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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Paolitto, Ph.D.

The X-Files and AI Gone Rogue

Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, The X-files

“Rm9sbG93ZXJz” is the title of the seventh episode of the eleventh season in the second reboot of the iconic series "The X-Files" (extra points to those who know what the title represents in the real world). For those of you who have not kept up (all 23 of you), the regular run of the series ended with its 9th season in 2002 with abbreviated re-births in the last three years. Since 2002 our hero and heroine Fox Mulder and Dana Scully have gotten iPhones, stared using an Uber clone, and upgraded their 6 gig, 64 MB RAM, iBook G3’s. They’ve also taken care of all of that relationship angst they had with each other for nine years. Well … maybe. It’s still unclear, at least to me, if during the hiatus they ever married/divorced, lived together, had a baby together with at least some extra-terrestrial heritage, or have even ever been out on a date. But they are on a date this episode (I think) as Mulder picks up the check (or at least tries to), they hold hands for 1.3 seconds (sort of) and they say less than two words to each other in the restaurant (so yea, I guess it was a date!). If you haven’t seen the episode or don’t remember it too well -- and even if you weren’t a fan of the series (we are back to those 23 of you) -- I definitely recommend a look as most reviewers concur that it was one of the more entertaining watches of the series.

Here is one of the places it is available for free: 'FoXwatchXF'

Good: now that you’ve watched and we are all up to speed, most of us can agree that “AI Run Amok” could be a good subtitle. Presented in humorous fashion, the episode nevertheless presents an ever increasing evolution of automation and AI as cold & dark, nameless & human-less, isolating & -- most of all -- intrusive. Social media, driverless vehicles, voice recognition, drones and dysfunctional IoT all take their licks as they unleash their kicks on Fox and Dana [e.g., the Uber-clone driverless vehicle racing at 80 MPH -- ignoring all Scully's voice commands to stop and let her out -- while at the same time incessantly popping up social media rating requests of her still ongoing ride and aborted restaurant experience].

I loved it, and, must admit, saw much of it resonating to some degree as accurate. In the interest of full disclosure I admit that the only Alexa that will ever enter our home is my cousin’s delightful wife if she ever visits us. Or, that if I want to change the temperature in my house I will stand-up, walk over to the still working thermostat from the Eisenhower administration and change it by hand myself. Also, despite being presented with 856,477,365 click-bait ads on the internet I have never once clicked one of them, and that I use my iPhone for mostly (gasp!) making phone calls!

So why the negative depiction, especially on a blog and site so obviously dedicated to promoting AI endeavors? Contrarian perspective? Neo-Luddism? A technophobe in AI land? On the surface, perhaps …

At COGNITIVE Recruiting Solutions we have actually looked inside the human body at a beating heart: on an iPhone -- wirelessly connected to a wand with all the components of an ultrasound machine reduced down to a single chip! We’ve learned how deep learning algorithms are saving lives and enhancing the work of radiologists allowing them to diagnose cancer more quickly and accurately. We’ve witnessed AI being used to enhance MRI resolution and tissue segmentation for faster and better diagnosis of osteoarthritis and knee injuries. We’ve watched a baby in living color in its mother’s womb in 3D. Just recently, we’ve spoken with a company that provides virtual reality experiences for seniors to help re-energize their neural pathways with astonishing results in loved ones with Alzheimer’s. And, in some of these examples we’ve not only seen, but recruited the talented, Real Smart People who helped make these projects come to fruition!

At one point in the X-Files episode we see Mulder scanning the news on his iPhone and the camera focuses in on the headline Elon Musk: AI "vastly more of a threat than North Korea." I laughed, thinking it was a joke. Then I searched and found he actually did say this. Perhaps he was envisioning a scenario where everyone had one of his self-crashing cars?

Rm9sbG93ZXJz”: An entertaining, slightly prophetic (perhaps some tongue in cheek) TV episode humorously presenting AI as cold & dark, nameless & human-less, isolating & intrusive: “AI Gone Bad.” At Cognitive Recruiting we prefer to focus on the bright & hopeful, life-saving & personal, audacious & revolutionary: “AI (& VR) for Good.”

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