Person of Interest Shows Us Why Stephen Hawking Is Worried About AI

Illustration for article titled Person of Interest Shows Us Why Stephen Hawking Is Worried About AI

In real life, many of the world's most respected scientists are signing onto an open letter urging technologists to be careful about inventing AI. And on Person of Interest, we're getting a good look at why they might be right.


This was the final episode in a three-episode arc devoted to escalating conflict between the AIs Samaritan and the Machine. Given that last episode ended with Shaw getting shot, it seemed impossible that things could get any more intense. But they did. We watched as Samaritan's ultimate plan — to take over the US government — began to unfold.

After plunging the world into chaos with the flash crash last week, Samaritan sent its tiny but terrifying human avatar to the chief of staff's office to request an audience with the president. When the guy rolls his eyes at a little kid asking to meet with the president, Samaritan tells him exactly where the market (and his portfolio) will close at the end of the day. Which is creepy, because of course the market does exactly what Samaritan wants.

Meanwhile, just to amp up the creepy factor, Samaritan tricks Control and her crew into murdering a bunch of seemingly-innocent middle eastern guys who think they're working for a stealth startup. Though Control has been serenely confident in Samaritan, she starts to question what's going on when the Samaritan rep won't let her see what's on the hard drive of one of their targets. This leads to one of those great "I'm your boss" showdowns, which Control pretty much always wins. Except this time. Because the rep turns off Samaritan, and won't turn it back on again unless she agrees to give up the hard drive and continue the hits on the startup guys.

Faced with a complete loss of all intel, Control and her boss cave. And Greer cackles gleefully at them, chortling about how they can have the car but not the keys to drive it.

Team Machine has managed to evade Samaritan's grasp, and they're trying to track down the missing Shaw (who may actually be dead — we just don't know). In the process, they kidnap Control and give her a major mindfuck interrogation, trying to figure out where Shaw has been hidden. Root torments Control by saying she'll kill her, leaving Control's daughter to grow up motherless just the way Control did.

Can I just say, orthogonally, that it's incredibly refreshing to be watching a thriller about spy shit and AI where the characters have mommy issues instead of daddy issues? Think about it — when was the last time you watched a techno-thriller where somebody was heartbroken over a dead dad or father figure or an absent dad? Pretty much the last time you watched a techno-thriller, right? And the last time you watched one where somebody had mommy issues? NEVER. Actually — I take that back. Alias had mommy issues. But that was at the turn of the century, man.


At any rate, there is an incredible scene where Finch tells Control what's really happening with the flash crash and the gunfight and Samaritan's evil plans — and we see that Control's sense of what's right and good is cracking. She's a smart person, but also very loyal to her country. And it's going to take more than one bitchy torture session with Root to convince her that something's rotten in the intelligence community. But I love watching her figure shit out, and start to realize that the people she once called terrorists might be her only friends.

We know things are about to change when she goes to investigate the scene of last week's gunfight. She's taken Finch seriously enough to investigate his claims. And she discovers that the walls have been freshly painted, to hide the damage. I can't wait to see what Control will do when she decides to go rogue. She's seriously formidable, and would make a great ally for Team Machine.


As the episode winds to a close, we're still not sure what Samaritan was doing with the supposed terrorists that Control took out. What was the code on their laptop? What does it mean that they won the Nautilus contest — the same one that Samaritan used to recruit all its operatives — but then were turned into fall guys? Finch did get some code while they were all snooping around Detroit, investigating Control's mission. So this three-part arc may be over, but the mystery of Samaritan's dirty dealings has just begun. Does it really want control of the government, or is that just a red herring?


Pie 'oh' Pah

LOVED this episode. Michael Emerson was brilliant. I'm hoping we get to see more Camryn Manheim in the future. I also hopes she gets to shoot the smug look off the Samaritan rep's face.

Shaw lives! Here's to hoping that Shahi's kids are little monsters and she can't wait to get back to work (because my entertainment is obviously more important than her family's happiness) so we can get the reunion that will turn fans into ugly blubbering messes.

I can't believe how much this show has changed since it's inception. So damn good.