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Review of 'The Peripheral' 1.4-1.5

by Paul Levinson 26 days ago in tv review · updated 17 days ago
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Lev's Tea and the AI Therapy

Who took Lev's tea? The disappearance of his tea in episode 1.4 of The Peripheral on Amazon Prime Video was an another signalic moment, just like the coffee container materializing in thin air in what now seems like a much earlier episode. The tea gone and the coffee appearing just like that symbolize the immense forces at play in this so far delicately powerfully rendered series, which as far as I can tell so far hasn't missed a step. (Reminder: I haven't read the book.)

Everyone, certainly in the near future, is struggling to understand what's going on. "It's not time travel, it's data transfer," Flynne says, after Burton tells her traveling to the future caused her seizure. But Burton is more right than his sister here, since the transfer of data from the future to the present (or past, depending on how you look at it) is indeed a kind of time travel. (See Gregory Benford's 1980 Timescape if you don't believe it -- that's a book, by the way, that I did read.)

Also in the near future, Connor wants to know if the data visits to the future come with real bodies? This is another key to what's really going on. As we well know, the bodies in the future are both real and not. As in countless science fiction stories about cyberspace, the original flesh-and-blood bodies can be seriously injured if not killed when their avatars in the future are hurt or killed. That in itself makes those entities real enough.

Speaking of science fiction entities, I liked that android that Cherise is starting to school in the distant future, especially how he's able to moderate the percentage of sarcasm in his attitude. That one, brief scene struck me as one of the best I've seen or read in any android story, starting with Isaac Asimov's stories back in the 1950s.

And last but not least about this episode -- last is an apt word for for this -- I thought the end of our civilization sequence was top-notch, too. Given the deadly perils we're currently encountering -- pandemics, climate change, the resurgence of fascism in the U.S. and all over the world -- I found that very appropriate to be watching, too.

***

The mention of an "AI therapist" caught my attention in the first few minutes of The Peripheral 1.5 on Amazon Prime Video. It reminded me of Joseph Weizenbaum's ELIZA program at MIT in, what, our late nonfiction 1960s? His program passed the test of being believed to be a human psychologist by subjects who communicated with it and didn't know they were exchanging information with a cleverly programmed computer.

Information is what this episode, which continued to be excellent, was all about. (Makes sense, in an episode of a series which is prime cyberpunk.) In one of the best scenes, Flynne explains to her mother that she did not get her medicine from the future. Rather, Flynn got information in the future about how to make this powerful medicine, which in a nice touch was "printed" (Flynne's word) on a 3-D printer.

Flynne goes on travel to the future -- informationally -- to ask Wilf he was trying to seduce her via the haptic union they had, and he either plays dumb or honestly tells her he has no idea what she's talking about. Meanwhile, it becomes palpably clear, once again, that not just information can travel from the future to the past when a car materializes and crashes into the police car carrying the Irish assassin with an ok American accent. But did the car that hit the police car really come from the future, just like that coffee container a few episodes back, or was the car printed in the past (which is more or less the present in the story), and somehow teleported to collide with the police car? Come to think of it, could the coffee have come from a current printer, too? With all those expresso commercials with fancy machines on TV these days with Brad Pitt, somehow the idea of 3-D printing coffee doesn't seem that absurd.

It's almost enough to get you to a therapist, though an AI therapist in this case likely wouldn't be the best. Speaking of which, the episode ends -- apologies, I didn't advise you about spoilers -- with Flynne's avatar in the future rendering the powerful Cherise into unconsciousness in a fight. So, how did Flynne become such a proficient fighter? Maybe she picked up some useful martial information from the future.

=========================

Like alternate realities (about The Beatles)? Try It's Real Life.

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About the author

Paul Levinson

Novels include The Silk Code & The Plot To Save Socrates; LPs Twice Upon A Rhyme & Welcome Up; nonfiction includes Fake News in Real Context, The Soft Edge, & Digital McLuhan translated into 15 languages. Details here. Prof, Fordham Univ.

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