On the title: “Ghost in the Machine” is a reference to the 1967 non-fiction by Arthur Koestler. No matter how advanced we become, all our works are still ‘of us’, built upon our own destructive natures. An artificial intelligence created by us does not become better than us simply through its computer nature. We remain ‘the ghost in the machine’ and our basic human nature is stamped on everything we touch, which makes the Central Operating System, or any AI on our part, capable of killing. This nature is re-visited in the Season 5 episode “Kill Switch”, where an AI escapes the control of its handlers, yet continues to behave in a human fashion.
In watching this episode, I can’t help but think of the case of Philip Taylor Kramer:
…Philip Taylor Kramer, one-time bassist for the rock group Iron Butterfly, disappeared on February 12′th, 1996, and hasn’t been seen or heard from since. Among the computer networks, news of his disappearance created only a minor flurry of comments by rock music fans yet for the most part his disappearance remained of little interest. Until, that is, the rumors came down from both reliable and dubious sources that Kramer was working on a faster-than-light communications system just before his disappearance. In various paranormal and so-called “advanced science” discussion groups, the possibility that he had been abducted by a super secret agency of the United States, the Russians, or aliens from another planet began. A dozen “real reasons” for his alleged abduction have risen to the top of the conjecture heap and all of them are, well, imaginative…
I can’t help but make the comparisons of what happened to Kramer to “Ghost in the Machine”‘s ‘Brad Wilczek’, as well as “Kill Switch”‘s ‘Donald Gelman’ and “Soft Light”‘s ‘Dr. Chester Ray Banton’. All of these characters are, like Wilczek, ‘scruffy minds’ that thought and created on the outer edges of what was possible, putting them right in the path of dangerous military and intelligence organizations. Like all of these characters, Fox Mulder is also a ‘scruffy mind’ – something that’s made concrete for us in the mess of his desk.
In contrast is ‘Jerry Lamana’, an old partner of Mulder’s, although, on body language alone, I am left to wonder how close they really were and what the terms of Lamana’s leaving included. Lamana fits solidly into the ‘neat’ category that Wilczek describes. He’s all surface phenomenon and as such, is more interested in his image. Or, as Mulder puts it:
SCULLY: How come you two went your separate ways?
MULDER: I’m a pain in the ass to work with.
MULDER: I’m not a pain in the ass? We had different career goals. Jerry wanted the fifth floor.
SCULLY: And you?
MULDER: I was gunning for a basement office with no heat or windows.
Like Scully in “The Jersey Devil”, Mulder also has former partners and friends that are glad to use the X-Files, to use Mulder’s mind, when there’s no other choice, and Lamana steals Mulder’s work as his own. Rather than leave Lamana to his devices and walk away, Mulder continues to unravel the puzzle and gets to the heart of the matter – the Central Operating System (a tip of the hat to ’2001: A Space Odyssey”s Hal 9000) of the Eurisko building. As with Philip Taylor Kramer and what possibly happened to him, I’m left to wonder if the powers that be orchestrated the whole thing just to seize the AI and ultimately, its creator, Brad Wilczek. When Mulder is talking with Deep Throat at the end, he says this:
MULDER: They can’t just take a man like Brad Wilczek without an explanation.
DEEP THROAT: They can do anything they want.
MULDER: Where is he?
DEEP THROAT: In the middle of what we in the trade call “hard bargaining.”
How many others have been disappeared into the black world of the military-industrial-complex? How many new technologies and weapons have arisen not out of the universities and conventional scientific arenas but out of hard bargaining? Given the repeated theme of this episode across other episodes (“Soft Light” and “Kill Switch”, to name just two) I can’t see this as being an off-the-cuff offering.
Original Air Date—29 October 1993
Director: Jerrold Freedman
Writers: Chris Carter, Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon
The chairman of Eurisko, a computer corporation, is found electrocuted in an executive bathroom. An old partner of Mulder’s asks him to help, and they soon track down the computer genius responsible for the main operating system. They must shut it down, but it has other plans…