The mindbending magic of virtual reactors

I should probably not even bother with Intelligence, a show currently running on CBS in its first season, because its excessive use of fake computers and moon logic automatically disqualifies it from applying any kind of common sense to the story anyway. The entire show is basically one giant advertisement for the US Cyber Command and a vehicle for Josh Holloway who’s seriously wasting his talent (and money) here.

However, in episode 11, the writers went so overboard with everything that I couldn’t just ignore it. Whats particularly baffling is how computer interfaces are displayed, because the intended target audience – 18-29yr old men and maybe women because Josh Holloway – should be well aware of how computers work and what you can do with them.

Let’s just ignore the ludicrous premise of the brain-implanted supercomputer-on-a-chip that seemingly works without any kind of power supply and get down to business. Some juvenile hacker has written a clever worm to hack company servers and hold their data hostage until they pay him $currency. Suddenly, the power grid supplying the West Coast fails and of course, that’s not thanks to the terrible state of the power infrastructure but some Russian mobsters who have stolen the worm and are now using it to extort the US government into releasing one of their incarcerated brothers. Yeah. Oh, this is the hacker:

Picture (c) CBS

Picture (c) CBS

He looks like a cross between the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Barack Obama (no offense to either), but certainly not like someone who pulls regular all-weekers in front of his computer. He even wears a phat chain around his neck!

This serious mistake in casting aside, he’s able to read source code that looks like this:

Picture (c) CBS

Picture (c) CBS

This must be the most unergonomic code editor ever – red on black with blue borders? The “code” looks like someone took a bit of Java (or possibly C++, can’t tell) and pasted some Base64-encoded stuff over it, but it makes no sense whatsoever. Not that it’s important anyway.

What is important however is the final sequence of the episode. By then we found out that the worm is targeting a nuclear power plant. We also found out that it’s behaving “like a kitten playing with string” which sounds like it doesn’t know what the hell it is doing. Anyway, the USCC decides to give the Russians what they want, and so Gabriel et al meet them to do the swap. Of course, this goes wrong, the mobsters escape and blow up the van containing the “mothership” computer they were supposed to hand over. It’s a giant explosion with fire and stuff, and afterwards, the van looks like this:

Picture (c) CBS

Picture (c) CBS

Actually … you know what, it really looked more like this:

Picture (c) CBS

Picture (c) CBS

Oh well. At least the computer – sorry, the “mothership” – is toast, which is bad. But the guys have an idea: why not build a “virtual nuclear reactor” and have the worm target that instead? Unfortunately, they don’t have all that much time, so instead of having a few programmers sit down and code the thing (or, you know, they could just ask the genius hacker to do it for them), they have Gabriel dream it up using his chip. It’s “immensely complicated, even with Gabriel”, because the worm is “impossible to predict”, but hey, if you don’t try, you can’t fail, or something.

Gabriel starts with the reactor blueprints, which involves him walking onto the open parking lot and staring at the sky while green things swirl around. Doing that is commonly called “compiling the system core” among chip-implanted humans. To anyone with just one brain, it’s called “having an acid trip”.

Picture (c) CBS

Picture (c) CBS

And because this is all very complicated, even with Gabriel, the “basic build” is complete before the next ad break:

Picture (c) CBS

Picture (c) CBS

But he’s it’s not sexy enough for the worm, so he has to add a bit of T&A to it … by making everything look a bit brighter.

Picture (c) CBS

Picture (c) CBS

Good work! Now “the mouse trap is all set. Do you see it?”.

Picture (c) CBS

Picture (c) CBS

Honestly? The only thing I see is a lot of green stuff that makes no sense whatsoever. Our young genius hacker is happy, though. The USCC leaders are looking at the same image, seriously asking “What do we see here?”. Morons.

Picture (c) CBS

Picture (c) CBS

Still nothing except a jumbled mess of green nobody who’s not on a serious acid trip would even pretend to “understand”, but they quickly nod their heads in approval. “Awesome!”, they exclaim, probably to prevent the scientist in attendance to judge them for being bumbling idiots who can’t even remotely comprehend the marvels of technology they are looking at with his help.

Back at the parking lot virtual reactor, our guys are watching the worm getting its thing on:

Picture (c) CBS

Picture (c) CBS

He is “sniffing it out”, because computer worms do that.

Picture (c) CBS

Picture (c) CBS

But no, the worm’s too clever to just fall for the trap. He “saw the phantom reactor for what it is … a fake!” …

Picture (c) CBS

Picture (c) CBS

… junior scientist exclaims while looking at Gabriel with a mix of sadness and utter disgust. Everyone’s trying their best to look mortified with varying degrees of success, until …

Picture (c) CBS

Picture (c) CBS

… it is turning around! And not just that, it’s totally falling for the virtual reactor! Everyone’s rejoicing, and young hacker dude exclaims “I can’t believe it worked”, despite him being the computer genius who developed that thing in the first place. Oh, and guess how the “virtual reactor” looks after being invaded by the worm:

Picture (c) CBS

Picture (c) CBS

It turned to red! “Our data is disappearing!” The world is saved!

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