Person of Interest

Arantor

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I recently watched through this series - a few years after it came out, admittedly, and it's actually a lot smarter than it would appear on the surface. (I am not revealing anything beyond the first... 10 minutes or so of the pilot episode.)

As the story opens, we're following a guy who is living homeless in NYC. Some things happen and he's approached by some heavies who escort him to an enigmatic man standing alone on the bank of the Hudson river.

The man explains that he has a list. A list of people who are about to be involved in something. He doesn't know if the people are the victims or the perpetrators - merely that they're about to be involved, and that the list is never wrong.

In that respect it has a setup for a sort of off-beat police procedural - the crime of the week and how it's going to go down, but as the series unfolds, we learn the source of the enigmatic man's list, what the list cost to produce, and what happens when the source of the information is under threat.

It delves into a lot of questions about ethics, what price to be paid for 'security' and 'protection', and some larger ethical questions that - for a mid-tier police-procedural-ish show - are really very deep and polished.

The enigmatic man, Finch, is essentially trying to hire the homeless man - John Reese - to help him find the names on the list and stop bad things happening to them. What if you could know, in advance, that someone is about to be in trouble? What if you could intervene before the things happened?

Finch, it turns out, is given the social security numbers of the people about to be in trouble, nothing more, nothing less - just the number.

He explains that after 9/11, the government got a system that could identify the terrorists before they struck, and that he knows about it because... he built it. He built a system that watches everyone. Identifies things before they go bad - and the things that aren't 'relevant' for the government are sent to him - giving him the list of numbers.

That's the best part of the series, really. The notion that there is a machine watching everyone, with the ethical and moral dilemmas attached to an AI that watches everyone, and what that might mean for society. It provides a neat police procedural framework to keep it flowing, whilst exploring some of the deeper questions that we probably should be asking in an age of machine learning.
 

Retro

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Trust a fellow nerd to be into this one! I followed it as it was broadcast at the time, brilliant show, loved it and seen all the episodes. Shame it's not being made anymore.

The details are a bit sketchy now, but I remember how it was just a little bit far-fetched, but hey, this is sci-fi so it's ok.

I'd have thought a real system that could do that kind of realtime processing would spit out a lot of other information to accompany that social security number, so the reason for identifying the individual wouldn't be a mystery, but I guess that makes for less exciting TV in a way. Dunno, I don't like to have my intelligence insulted either.

It came out 11 years ago now in 2011. How time flies.

 

Arantor

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The point you raise was picked at a few times. Reese in particular is often frustrated by this.

The Machine, of course, knows full well why it's identified them, but Harold explicitly made sure that there had to be a human involvement, that the number could be investigated and looked into by a human intelligence, whether it's the victim or the perpetrator, and that holds true for both the relevant and irrelevant list. It sees everything, but is not capable of acting on that without oversight as a failsafe against the Machine evolving.

That's really the warning Harold has about Samaritan and all of the arguments Harold has with Root about 'an open system' vs 'a closed system'. The closed system means it gives you enough information to investigate without ever giving you enough to blindly follow it. As we see throughout season 3 as Samaritan comes online, Samaritan chooses to divulge more information when necessary and does so specifically when it suits its purpose - and outside of Greer and his immediate inner circle, most of the time Decima and Control/ISA have little idea that Samaritan is running the show.

This comes to a head very poignantly in season 4 where Samaritan essentially acts to prevent all crime in New York City for a day by reorganising events to make crimes stop. This is where Harold's concerns really start to pay off in over what the war against Samaritan means: life under the control of an artificial super intelligence, unchecked by humanity.
 

Tiffany

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Looks like an interesting series with intrigue, suspense. I'll see if we can pick it up somewhere to watch, thanks for sharing @Arantor !
 

Tiffany

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Naw, you didn't say that...thanks for that tip... :ROFLMAO:
 

Arantor

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I bought the whole thing on iTunes but that's just me. I did watch the first 3 seasons or so with my wife on Netflix but that was a while ago.
 
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