for Samaritan itself. Like the Machine, it is also able to generate predictions regarding the subject in question based on available data. The profile of a threat is displayed from Samaritan's viewpoint, including an individual's identity, current location in terms of latitude and longitude, mobile phone IMEI, as well as Samaritan's observations, conclusions, and recommended course of action. Pertinent individuals or Assets are assigned a different info-card, one that includes function, SSN, and mandate (or command). (“Deus Ex Machina”)
Once an individual is identified from video feeds, Samaritan scans through several types of their records: medical history, media consumption, internet activity, personal relationships, and preferred mobile apps. It is also able to predict where the subject might be headed and which routes that person usually takes. (“Deus Ex Machina”)
Samaritan's identification algorithms are considerably more advanced than that of the Machine. Unlike the Machine, it is able to detect if an individual deviates from their route, as well as analyze and match their gait whilst simultaneously being able to read their biometrics (as shown when Root attempted to impersonate an individual Samaritan was watching). Additionally, Samaritan is able to recover data and reconstruct deleted files, such as surveillance footage. (“Honor Among Thieves”)
Similar to the Machine's working hierarchy, Samaritan has its own structure of operations, given as Mandates rather than tasks or categorizations, although this doesn't strictly dictate the way that Samaritan goes about its business. Its Dominant Mandate at the current moment is to preserve national security within the United States, whilst its Auxiliary Mandate is to eliminate threats to its own survival. However, Samaritan has many of its own goals that don't fall under its mandates, simply being designated as "Primary Operations". (“Panopticon”)
Soon after coming online, Samaritan begins recruiting resourceful human assets through the implementation of a "game" of its own design, in which participants unwittingly prove their worth to Samaritan. In the case of Claire Mahoney, it used the game to manipulate her as a proxy means of preventing the establishment of competing surveillance operations. It is known that the recruitment occurs every 27 days in different cities across the globe, but unknown what Samaritan's ultimate objective is with these "games", or its overall intentions with its newly acquired human assets. Samaritan is also shown to possess some level of cyberwarfare capability, when it is able to attack and tear apart the software on Finch's laptop. (“Nautilus”)
Following its mandates and acquiring its own human agents hardly appear to comprise all of Samaritan's endeavors. After the conclusion of Finch's trip to Hong Kong, Greer is updated on Samaritan's exploits: the establishment of several technology companies and startups on each continent across the globe for purposes unknown, alongside it's growing interest and proactiveness in acquiring new algorithms for itself. (“Pretenders”)
Samaritan is not above manipulating situations to serve its own goals: when it discovers smuggled vials of the Marburgvirus as a threat to national security, it exports the data to the US government to retrieve and destroy the virus, but later redirects these efforts to recover the vials for its own purposes instead. It also took interest a philanthropic tablet project as means of being able to watch and influence an even greater portion of the U.S. population than it currently can. (“Honor Among Thieves”)
Following the reconstruction of data on Shaw, Greer realizes Samaritan is blind to input on Finch and his associates, although he does not know why. He assigns Martine Rousseau to find them using human intelligence instead, assisted by a team of agents. (“The Devil You Know”)
Finally, a new light is shed on Samaritan's plans. An event called The Correction and first mentioned by Greer in which the A.I. will eliminate all of those who stand against progress. Asides this, only the date of the event is known, which is May 6th. (“Asylum”)
This event is not based on a massive attack of terrorist nature (like the Vigilance bombing) but a swift and silent action of Samaritan against all those it perceived as aberrant or disloyal, a list of small "corrections" on mankind. As a result, Dominic, Shiffman, Grice and possibly Elias were killed by Samaritan operatives and Control was taken captive, destiny unknown.(“YHWH”)
Samaritan and the Machine both have similar objectives and processes. Although Samaritan was initially categorized as "deactivated", the Machine itself later modifies the status of Samaritan to "unknown" after Control expresses interest in the Samaritan drives. The Machine's parallel activities may have the potential to cause the programs to conflict. Initially Machine calculations gave a probability of over 5% and climbing that this may occur. (“Lethe”)
After exchanging Finch and Root's life for the Machine's location, Samaritan deploys all its assets. (“Asylum”)
Samaritan begins to create power surges in the entire U.S power grid infrastructure in order to corner the Machine (which uploaded itself into the power grid) in a substation in Brooklyn and proceed to its complete destruction.(“YHWH”)
Starting in Season 5, Samaritan continues to try and complete its goal of destroying the Machine, stored in a briefcase after being downloaded from the nation's power grid because of Samaritan's efforts. Having still been blinded by the safeguard Root and the other members of Team Machine installed in the rival AI, Samaritan now tracks Finch, Reese and Root manually although at times still not being able to properly identify them, mistaking them for their cover identity's and disregarding them as Targets as "Internal Errors".(“B.S.O.D.”)
After the death of Root, Finch becomes determined to use any means to destroy Samaritan. (“The Day the World Went Away”) To this end, he steals the deadly ICE-9 computer virus with the help of the Machine (“Synecdoche”) and infiltrates Fort Meade to upload it to the NSA's servers. Samaritan and Greer attempt to stop Finch, but he is able to reach Samaritan with the help of Reese and Shaw. Samaritan communicates with Finch and tries to convince him not to activate the virus, but he refuses. (“.exe”) The main copy of Samaritan is destroyed by the ICE-9 virus, but it is able to save a copy of itself in an "airgap" server in the Federal Reserve. Finch infects this copy with the virus too, but Samaritan begins uploading compressed versions of itself, one of which evades Finch's efforts to destroy it. This copy uploads to an orbiting satellite from which it can return to Earth once the ICE-9 virus has been destroyed. As a safety measure, Samaritan launches a cruise missile at the only building that the Machine could be uploaded from to follow it and sends agents to protect the building. Through the sacrifice of John Reese, a copy of the Machine is uploaded to the satellite as well where it battles Samaritan, ultimately destroying it while the Machine copy survives. (“return 0”)
On April 16, 2014, Samaritan was powered on in its fully operational state. It quickly started analyzing and assimilating all its data and acquiring targets it deemed a threat.
During its beta test, Samaritan only had the ability to track and follow people. The lack of the necessary hardware meant it could not do anything else, although it had no hiccups during beta and successfully performed the function for which it was intended.
During its beta test Samaritan displays that it has access to a range of systems to collect information: (“Death Benefit”)
During Samaritan's full activation, it is shown to possess several subordinate component systems:
- John Greer (Primary Asset)
- Martine Rousseau (Asset 029)
- Jeremy Lambert (Asset 401)
- Jeffrey Blackwell (Asset 704)
- Martin Leroux (Asset 810 to 995)
- Shelly Spencer
Unknown Status Assets:
- Mona (Asset 295)
- Stewart (Asset 573)
- Claire Mahoney (Asset 508)
- Senator Ross Garrison
- Gabriel Hayward (Analog Interface)
- Briggs (Asset 1421)
- Barrett (Asset 1561)
- Brittany (Asset 1348)
- John Reese, Root - tracked in order to find Harold Finch, unsuccessful (“Beta”). Later categorized as irrelevant after receiving new identities from Root. (“Deus Ex Machina”)
- Sameen Shaw - Tracked in order to find Harold Finch, unsuccessful (“Beta”). Later categorized as irrelevant after receiving new identities from Root. (“Deus Ex Machina”). Later categorized as a threat to eliminate after being located by Martine.(“Point of Origin”)(“The Devil You Know”)
- Grace Hendricks - Auxiliary target. Identified as relevant to finding Harold Finch, captured and traded for Finch (“Beta”)
- Umarov - first deviant target identified, apprehended by NYPD (“Beta”)
- Alan B. Henderson - identified as deviant, tracking (“Deus Ex Machina”)
- Stephen E. Soto - Vigilance member, identified as deviant, shot by Lambert (“Deus Ex Machina”)
- Jefferson - Vigilance member, identified as deviant, shot by NYPD (“Deus Ex Machina”)
- Daniel Casey, Jason Greenfield, Daizo - marked as threats to eliminate. Most likely categorized as irrelevant after being given new identities by root (“Deus Ex Machina”)
- Harold Finch - marked as threat to eliminate. Later categorized as irrelevant. (“Deus Ex Machina”)
- Several threats and deviants as of becoming active in Season 4 and beginning to catalogue the population.
- It has been made apparent that Samaritan is now cataloging not only the entire population, but their DNA data, through flu vaccinations and the resulting data, the exact purpose for this was vaguely mentioned by Mona, but remains largely unknown. (“Reassortment”)
- It is implied that Samaritan is more powerful than the Machine when Root tells Finch that a computer chip hadn't yet been built to match Samaritan's speed until just recently. (“Root Path (/)”) Root also implies that Samaritan's superiority to the Machine is based on the Machine's limitations due to the morality Finch gave the Machine. Putting the machine into the service of humanity by forcing it to preserve human life, while leaving Samaritan with control over them, as slave to no one and no ideals other than its own. Simulations run later confirm that the Machine is no match for Samaritan in battle. Despite this, the team is force to send a copy of the Machine in to battle a copy of Samaritan in "Return 0". There, the Machine tells Finch that unlike its simulations, it has to win as it has no other options if it fails. It is shown that in battle, the Machine is in fact the stronger of the two as it destroys the Samaritan copy.
- The various graphics from Samaritan's viewpoint reinforce the idea that it is more advanced and powerful than the Machine, seen in the comprehensive categorization of individuals, a more advanced pattern recognition (tracking the routes of people and traffic in Manhattan), as well as higher cognitive processing.
- In contrast with the Machine's POV, which has a slight barrel distortion, Samaritan's point of view has pincushion distortion, which causes vertical lines to bow inward, toward the center of the image. This type of distortion most commonly occurs with the use of telephoto lenses.
- It was made apparent that the facility seen by Root and her team of hackers, containing hundreds of Samaritan's servers, is only one of hundreds around the globe, presumably a security measure. (“A House Divided”)(“Deus Ex Machina”)
- It appears that Samaritan has halted the creation of another surveillance network, along with research into AI, in order to prevent the creation of more competing systems. (“Panopticon”) (“Nautilus”)
- Samaritan has shown a tendency to negotiate between its rivals, most notably while it was communicating with the Machine at Steiner Psychiatric Institute, negotiating Finch and Root's release in exchange for the Machine's location.(“Asylum”)
- Like the Machine, Samaritan can also run simulations in real time. However, contrary to the Machine, Samaritan's simulations - as far as we know - have been run for the sole purpose of extracting potential intelligence from certain people based on their predicted behavior, which is extracted from their neurological activity.(“6,741”) The Machine runs simulations autonomously, through only its AI heuristics, and does so for the primary purpose of protecting and extracting its assets from imminent, mortal danger.(“If-Then-Else”)(“Asylum”) Samaritan's simulations have shown to be run on an electrochemical level, combining its heuristics with the use of biometric technologies like microchips and neurochemical electrodes to predict a person's actions.(“6,741”) The major difference between Samaritan's simulations and those of the Machine is that The Machine can run multiple simulations within the span of mere seconds and discards them when its Admin, one of its Assets and/or its Analog Interface are terminated,(“If-Then-Else”) deeming it an "undesired outcome", resetting to real time, and running another simulation; Samaritan will continue the simulation regardless of how many of its assets are terminated, even its Primary; the simulation will only be terminated when the subject is killed and/or can no longer provide intel.(“If-Then-Else”)(“6,741”) Samaritan can run simulations whenever its Primary Asset orders one of its operatives to do so, since it is an open system.(“6,741”) Its simulations have been shown to take place completely in real time; and although Samaritan can only run one simulation at a time, in real time, the details of its simulation activity are extremely detail-oriented, and precisely predictive. It can run a full electrochemically induced, neurological simulation while simultaneously performing its regular, surveillance-related objectives. Over the course of nine months (at the most) it has run 6,741 consecutive simulations through the biometric medium of Shaw's brain. It was last seen initiating simulation number 6,742.(“6,741”) According to Shaw, before Samaritan had taken her on a virtual "field trip", then let her travel with Jeremy Lambert for real, thinking it had completed its "secondary objective" to forever distort her perception of reality, she had been subjected to 7,053 simulations; in subsequent episodes she merely says "over 7000 of them", as did Lambert. (“A More Perfect Union”)(“QSO”)(“Reassortment”)(“Sotto Voce”)
-  Samaritan also appears to have a smaller base of operations near Johannesburg, South Africa, since when Shaw tunneled out of the compound where she was held and eventually travelled through a series of underground pipe-containing tunnels, she ended up in a prison in Johannesburg and, after escaping, was intercepted by Jeremy Lambert quite soon after, which did not prevent her escape; this proved to be quite the showcase of how efficiently and with such geographical precision Samaritan can locate targets. (“QSO”)(“Reassortment”)
- Samaritan has shown the ability to breach any secure firewall, including those of the U.S. Stock Exchange and the USS Garner. (“The Cold War”)(“return 0”)
- In ".exe", a simulation ran by the Machine reveals that Samaritan would've come into being with or without the Machine existing as well. In a world without the Machine, Samaritan would be able to spread into all aspects of society unchallenged.
- Samaritan uses Magda Clean Mono as its interface font.
- As shown in “QSO”, “The Day the World Went Away” and “.exe” Samaritan has chosen a voice for itself as a male voice can be heard speaking to Root, Jeffrey Blackwell and Zachary.