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A Machine's Gotta Have A Code: Analysis Of Person Of Interest Episode 'If-Then-Else'

The TV show Person of Interest shows us the moral code at the core of the AI called "The Machine" and in the process reveals the moral code of its makers and users. When it comes to fighting terrorists in the US, what is our moral code?
A Machine's Gotta Have A Code: Analysis Of Person Of Interest Episode 'If-Then-Else'

A Machine's gotta have a code.

After this show ran, I restarted the video to see who wrote this. Denise Thé. Folks, that is a name to follow from show to show.

Look for that name during Emmy time. Thank you Annalee for pointing out the writers' name. I noticed a lot of executive producers and producers in the credits, as well as actors, but it was the writer's name I wanted to know.

Next, I raced to i09 to read the recap and comments. I was dying to talk to others about it. Mrs. Spocko was teasing me that I was literately on the edge of the couch during the final scenes. That's how much I got into this show.

And I loved, loved LOVED the simplified dialog bit. I've seen it used before, but never this effectively.

The other thing that I liked about this episode is that it was showing that moral lessons can be learned. That there is a framework that the machine is operating from. Its "decision engine" has ethical parameters build into, it is "who it is" and when it tries to work within those parameters it can't always win.

It might have won if it "thought outside the box" or if it had a different set of parameters. For example, it could decide not to save the stock market and protect the team. Or it could tell them, 'Grab all the grenades and use them all the time on everyone, even innocents.' but it knows its humans, some of whom would balk at that.

Think about what The Machine was created for. It was designed to identify threats and then get the humans act on them. The goal is to protect Americans' human lives from terrorists. But The Machine isn't supposed to decide what to do about those threats, the humans are in the loop for a reason. They can decide not to kill.

What is different about The Machine vs. Samaritan was the human training The Machine. Harold's lessons were learned vs. the lessons that Artie (Samaritan's father) taught it. Artie didn't have a chance to kill versions of The Machine that were unstable/crazy like Harold did. Plus Artie might not have coded in his distrust of the users of a AI like Harold.


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In the final real time events Harold was working on the generator, talking about his father and that he remembers everything he taught him. "Don't worry Harold, you've taught Her well." says Root.

The Machine isn't a god, it had a creator and a parent who imparted values to it. Its knowledge can increase, but the "wisdom" on how to use that knowledge is used to help it when it gets into tough spots. If it didn't, it could be paralyzed by choice. It just has to 'play the game'

I really, really loved this episode. And if Denise Thé is reading this I want to thank you for work. You have reached across space and time to create a piece of fiction that is engaging, exciting, moving and thoughtful. You have enriched my life as well as others with this 'entertainment.'

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