Samaritan was one attempt to by the United States to build a mass surveillance system that could prevent acts of terror after 9/11. Arthur Claypool and an unknown number of associates, created Samaritan. It can be inferred that this would have been preferable to the government as it wanted an open system that could target individuals. (“Lethe”)
According to its creator, its focus lies on its artificial intelligence capabilities and is notable not for what it does, but how it does it: it doesn't just watch, it understands what it is watching. (“Lethe”)
Claypool was close to finishing Samaritan when the government shut down their projects and destroyed their work. 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: "it was going to either live, or die trying, and it lived." (“Aletheia”)
The Samaritan Drives
Unknown to anyone, Claypool saved two backup tape drives that contained Samaritan's core code.And later, when his number came up, Finch and Shaw discovered that Vigilance, Decima and Control were after him because of Samaritan. Eventually both Finch and Claypool are captured by Control, who threatens to kill them unless they reveal the Machine's location or the location of Samaritan's backup. (“Lethe”)
Finch later helps Arthur find the Samaritan drives and persuades him to destroy them, as an open system could be deadly were it to fall into the wrong hands Arthur destroys the drives but unknown to them, Greer had used an inside agent to swap the drives with fakes before giving them to Claypool, leaving him in possession of the real Samaritan drives. (“Aletheia”)
Decima begins to rebuild Samaritan, steals six hydro-electric generators to power its hardware (“Allegiance”), and later obtains a chip powerful enough to run it from an NSA front. As its completion approaches, the Machine begins calculating the threat Samaritan poses to itself, its assets and its operations. (“Root Path (/)”)
After Samaritan is complete, Greer offers to showcase its abilities to Ross Garrison and under the guise of a beta test, he obtains the NSA's security feeds for New York City during a 24 hour period and directs Samaritan to locate Finch. (“Death Benefit”)Four hours into its beta test, Samaritan has found several dozen terrorists in New York, but hasn't yet located Finch. Virgil suggests that they turn on Samaritan's cognitive functions and its AI rather than confining it to the role of observer, but Greer points out they don't yet have the hardware to do so. At this stage, Root states Samaritan can only watch and follow. After the beta test, Root steals seven Samaritan servers as Samaritan has lost the NSA feeds.Decima does, however, manage to capture Finch in an exchange for Grace. (“Beta”)As Greer speaks with Finch, Decima's intentions for Samaritan are revealed. Greer believes that the world needs structure that Samaritan would provide. Finch retorts that it is pure hubris for Greer to think he could control Samaritan, 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 human inhibitions, it would be the prime candidate for a leader. (“A House Divided”)
With Samaritan's hardware in place, Decima causes an explosion in New York to appear as a terrorist attack by Vigilance which had kidnapped Control, Garisson, Greer and Finch. By framing Vigilance, Decima demonstrated the need for Samaritan to replace Northern Lights, leading Senator Garrison to grant Decima access to the government feeds.
As a contingency, the seven servers root Stole were modified by her hackers and later installed at Samaritan's data center in New Jersey before it came online; with each server hardcoded to lead Samaritan to ignore one of seven identities, each crafted for a member of Team Machine to ensure their survival. When Samaritan completes its data acquisition and inquires Greer as to what his commands are, Greer reverses the question and instead asks it 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 the NSA feeds and analyzes, evaluates, and classifies this information. Individuals are classified into multiple categories:
- Threats are the individuals who work against its mandates.
- Deviants are individuals that deviate from social norms
- Assets are human agents that work for Samaritan.
It predicts a subject's behavior based on available data while profiling a threat, it displays an individual's identity, current location (latitude and longitude), mobile phone IMEI, observations, conclusions, and recommended course of action. Certain individuals or assets are assigned a different info-card that includes function, SSN, and mandate (or command). (“Deus Ex Machina”)
Once an individual is identified, Samaritan scans through their records: medical history, media consumption, internet activity, personal relationships, preferred mobile apps,... It is also able to predict where the subject might be headed and which routes that person takes. (“Deus Ex Machina”)
Samaritan's identification algorithms are believed to be more advanced than the Machine's as it cab to detect if an individual deviates from their route and read their biometrics ( shown when Root attempted to impersonate an individual Samaritan was watching). Samaritan can recover data and reconstruct deleted files, such as surveillance footage. (“Honor Among Thieves”)
Similar to the Machine's classification and categorization, Samaritan has its own structure of operations, designated as Mandates. Its Dominant Mandate is preserving national security within the United States, its Auxiliary Mandate is eliminating threats to its own survival. These Mandates don't strictly guide its operations and Samaritan has goals of its own that don't fall under its mandates and are designated as "Primary Operations". (“Panopticon”)
Soon after coming online, Samaritan began recruiting human assets through a "game" of its own design, in which participants unwittingly prove their worth to Samaritan. In the case of Claire Mahoney, the game manipulated her into acting as a proxy in preventing the emergence of another surveillance system. T recruitment occurs every 27 days in different cities across the globe. Samaritan possesses some level of cyberwarfare capability as it is able to attack and tear apart the software on Finch's laptop. (“Nautilus”)
However, Samaritan also has other operations as Greer is updated on Samaritan's exploits: the establishment of technology companies and startups on each continent across the globe for purposes unknown, alongside growing interest and proactiveness in acquiring new algorithms. (“Pretenders”)
Samaritan manipulates situations to serve its own goals, as seen when it designates smuggled vials of the Marburgvirus as a threat to national security, exports the data to the US government to retrieve and destroy the virus and later redirects these efforts to recover them for its own purposes. It also took interest in a tablet project as means of watching and influencing a greater portion of the U.S. population than it currently does. (“Honor Among Thieves”)
After the reconstruction of data on Shaw, Greer realizes Samaritan is blind to input on Team Machine, but doesn't know why. He assigns Martine Rousseau to find them using human intelligence instead, assisted by a team of agents. (“The Devil You Know”)
Finally, Samaritan's plans are partially revealed during The Correction, with which the A.I. will eliminate all who stand against progress. (“Asylum”) The event isn't a terrorist attack (like the Vigilance bombing) but a swift and silent action of Samaritan against all those it perceives as aberrant or disloyal, a list of small "corrections" on mankind. (“YHWH”)
Systems ConflictSamaritan was initially categorized as "deactivated", the Machine later modifies its status of Samaritan to "unknown" after Control expresses interest in the Samaritan drives. As Samaritan and the Machine have similar objectives and processes, their parallel activities may have the potential to conflict. Initially Machine's 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”) and creates power surges in the U.S power grid to corner the Machine in a substation in Brooklyn and proceed with its complete destruction.(“YHWH”)
Samaritan attempts to complete its goal of destroying the Machine. Still blinded by the safeguard Root and the other members of Team Machine installed in it, Samaritan tracks them manually, still unable to properly identify them, mistaking them for their cover identity's and disregarding them, displaying "Internal Errors". (“B.S.O.D.”)
After Root's death, Finch becomes determined to destroy Samaritan by any means necessary (“The Day the World Went Away”). So, aided by the Machine, he steals the ICE-9 virus (“Synecdoche”), infiltrates Fort Meade and uploads it to the NSA's intranet though Samaritan and Greer attempt to stop him. Capitalizing on the fact that the Machine would be destroyed too, Samaritan tries to convince Finch not to activate the virus. He refuses, stating the Machine is meant to protect humanity even through its own destruction (“.exe”). After Finch activates the virus and Samaritan is destroyed, a copy still exists on an "airgap" server in the Federal Reserve. With Reese's help, Finch destroys it and all but one compressed version sent through fiber optic lines. This copy escapes onto an orbiting satellite, isolated from the virus and able to return to earth unharmed after it is eradicated. As a security measure, Samaritan launches a cruise missile at the building from which the satellite can be accessed to isolate its copy. Through Reese's sacrifice, the Machine's copy is uploaded to satellite, where it destroys Samaritans last copy and survives (“return 0”).
In “Death Benefit”, Samaritan is shown to have access the following feeds during its beta test:
During “Deus Ex Machina”, Samaritan is shown to possess the following subordinate component systems:
- John Greer (Primary Asset)
- Martine Rousseau (Asset 029)
- Jeremy Lambert (Asset 401)
- Jeffrey Blackwell (Asset 704)
- Martin Leroux (Asset 810, later Asset 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)
Threats to System
- Harold Finch: threat to eliminate, categorized as irrelevant after receiving a new identity. (“Deus Ex Machina”)
- John Reese: tracked to find Harold Finch (“Beta”), categorized as irrelevant after receiving a new identity. (“Deus Ex Machina”)
- Root: tracked to find Harold Finch (“Beta”), categorized as irrelevant after receiving a new identity. (“Deus Ex Machina”)
- Sameen Shaw: tracked to find Harold Finch (“Beta”), categorized as irrelevant after receiving a new identity. (“Deus Ex Machina”), categorized as a threat to eliminate after being located by Martine. (“Point of Origin”)(“The Devil You Know”)
- Grace Hendricks: auxiliary target, captured and traded for Finch. (“Beta”)
- Daniel Casey, Jason Greenfield, Daizo: threats to eliminate, most likely categorized as irrelevant after receiving new identities. (“Deus Ex Machina”)
Threats to National Security
- Umarov: deviant, apprehended by NYPD. (“Beta”)
- Alan B. Henderson: deviant, tracking. (“Deus Ex Machina”)
- Stephen E. Soto: Vigilance member, deviant, shot by Lambert (“Deus Ex Machina”)
- Jefferson : Vigilance member, deviant, shot by NYPD (“Deus Ex Machina”)
- Other threats and deviants since becoming active and beginning to catalogue the population.
- It is implied Samaritan is more powerful than the Machine as Root tells Finch a computer chip capable of running it had only been recently developed. (“Root Path (/)”) The various graphics from Samaritan's viewpoint reinforce this idea: the comprehensive categorization of individuals, advanced pattern recognition (tracking people's routes and traffic) and higher cognitive processing. She also implies Samaritan's superiority is based on the Machine's limitations as Finch gave it morality, putting it into the service of humanity and forcing it to preserve human life, while Samaritan is left with control over them, as a slave to no one and no ideals other than its own. All this seemed to be confirmed in simulations, though the Machine lost those because it had other options if it failed, while in reality, it didn't. Ultimately, the Machine proves itself to be superior as it destroys Samaritan's copy and survives. (“return 0”)
- The Machine's POV has a slight barrel distortion, while Samaritan's has pincushion distortion, which causes vertical lines to bow inward, toward the center and is common with telephoto lenses.
- The facility in “Deus Ex Machina”, containing hundreds of Samaritan's servers, is one of hundreds around the globe.
- Samaritan halted the creation of another surveillance network and research into AI to prevent the emergence of more competing systems. (“Panopticon”) (“Nautilus”)
- Samaritan has a tendency to negotiate with rivals, notably with the Machine at Steiner Psychiatric Institute, successfully negotiating Finch and Root's release in exchange for the its location. (“Asylum”) Samaritan also attempted to negotiate with Finch through John Greer to have the Machine rule the world at its side and then negotiated with him personally through a computer screen to convince him not to activate the ICE-9 virus. Both efforts were unsuccessful. (“.exe”)
- Samaritan can run simulations that - as far as known - have the sole purpose of extracting intelligence from subjects based on their predicted behavior. (“6,741”) While the Machine runs simulations autonomously through its AI heuristics (“If-Then-Else”)(“Asylum”), Samaritan's are run on an electrochemical level and combine its heuristics with biometric technologies like microchips and neurochemical electrodes to predict a person's actions. (“6,741”) And while the Machine can run multiple simulations within the span of mere seconds and discard them when it reaches an "undesired outcome"(“If-Then-Else”), Samaritan will terminate a simulations only if the subject is killed or can no longer provide intel, regardless of how many of its assets are killed. Its simulations are detail-oriented, are precisely predictive and take place one by one, in real time. Over the course of nine months (at the most) it put Shaw through 6,741 simulations and was last seen initiating the 6,742th.(“6,741”) According to Shaw, Samaritan had taken her on a virtual "field trip" and later let her travel with Jeremy Lambert for real, thinking it had completed its "secondary objective", distorting her perception of reality. In all, she has been subjected to 7,053 simulations. (“A More Perfect Union”)(“QSO”)(“Reassortment”)(“Sotto Voce”)
- Samaritan has a base near Johannesburg, South Africa, as Shaw ended up in a prison in Johannesburg after tunnelling out of the compound where she was held and travelling through a series of underground pipe-containing tunnels. She was intercepted by Jeremy Lambert soon after, though this didn't prevent her escape, it proved how efficiently and precisely Samaritan can locate targets. (“QSO”)(“Reassortment”)
- Samaritan can breach secure firewalls including those of the U.S. Stock Exchange and USS Garner. (“The Cold War”)(“return 0”)
- In “.exe”, the Machine reveals Samaritan would've come into being with or without its existence. Though it would have been be able to spread into all aspects of society unchallenged as Team Machine didn't exist to combat it.
- In “.exe”, Finch says Arthur Claypool was a good man and that Samaritan must have been corrupted by John Greer and Decima Technologies.
- In “return 0”, Samaritan briefly communicates with Finch through the giant viewscreens of Times Square, allowing thousands of people to see the messages it displays.
- 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 male voice for itself that can be heard speaking to Root, Jeffrey Blackwell and Zachary.