• Bill Holmes

Management Lessons from Movies, Chapter 7: Resident Evil


Artificial Intelligence has a lot of potential, but it isn't there yet!

“You’re all going to die down here!” Red Queen


“I'm not sure I want to remember what went on down here.” Alice


Resident Evil is a 2002 movie based on a wildly popular first shooter video game of the same name. The plot begins by informing us that the Umbrella Corporation is a huge multinational corporation that has the public image as a consumer goods manufacturer, but really makes most of its profits on weapons, including biological warfare. Espionage occurs in an underground research facility called “The Hive” and a deadly virus is released. This release caused the AI (the Red Queen) that runs the underground facility to kill everyone and lock down The Hive to contain the virus. A top military team is dispatched to open The Hive and they discover Alice (Milla Javovich), who is suffering from amnesia. In order to reopen The Hive, they must reboot the Red Queen. As they make their way to the Red Queen, they discover the Umbrella Corporation is using the experimental virus to develop horrific biological weapons.


Eventually they make their way to the Red Queen who warns that she killed everyone to stop the virus from getting out, and that shutting her down would cause everyone else to die. They ignore her advice and shut her down and the scientists in the labs are released as zombies. They must battle through the infected HIVE staff as well as a variety of mutated and reanimated creatures on their way to the surface. Alice and one survivor manage to get out just before The Hive again quarantines itself, and they are immediately grabbed by scientists in isolation gear. As Alice is being sedated, we hear one of the scientists say, “Reopen the hive”. Sometime later Alice wakes up and makes her way through a deserted hospital to the street, where a camera pulls back to reveal a destroyed city. Alice chambers her shotgun and prepares for an onslaught of sequels!


This is an interesting take on the “classic” zombie movie, and there are so many management lessons it is difficult to know where to begin!


1. Don’t treat information as currency. This a recurring management lesson. The Hive is working on biological weapons and has a highly advanced AI running it. Obviously something went terribly wrong, so why would you send in your military team and not tell them what they were up against? But don’t we see this behavior in our corporate world? Managers embargo information and teams are artificially segmented to created unnecessary and ultimately harmful barriers to the free exchange of information among key stakeholders.


2. Protocols are developed for a reason. The Hive was a highly secure environment where the scientists were working on terrible biological weapons. The safety protocols required that The Hive be completely sealed in the event of a breach, and it sealed itself. Given that, why would management disregard the protocols and send in a military team instead of scientists trained in isolating and safely handling of biological agents?


3. Protocols need to be well developed. Why would anyone develop a highly intelligent AI, put it in charge of The Hive, put in place stringent isolation criteria – then not give it a phone to let management know what was going on? I am certain the logic behind the decision was security, and I can appreciate that. I would like to suggest that a minimum requirement for a system should be that it can communicate with the people who are responsible for administering it.


4. AI isn’t the answer for everything. The Red Queen was charged with keeping The Hive “safe”, however she quickly did the math and decided that the risk of contagion was highest if the people were left alive. Unfortunately, her solution created a much greater problem! I often see senior leadership seduced by the potential of AI, and you can tell those afflicted individuals when you see them in meetings using terms like “machine learning” or “data science”. Machine learning allows computers to be learn without being explicitly programmed, but even the most sophisticated AI can’t tell the difference between a bagel and a sleeping dog. Seriously! Look it up!


5. Some people thrive under pressure. When the soldiers first found Alice, she appeared to be confused and a bit helpless. When placed under extreme pressure, she immediately transformed into a highly talented soldier who became the groups leader.


This short series was fun, but I think I’ll try something different next week.


Coda


An ongoing topic of these Coda’s has been my fascination with the complete disconnect between what people believe and documented reality. Regardless of where you stand on political issues (I stay out of that!), the President’s “These fine people” quote referring to a group of awful people has been completely debunked. Completely. I read the transcript, and he never said it! You can also see it on tape, and he never said it! And yet, it continues to be reported in the media that he did, and the logical conclusion about him based on the misquote has become a platform in several Presidential Candidate's campaigns. It never happened! And it doesn’t matter.


A complete rejection of the Enlightenment. Very sad.


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