Movie Review: Ex Machina

ExMachinaby Tim Jones3/21/16
What Could Go Wrong? The unintended consequences of artificial intelligence • Ex Machina, released in 2015, may be the best movie about artificial intelligence to come along in years.  It gives an outstanding portrayal of a possible A.I. revolution in all of its ethical and philosophical dimensions, not to mention what it might actually look like.  What I found to be one of the many excellent themes to the movie is how it examines that question as to what is real and what is not with the emerging A.I. technologies.

It shows how the line between the two are becoming blurred and what will happen once that line is destroyed forever.  The movie displays in an underlying narrative the role humans are playing in their possible slow-motion suicide by playing God with technology through the advancing sophistication of artificial intelligence.

Nathan, played by Oscar Isaac, is an ultra-wealthy man who made his billions by creating a search engine called Blue Book (think Sergey Brin or Larry Page of Google).  Nathan lives in a remote and beautiful Alaskan location accessible only by helicopter.  He recruits Caleb (played by Domhnall Gleeson), a computer programmer who specializes in search engine algorithms, to “test” his humanoid invention, which he’s named Ava.  Ava is played by Alicia Vikander who just won best supporting actress for her role in The Danish Girl.

Nathan feels he needs a third party to interact with Ava in order to determine if she meets the criteria for being true artificial intelligence by using the Turing Test (named after the father of the modern computer, Alan Turing), in which one gathers “inputs from machines and other humans and then [has a] human try to determine which inputs are coming from a machine and which are coming from a human.”

Most of the movie involves a series of meetings between Caleb and Ava in which they interact by taking turns asking each other a variety of questions.  But behind those meetings is a hidden agenda of Nathan’s – one he doesn’t reveal until later.

At one point Caleb quotes J. Robert Oppenheimer (who was quoting the Bhagavad Gita) right after the first test explosion of an atomic bomb – “I’ve become death, destroyer of worlds” – when having one of his discussions with Nathan following a meeting with Ava.  It points to the underlying theme about the real danger artificial intelligence poses.  In our world of evolving technical “progress,” science is moving to a new form of potential self-destruction after having already created nuclear weapons.

Ava ends up passing the Turing Test, but it takes an unexpected turn (let’s say it goes awry in a big way) toward the end of the movie.  It is the Hegelian dialectic that’s replaced Christian eschatology – that is, the misplaced idea that man can manipulate the material world in order to make it a better and more perfect one (the yearning for a utopian heaven on earth) rather than living an ethical life in a broken temporal world for salvation in a perfect eternal afterlife – and all of the real and lethal dangers that come with the hubris of man playing God, especially when moral considerations are left out of the equation.


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12 Responses to Movie Review: Ex Machina

  1. Anniel says:

    It might be fun to see this movie since my eldest son worked in the field of AI for the EU. I think I’ll ask him to check this out and see what he thinks of it, both the AI and because he was born here in Alaska. He’s been to a lot of remote places up here. I’m not at all certain what I think of the field of AI, other than that it makes my skin crawl

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    AI is certainly all the rage amongst yutes. But it’s likely that intelligence is not an algorithm. The fanciest algorithms that we create can’t “think outside of themselves.” They’re stuck in the algorithm, no matter how fancy.

    That’s not to say that we understand how our own minds works. But AI is a centrally mechanistic view of the world — wholly consistent with atheism and Darwinism. Nothing would please yutes than to show that we humans are “nothing but a complex algorithm.”

    As for the movie, I thought is started well but fell apart into the usual gunk about 2/3 into it. I could have actually explored the implications of AI in an honest way but simply turned into a horror flick.

  3. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    I believe the subject of the article below, is more representative of where we are going than the movie. It is further confirmation that “technology” is helping humanity in the race to the bottom, far more quickly than most people seem to realize. This latest invention will likely be a big hit with libertarians. It fits their mindset to a tee.

    From thermonuclear devices to genetically modified viruses to this latest Virtual Sex machine, Homo Technologus has been able to create ever more effective and impressive ways to magnify his perversions and destroy himself. Yet he has not been able to tame or modify the basic flaw of narcissistic egotism which festers within.

    Knowledge without wisdom is a gift from the devil.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I think it was Pat who said that he’s a lesbian caught in a man’s body.

      My prediction was for more and more life-like robots. But maybe this virtual reality sex thing will be the thing, if only because it will be vastly less expensive than some big-breasted cyborg.

      Hey, listen. I’m on this guy’s side. We are a degenerating culture. But being a scold in this “you can have anything you wish for” cyber culture doesn’t have much relevance.

      Instead, put on some Sinatra, enjoy the beauty of a sunset, go to a concert featuring music by Mozart, have a fine meal at a nice restaurant, take a stroll in nature’s beauty, enjoy a good movie with friend. Let the rest of these dolts play out Brave New World, cover themselves with tattoos, and laugh at things only a 12-year-old mind could find funny.

  4. David N. says:

    I didn’t really enjoy this one. Technically it was well made, pretty scenery, great special effects, etc.. If taken simply as an updated Frankenstein saga, then it almost fills the bill.

    ***Spoiler alert***

    So much of media, TV, and movies feels political to me these days it is hard to sit back and just accept anything at face value anymore. For example, I wonder what the directors/writers/producers position on modern feminism is? This story had all the earmarks of a tale of ‘oppression’.

    I wasn’t sure my interpretation was correct until the end of the movie when Ava was walking away from the compound and a female in the audience yelled out, “You go girl!”.

    I hollered back at her, “It’s a robot, not a girl.”

    Determinedly she replied, “A sista, is a sista.”

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Oh, good god, yes. It was more “girl power” shinola. Good call.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      I wasn’t sure my interpretation was correct until the end of the movie when Ava was walking away from the compound and a female in the audience yelled out, “You go girl!”.

      I hollered back at her, “It’s a robot, not a girl.”

      Determinedly she replied, “A sista, is a sista

      A product of the modern American education system, no doubt.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        We’re giving David the Stubborn Things Movie-Goers Platinum Circus Award. Anyone who publicly rebukes this Leftist nonsense is a winner in my book. And it is all a carnival or circus, of sorts.

        One reason I don’t typically go to movies in the movie theatres is because I have movie-tourette’s. Just ask my brother who is usually laughing along with me as I watch a movie or TV episode at the office over lunch. My head would explode unless I was able to verbally lash out at all the nonsense. And it’s usually pretty funny stuff, if I do say so myself. My brother is always talking about putting up a camera and creating a channel on YouTube for this running movie commentary. But because most of it is pretty politically incorrect, I doubt that YouTube could handle it.

        One thing to remember is that a large component of liberal fascism is feminine fascism. It’s man-hatred inside the ideology of the supremacy of women. Feminism was never about the equality of women. That’s something men told themselves as they ate the shit sandwich of watching less qualified people advance over them. They still tell themselves that feminism was something that started with good intentions but then just got out of hand. These hard-core “conservatives” will be telling themselves the same things about gay marriage in a few years.

        Feminism was always about the hatred and envy of men. Freud may have been correct in one regard, as wacko as most of his sexual theories were. It might actually be possible that these feminists have penis envy, that they feel there is something missing. What else would explain the demonization of the feminine? (Thus, you see, “feminism” has little to do with honoring women.) How else would you explain the most amazing aspect of women — the bearers of life — being demonized, whereby pregnancy becomes a “disease” that can be cured by abortion, and lesbianism becomes the epitome of girl power?

        And in this cultural Marxist culture, as a man you are guilty of misogyny if you don’t always present a woman as either a victim or as some variety of ass-kicking female (girl power). I’m a misogynist in the sense that I hate feminism and love women.

        It’s an American tradition to give fair treatment to people, including women. I have no problem working for women or taking orders from women. But I do have a problem with the feminist ideology of man-hating and, frankly, of woman-hating as well. The real women-haters are the feminists. I’ve killed none. They, via their abortion sacrament, have killed millions.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Christina Hoff Sommers (in Who Stole Feminism?) argued that there are 2 basic brands of feminism: equity feminism (which simply wants equality) and gender feminism (which is oriented toward hatred of men). I think the key moment came in the late 1970s when the movement chose to align itself with the man-hating lesbians (which doesn’t include all lesbians) at the expense of sympathetic men. I call these gender feminists femocrats.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Another way to parse that, Timothy, and I think is the correct way, is to distinguish between the Chiefs and the Indians, between the hardcore ideologues propelled by grievance and those lower-tier useful idiots who bought the marketing of the upper tier.

            As it has mostly (but certainly not always) worked out in the real world is that the lower tier has moderated the grievance-based, man-hating ideology of the feminist movers and shakers. But one can note the continued presence of the fascistic upper tier because they never stop. And this means it was never equality for women that they wanted.

            I respect Christina Hoff Sommers, but I think I have a much better understanding of the issue. Note that the same thing applies right now to “gay rights.” It isn’t about “gay rights” as far as the movers and shakers are concerned. It’s about gay superiority. And their fascistic appetite will never be sated even as, again, some of their evil spirit is moderated by the useful low-information idiots on the lower tier. But the hardcore and fascistic core remains there. Ask those Oregon cake-bakers. The upper tier won’t stop. And the lower tier is passive by nature…somewhat stupefied by its own narcissistic sense of moral superiority…or what we here call “niceness.”

            The same thing is happening regarding illegal immigration. There is a “La Raza” (the race) sense of entitlement to live in America by those south of the border. That is, there is a fascistic, racist ideology in play…again, probably filtered and moderated somewhat by the run-of-the-mill illegals who come here with their families and who are looking for a better way of life. But that evil core remains. And because the “niceness” of the liberal useful idiots in America will offer no opposition, the ratchet is one-way.

            How much is too much? That’s one thing we have all been asking ourselves here as the low-information useful idiots quickly assimilate to what the hardcore ideologues push on us, ratchet by ratchet. Right now, other than lining people up against a wall and shooting them, it’s hard to imagine what your typical Progressively “nice” useful idiot would object to.

            One thing that it is difficult for Sommers and others to acknowledge is that they facilitated the excesses of the feminist movement, no matter how good they think their intentions were. So they, of course, were only for the “good stuff.”

            • Timothy Lane says:

              Well, there certainly are people who can be called equity feminists (Elizabeth would consider herself one) who have no use for modern gender feminism (Elizabeth says she once noticed an issue of Ms. that referred to a “hersterectomy” and never took it seriously after that).

              The same thing can be true with other activists (Andrew Sullivan has complained about the actions of the Lavender Thought Police, for example, though he’s failed to do anything serious to discommode them). Over time, the fascist radicals have come to dominate the movement, just as the fascist left in general has subsumed modern liberalism.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                Here’s the problem, Timothy. When you adopt the language of the Left, it’s impossible to insulate yourself from the whole package. It’s similar to the Marxist-based “social justice” stuff. “Justice” needs no qualifier. But in the mindset of Cultural Marxism where life is parsed into the hard categories of race, sex, and class, you need that modifier. And the meaning is changed.

                Same with “equity feminists.” You’ve just slandered and changed the meaning of the word “equality.” I’m sure Elizabeth is a fine woman. But it’s very very easy to promote causes that aren’t your own. We all, including myself, have been useful idiots from time to time. It’s unavoidable. But we can learn from our experiences.

                Andrew Sullivan is a brilliant case in point. A deluded thinker who took a tiger by its tail (Leftism) and then complains about being scratched. We hopefully don’t do such sloppy thinking here at StubbornThings.

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