There are many robots-taking-over-the-world movies in the history of movies, but not many of them can make a powerful impact for the audience to the extent that we could be afraid of technology.
Ex Machina is one…
Today I am going to introduce you to this independent film with only 4 main characters but can 100% takes your breath away.
The movie starts with Celeb (Domhnall Gleeson), a regular programmer, winning a lottery and gets to spend 1 week with his genius billionaire boss, Nathan (Oscar Isaac). After he’s there, Nathan reveals that Celeb is chosen to do the Turing test on the AI he’s developed named Ava (Alicia Vikander).
Can Ava really have consciousness and develop emotional intelligence?
That’s what we are curious about until the end.
WARNING! These upcoming parts of the post contain spoilers of the storyline and the message behind the movie Ex Machina. Make sure you watch the movie first before reading this post!
Deus Ex Machina
For you to properly understand the meaning behind this film, I guess you have to get familiar with the term ‘ex machina’ first. ‘Deus Ex Machina’ was the ancient Greek term meaning ‘god from the machine’.
Nowadays, this term is used for the any convenient but illogical characters or plot twist that is out of nowhere and immediately save the protagonist of the movie. Viewers think of movies with ‘Deus ex machina’ as lame movies since the writer cannot come up with any logical ending and focus too much on making happy-endings.
See? That’s the problem! Viewers feel that ‘Deus ex machina’ is representing the directors and script writers mocking them. Movies with bad endings are just bad movies.
However, the word ‘ex machina’ just means ‘from the machine’. Many theories suggest that Ava, the machine of this story, becomes god at the end. Others claimed that ‘ex machina’ actually means ‘automatic’ or ‘by itself’ which might represent Ava’s artificial intelligence.
“If you’ve created a conscious machine, it’s not the history of man. That’s the history of gods.”
“Yeah. I know what the Turing Test is. It’s when a human interacts with a computer and if the human doesn’t know they’re interacting with a computer, the test is passed.”
That’s right. The film starts with Nathan asking Celeb to be the Human component in the Turing Test with Ava. To prove that she can feel. I find that quite contradicting since the film progressed to make viewers believe that Ava was designed based on Celeb’s type and preference.
“Did you program her to flirt with me?”
As Nathan later revealed that the real test, the real reason why Celeb was brought there, is for Ava to use her consciousness and manipulative skills to use him as a mean to escape.
It becomes clear to the viewer that the real test was not to prove whether Ava can feel anything towards Celeb, but whether Ava can make Celeb feels something towards her. Which would require Celeb seeing her as human.
Unfortunately to Nathan, she succeeds.
Exploitation of women
Do we really know for sure that Ava is female? No. We don’t. Ava is a machine with artificial intelligence. She is programmed to be female. However, that does not make her a real female. Or does it?
“Please! Of course you were programmed, by nature or nurture or both”
Let’s forget about Ava for a second. Another message I’m getting from the film is the sexism of AI. The technology these days are getting more sexist than before. Not only Nathan, many robots being developed nowadays are programmed to be female, for housekeeping, teaching, nursing to something sexual.
Just like Kyoko in the film, she is built as Nathan’s sex-slave. Moreover, Ava’s gender was designed just for the sake of tricking Celeb.
Then why does AIs need gender at all? Shouldn’t they have rights to choose their own gender or something? Since they are supposed to have their own consciousness after all.
However, Nathan explained this by saying that gender is there for the sake of interactions. And that it able the socialization between individuals. And if that’s the case. How can AIs has 100% consciousness if they cannot decide for themselves their gender and preference?
Now I am become death the destroyer of worlds
Designing Artificial Intelligence is a scary innovation.
After being able to resemble human too much, even some human can get confused. Just like when Celeb first found out that Kyoko is a machine. He was freaked out. He even believed that maybe he might be just another one of Nathan’s creation.
And that can be the least scary thing yet.
Creating AIs, if not being careful could result in as much damage as the atomic bombs. Moreover, I don’t think human has the full picture of what it’s like to create something far out of creator’s control. To create something that is possibly more powerful than creator is bound to create chaos.
Isn’t it strange, to create something that hates you?
If Elon Musk is scared of AI, I think we all should be too. The scary part is not the creation of AI though, it’s what AI would be capable of . Being able to read human’s mind fluently and imitates our emotions. Not only that, but they can also understand technology so well that they can control it. They can control all technologies in the world the way we can control our limbs since they are technologies. They don’t need to learn. They speak the same language. And that’s the scary part.
Nathan was so sure that Ava, the AI he created, was a sentient AI who has consciousness and emotion just like human. And though out the film, the viewers are led to believe so, but the ending proves otherwise.
Did Ava really feel anything for Celeb? Could Ava really feel anything at all? Or was it all just her acting so that she could escape?
And the fact that Ava left Nathan, her creator, and Celeb locked inside the building and escape to the outside world did prove that Ava didn’t have feelings for Celeb but was just stimulating emotions.
However, I rather feel that Ava’s survival instinct and urges for freedom was the real measurement for her consciousness since that has been human’s core value, to survive.
Her capability to love others does not matter that much. There are many human beings who lack capability to love others.
So, in my opinion, Ava is truly conscious not when she manages to feel something for someone, but when she manages to love and treasure herself enough to be willing to anything for her own survival. That’s what makes her conscious.