I never really understood what the movie said about what makes the ISOs special. Flynn found them to be something amazing, but I don't think the movie made it clear what made them even more fantastic than the grid. Can someone clarify what the importance of the ISOs is?

5 Answers 5


The ISOs were a spontaneous artificial lifeform - which is pretty spectacular... And then these lifeforms appeared to have the power to help solve a lot of problems:


Flynn discovered a new series of sentient "isomorphic algorithms" (ISOs), self-produced Programs that spontaneously evolved in the system, which carried the potential to unlock mysteries in science, religion, and medicine.


ISOs differ from standard programs with distinctions in their appearance and capabilities, but where they are truly unique is in their code base. While regular programs conform to the rigid structure defined by their users, ISOs have evolved, complete with a genetic code of sorts that even Kevin Flynn can scarcely comprehend. This inner structure of their code has allowed ISOs to develop beyond the capabilities of regular programs.

  • But aren't the programs in the Grid already artificial life? So the thing that's special about the ISOs is that they're more artificial?
    – user1027
    Commented Apr 10, 2011 at 4:10
  • 9
    From what I remember about the lore of Tron, the non ISO programs are not spontaneous - they're all programmed by users, but happen to reside in the grid...
    – HorusKol
    Commented Apr 10, 2011 at 4:42
  • 5
    @HorusKol is correct. The other programs in Tron and Legacy were all written by someone. The ISOs are emergent AIs; they appear of their own accord. That's pretty incredible.
    – Tynam
    Commented Dec 9, 2011 at 17:07
  • Apparently, what makes ISOs special is that they can walk off the grid just like a User.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Mar 23, 2015 at 18:10
  • Not so special - wasn't Clu able to go off the grid (and his entourage - although they were probably just attached to him)
    – HorusKol
    Commented Mar 23, 2015 at 22:17

Canon: Flynn says that everything that man knows is up for grabs, that the ISOs were infinitely wise and infinitely naive, and mentions bio-digital jazz.

Speculation: Basically the ISOs seem to be missing that humans have, my guess is that they know nothing of the world and are like children, i.e. not jaded by life. As such, they have an unclouded view of things and generally want to be able to change things to make life better (as seen in the newest Tron game).

Also, the ISOs have a TRIPLE helix DNA strand. This might explain how the ISOs could change medicine.

Not to mention, bringing beings who spontaneously generated inside a computer, and having proof of this fact (REALLY hard to fake a triple helix of DNA in a person) into the physical world would cause one hell of stir;throwing out a lot of what we know, philosophy, religions (imagine the reaction of Creationists) and medicine.


The field of computer science, which I am studying, would be all over the ISOs, the Grid and so much relating to the ISOs just trying to gain a glimmer of what brought about the ISOs. IF humanity could find out how to create digital life, humanity would experience it's greatest renaissance:

-AI could actually be attainable.

-People with terminal illness could be brought into the grid and healed (as Quorra's arm was) because code is much easier to fix than cancer or AIDS or diabetes.

-All forms of research could be done in a few days rather than years via the time dilated effect the grid has.

Flynn was right to say that the revelation of the ISOs and the Grid to the world could do so much for humanity.


Programs are created by humans. And the ISOs' were a form of technological evolution congruent to the evolution of life here, but with more of a twist after that gets more technical. Once you think about it genetic algorithms cannot be all theory. "Fiction" can never truly be proved as just imaginative thoughts. Technology is constantly evolving and one day it will catch up to us (sooner than we know) and then it will pass us.


Isomorphic algorithms alter themselves as per the input parameters to give a final output. Its very helpful since the procedure changes by itself to giv a definite output. Diseases can be broken down and remedies can b created, complex relation btwn religion n science can b solved. In short, isos r believed to b t ultimate answering machines, according t Flynn.


all the other programs on the grid were designed to be perfect. so they are destroyed once there's a flaw in their code (e.g. getting hit by the disc). isos on the other hand were not designed to be perfect so they're not destroyed with a single flaw. they just won't function properly (quora in the end of line club)

  • This answer doesn't address the question asked.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 4, 2018 at 19:45
  • Also, for the record, ISOs weren't "designed" at all. They were an emergent phenomenon.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 4, 2018 at 19:45

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