“If you’ve created a conscious machine that’s not the history of man, that’s the history of gods.”
There seem to be a lot of robot movies coming out lately. Chappie was released a month ago, the ultimate Marvel robot movie, Age of Ultron is about to take over the box office, but one film I think will stand apart from the rest. Ex Machina is a smart Sci-Fi thriller that took SXSW by storm and is now beginning to find worldwide acclaim. While other robot and artificial intelligence films build on the idea that these machines will outsmart us and take over the world, what Ex Machina does is focuses in on this story of two people examining an AI and analyzing if it truly has consciousness. All the while knowing that robots could take over the world of course.
So Caleb, who is a Coder for Google…Um, I mean Blue Book, which is a search engine with 94% of the world’s searches (sorry Bing), wins an internal contest to spend a week with the company CEO. He’s excited and nervous. Sidenote: Given that’s a great opportunity, it just sounds super awkward. Personally I don’t know any low-level employee who thinks “man, I just want to hang out and have a beer with the CEO of the huge company I work for.” However, the CEO, Nathan, is a really cool guy and having a beer with him is exactly what Caleb does. That is, of course, after being introduced to Ava, a realistic robot with the best artificial intelligence the world doesn’t know exists.
Caleb, is part of a test, a Turing Test if you must know, to see if he can tell if Ava is human or machine. If you have seen the trailer, you know that Ava is obviously a robot, with the face of a human but a visibly mechanical body. Caleb is going to know she’s a robot, and that’s the whole point, no tricks or deceit. The test is to see if Caleb can test her for consciousness, all the while knowing she is a robot. “The test isn’t to understand if the computer can play chess, but if the computer knows what chess is”-Caleb. This is what sets the screw in motion. It’s a guessing game of who’s testing who? Does Nathan have some deadly secrets? Is Caleb is a robot? Does Nathan brew his own craft beer with that hipster beard? Well, there’s no evidence that Nathan is a craft brewer, but his alcoholic leaning does play a vital role in this film as you will find out when you go see it.
I don’t want to reveal any details, but this movie starts out with you thinking you have it figured out. It’s a well produced yet predictable science fiction movie right? Then the twists begin. The thing that sets this apart is it makes you really think. You feel an emotional connection to Ava, you feel bad for her. A robot locked up in a science lab, that’s no way to live! If she isn’t a conscious being why should we care, but if she really is a conscious being, she shouldn’t be locked up should she? So that’s where your inner debate and moral compass come in to play. It’s a film that leaves you thinking, and makes you wonder about your own existence. The relationship between creator and creation and who has what rights.
The movie takes place entirely in Nathan’s house/testing facility. They are very closed off from the world and forced to interact, which is what brings the depth and introspection to the forefront. Each day Caleb is there he has a one on one session with Ava, where they converse and he tries to crack if she really can make her own decisions, and it’s followed by a conversation between him and Nathan over the session with Ava. The longer it goes on the more Ava gets into Caleb’s head, and the less he wants to tell Nathan. For some reason, Ava doesn’t seem to want Caleb to trust Nathan. It’s in the final moments of the film you discover if Ava has true consciousness, and if emotion is something real for her. I can’t get into any of the twists that occur, but you will be on the edge of your seat the whole way through.
There is also a major hint at the power of search engines. Scratch that, it’s not a hint, it’s blatantly obvious. Blue Book is the worlds leading search engine and it has information about us defining how we think and make decisions. If you took all the big data from Google and put it into an AI do you think it could act like a legitimate human? Probably so, making the film not that far off from reality. That makes the film almost a call to action. With all the messages Ex Machina throws at you, it’s a very thoughtful and intriguing ride, as well as an exciting Sci-Fi thriller. Check it out, and be careful what you Google.