We don’t know what we don’t know about artificial intelligence.
For some, reaching the technological singularity brings nothing but excitement. But for others there aren’t many things scarier than not knowing what that will mean for us. It’s hard for humans to admit but we are a relatively advanced, yet young and primitive species and Ex Machina shows us this in a big way.
We are quickly confined to the remote house/research facility of Nathan, founder of Google-like empire Bluebook. Company employee Caleb wins a lottery to fly to this facility for a week to spend time with the boss and is unknowingly placed in the centre of the greatest achievement in human history.
Using the company’s search engine technology, which accounts for the majority the world’s internet searches, Nathan creates the wonder that is Ava. I bet Google execs will be putting this film at the top of their vision board when they see it!
Within the concrete walls and frosted glass (and a sophisticated surveillance system) Caleb is given the chance to conduct the Turing Test to determine whether she is able convince him that she has genuine consciousness. And trust me, Nathan has outdone himself with Ava!
A story that starts out as a simple scientific experiment inconspicuously begins demanding answers from us to some hard questions: can real consciousness be ‘created’? And how do we define it? Can we tell the difference?
Director Alex Garland, famous for writing iconic pieces such as The Beach, 28 Days Later and Sunshine, continues to show his strengths here as we are tested – not by zombies or space travel, but by our own creation.
The experiment’s blissful backdrop slips on a veil of claustrophobic tension where emotions are distorted and the predictable irrationality of human nature kicks in as Caleb’s infatuation with Ava grows so deep he leaves logical thinking behind. But is Ava’s infatuation with Caleb real, or is he a means of escaping the facility in which she has been imprisoned since she was constructed?
Our absolute awareness of Ava’s mechanical lifelessness begins to fall away as she (no, ‘it’) gains our trust, empathy and compassion.
Is this what society will be like when AI is born? Are we ready to interact with it? How will we tell the difference?
Garland shows us that we are don’t know what to expect with AI yet, let alone know how we’re going to control it! So for now, I’m happy leaving AI in the sci-fi genre until further notice.