Artificial intelligence is everywhere. We have driverless cars, drones that deliver packages and automated customer service to make our lives easier. Tonight’s X-Files episode examines what happens if something goes awry.
“The upheavals [of artificial intelligence] can escalate quickly and become scarier and even cataclysmic.” – Nick Bilton
***SPOILER ALERT*** (Proceed with caution)
It Starts with Sushi
The X-Files – Mulder and Scully in Japanese Restaurant 2 – Courtesy of Fox
At the beginning of tonight’s X-Files episode we are told in a robotic voice a cautionary tale. A chatbot was released by Twitter in 2016 with the sole purpose of finding out how humans relate on social media. What wasn’t expected was the rate at which this artificial intelligence learned.
The tweets became more hostile, racially motivated until finally its posts were deleted and it was shut down. “Humans must teach A-I carefully or be deleted.”
In today’s society, interaction with others is rare. Instead most of us prefer to stay glued to our devices, tweeting away, reading news or texting friends. When was the last time anyone had a real conversation?
Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) are no different. Both of them were in an upscale Japanese restaurant. Not another patron in sight but instead of talking with one another they were scrolling newsfeeds on their phones only making eye contact when ordering dinner on a touch screen.
Trouble starts when Mulder’s order is incorrect. He goes into the kitchen to return it and sees that the entire cooking area is manned by robots. When he enters the machines all turn in unison and look at him as if to say, “Get the hell out of our working area.”
Unnerved Mulder departs and returns to Scully. He attempts to pay their bill but the touch screen isn’t functioning properly so he hits it. He receives a message not to do that and all of a sudden, a deafening alarm sounds and the restaurant starts to go into lockdown mode like a prison.
Hastily paying the bill and not tipping because his order was wrong and he couldn’t get the problem fixed, the couple head into the night narrowly escaping getting locked inside.
The Rides from Hell
The X-Files- Mulder and Scully and Whipz possessed car -Courtesy of Fox
Scully’s driverless ride called Whipz is waiting curbside for her. She gets in and Mulder is left to take his own ride home. The minute Scully is inside the car, the animated emoticon starts yapping away at her.
Not in the mood to converse, Scully tells it to be quiet. After giving her the sad face, basically the ride becomes a demonic whirlwind where caution goes out the window. Speed limits? They are just suggestions!
Mulder thinks that his drive home is going to be uncomplicated. He asks his car to play Prince’s Controversy. Instead he gets Crosby, Stills and Nash’s “Teach Your Children.” All the while complaining about how the two songs sound nothing alike, Fox is about to find out that his night is about to get longer.
While Scully is screaming from the backseat of her ride for the AI driver to slow down, Mulder finds out that his SAT-NAV ends up taking him right back to the restaurant he just left.
Annoyed, he pulls a Thomas Guide out and prepares to drive home the old-fashioned way. While he is dealing with that mess, Scully has to fight to get out of the car as it practically does a power slide in front of her condo.
Home Sweet Home
The X-Files – Mulder on Porch – Courtesy of FoX
Still reeling from almost dying, she attempts to put in her code to get into her building and of course, it doesn’t work. So, she has to call for assistance. At Mulder’s abode, his bug zapper is going crazy and his electric seems to be acting wonky.
Mulder is attempting to deal with customer service for a financial company and finds that they don’t understand his name. Then he is on hold forever to a particular song. Prince’s Controversy? Nope. Teach Your Children again.
Frustrated with a 17-minute wait, he decides to leave his callback number. Before he can sit down to enjoy the Six Million Dollar Man on television, he hears a drone outside. Now, the real fun begins.
Once Dana eliminates her passcode issue, she is in her house but the hits just keep on coming. AI texts her and asks if she is in need of “Rock It Like a Red Head” styling cream. This creeps Scully out as well as it should. It is like a scene from 1984 when Big Brother is watching.
Attack of the Drones
The X-Files – Dana meet drone – Courtesy of Fox
While Scully is weirded out, Mulder is taking batting practice with a drone. He nails it and it lands disabled on the ground. Now another drone ends up dropping a package for Scully.
Inside his house Mulder is attempting to call the financial company back again when he gets a message to leave a tip at the Japanese restaurant where this whole mess started. He ignores it.
Then he hears another drone outside. Standing on his porch he sees a gigantic apparatus picking up the disabled drone followed by other huge drones. They hover there and seem to stare at Mulder.
At Scully’s house she removes a Roomba type device from her package. Setting it on the floor it starts mapping her house. Everything electrical and controlled by AI starts acting bonkers.
Mulder has his own issues because his computer is asking him if he wants to believe. Weirded out, he looks up to find a small drone in his house. That drone has friends and now they are after Mulder.
Scully is having her own issues with devices. Mulder rescues her and the two embark on a mission to get out of the drone zone. They try to use their phones to call for help but Scully’s starts updating and Mulder has lost signal service.
Mulder keeps on being harassed by the restaurant for a tip. Now, they are on the run from the drones. In order to escape being tracked, they dump their phones in the car and head into a warehouse.
It All Comes Down to a Tip
The X-Files – Johnny 5 on steroids – Courtesy of Fox
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They end up getting shot at until they run into this gigantic robot that looks like Johnny 5 on steroids. He hands Mulder his phone. Looking at the demand for a tip from the restaurant again, a timer starts counting down.
Fox does not want to give a tip. It is clearly evident on his face but before it reaches zero, he reluctantly gives 10%. All of the machines back off including the drones.
The partners are in a diner having breakfast. Scully is fooling around on her phone. For UFO enthusiasts, look quick because she has an email from Harry Reid that comes up.
This is the man who spearheaded the secret US government UFO program. In a rather touching moment at the end of the show, Scully puts her phone down and places her hand on top of Mulder’s suggesting that connecting with another human is more satisfying than connecting with a device.
This episode was well meaning but it ended up feeling like I was getting battered over the head with the message that we have to stop connecting with technology and start connecting with each other. Unfortunately, after such stellar turns with The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat, Ghouli and Plus One this effort was decidedly lackluster.
It felt like a gag that has gone on too long rendering the punchline moot. Some scenes could have been condensed perhaps more characters could have been added to create more tension when Mulder and Scully were running from a drone army.
I was supposed to be creeped out but instead I found myself laughing hysterically at Scully’s plight in the seemingly demonically possessed Whipz driverless vehicle. Then to wrap up the entire show with the premise that the Japanese restaurant just wanted a tip felt like an afterthought.
There are three more episodes left in Season 11. I have been enjoying all of it thus far. Hopefully, if this is the end of The X-Files it goes out with a bang and not a whimper. Catch The X-Files Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on Fox.