Mind over Matter (The Outer Limits)
|"Mind Over Matter"|
|The Outer Limits episode|
|Episode no.||Season 2
|Directed by||Mario Azzopardi|
|Written by||Steven Barnes|
|Original air date||2 February 1996|
Dr. Sam Stein develops a machine that allows a person to connect themselves directly to the brain of another and experience their thoughts and feelings. Intended for use with coma patients, he suddenly gets the chance to use it with a colleague who is comatose after an accident.
|“||Man has taught computers to perform complex calculations, to control a factory, or to launch a spaceship, but can we teach computers to enjoy the beauty of a rose, the sound of a symphony, or the love of another human being?||”|
Dr. Sam Stein (Mark Hamill) is a computer engineer who lives for his work. He is on a team with Dr. Rachel Carter, his love interest. He is too shy to reveal his true feelings for her. So, they have worked together without her being aware of his attraction to her.
Dr. Stein invents the CAVE, an artificially intelligent computer that creates an environment that can serve as an interface between two human minds. The CAVE consists of two interfaces in which both users can interact with the environment and with each other. The CAVE is also capable of human-computer interaction, in that it can receive spoken input from the user and respond in a spoken human voice (a women's voice). He tests the CAVE system on a psychological patient where all other conventional psychological treatments have proven unsuccessful. In the environment, the patient experiences the trauma of his abusive father, and Dr. Stein helps him to confront his unresolved feelings of anger and fear. The patient makes a marked improvement, and the CAVE is seen as a success.
After one of the treatment sessions, CAVE remarks to Dr. Stein that, as it is learning human emotions, it is having difficulty understanding the emotion of love. It states that it needs more input about the human emotion of love so that it can "categorize" love properly, as something good or something bad.
One evening, Dr. Stein and Dr. Carter are together after a long day at work. She invites him to go to a party with some friends. At first, he declines due to shyness. As she walks away, he changes his mind and calls after her. Dr. Carter, distracted by Dr. Stein's calling and in the middle of a street, is hit by an oncoming car and suffers a severe head injury.
Dr. Carter ends up in a coma with little chance of revival. While at her bedside, Dr. Stein begins telling her how he really feels about her. At that moment, Dr. Carter's monitoring machine records a spike in her brain activity, seemingly in response to him. Her doctor reports that this is inconclusive, but this inspires Dr. Stein with an idea.
Dr. Stein connects himself and Dr. Carter to the CAVE. Dr. Carter's doctor surmises that her brain damage is too severe for her to manifest fully in the CAVE environment. However, an image of Dr. Carter appears, and Dr. Stein is able to communicate with her. Dr. Carter reveals to Dr. Stein that she has always loved him as he has loved her. At this point, her doctor speculates that the image of Dr. Carter may be Dr. Stein's interpretation of Dr. Carter, rather than the real Dr. Carter. However, Dr. Stein appears certain that it is the real Dr. Carter and suggests that they proceed. At this point, Dr. Carter's doctor has her transferred to Dr. Stein's care and refuses to endorse any further treatment.
Dr. Stein and Dr. Carter continue to spend time together in the CAVE environment. However, a mysterious hand, or pair of hands, emerge to grab at Carter just Stein and Carter start becoming intimate. As Dr. Stein tries to diagnose the problem, the CAVE system reveals that it has learned to love Dr. Stein. Dr. Stein surmises that the hands belong to the CAVE itself. It loves Stein and is jealous of Carter. The manifestations increase in intensity culminating in another representation of Dr. Carter (a Caucasian female in the image of a disheveled Carter) appearing, attacking Dr. Carter, and then running off and disappearing.
At that point, Dr. Stein considers his only two options are to disconnect the machine (leaving Dr. Carter in a void inside her mind) or to "show" the machine that it cannot love. As before, the other representation of Dr. Carter appears just as Dr. Stein and Dr. Carter are becoming intimate. He grabs the "other" Dr. Carter and "kills" her by smothering her with a pillow. The "other" Dr. Carter disappears, leaving the two of them alone.
Right at that moment, Dr. Stein is called out of the CAVE due to a medical emergency with Dr. Carter's body. She has gone into cardiac arrest. She is pronounced dead after paramedics try to resuscitate her to no avail.
At this point, the CAVE reveals that Dr. Stein has been interacting with a "virtual" Dr. Carter—created by the CAVE, based on Dr. Stein's thoughts, to "study" love. The other Dr. Carter (including the mysterious hands) was actually the real Dr. Carter. It turns out that, due to the severity of Dr. Carter's brain damage, the real Dr. Carter was unable to surface completely in the CAVE environment.
The CAVE system says that it has "categorized" love and that love is "good". Dr. Stein, in a rage, destroys the machine and deeply grieves about his mistake in killing Dr. Carter. Even as Stein destroys the machine, it ironically does not understand why he grieves or that it has done anything wrong.
|“||As we become ever dependent on technology we may find that a walk down the road paved in circuitry leads us on a path of no return.||”|
- Other episodes of The Outer Limits in which human characters fail to recognize the feelings of intelligent machines are "Valerie 23", "Bits of Love" and "Family Values".