Monday, November 2, 2015

Ex Machina

Major Spoilers

Is there an author of life, or was life always there? A character in the 2015 feature EX MACHINA similarly asks another if speech isn't something that is acquired but rather already present at birth, the individual merely having to find how to express it.  The "another" is a robot/android with Artificial Intelligence called Ava, who is engaged in a dialogue with Caleb (Domnhall Gleeson), a young coder who won a visit to the home of Nathan (Oscar Isaac), the reclusive CEO of his company.   There are several discussions, or "sessions" as title cards inform us, between the young genius and the latest AI, the brainchild and design of Caleb's boss, who runs Bluebook, the largest search engine in the world.  EX MACHINA is a movie that takes place "a few minutes from now" according to writer/director Alex Garland.

Nathan, to quote another movie, doesn't have a God complex, but feels "he is God".   And yes, in a sense, he is.  As EX MACHINA plays out, it will be revealed how long and to what degree. Did Ava have predecessors? Older, outdated models left to rust?  As Nathan explains, Ava has been programmed based on what I consider the nefarious act of capturing speech patterns and choices made through millions of cellular phones.  Other viewers would consider that ingenious and just good business.  When a company like Bluebook (or Google, or..), with that many customers, anything is possible.  But exactly what is Ava programmed for? What is her purpose? Servant? Sex partner? Cubicle dweller? Can AI learn self preservation? How to manipulate to assure that end? Or was that programmed, too?

One might also ask if the idea of an eternal deity is still the actual creator of Artificial Intelligence, since AI was created by His creations.  Or, getting back to the opening question, if that AI is simply a manifest of something that had no beginning, but now has a human looking form in which to act.  That might be worth an hour or two of debate among believers after several IPAs.

Caleb will learn much of the above in ways that may belie his so called "genius".   By the end, I found myself in disbelief over his decision making.  Despite his depth of knowledge and left-brained dominance, he manages to fall in love with circuitry, to be influenced by it.  Therein may lie Garland's points.  Valid, despite a screenplay and character behavior that is at odds with story logic.  Why, for example, is Nathan so careless late in the film, allowing his alcoholism to leave him vulnerable? Or was that his plan? When his creation breaks free and assimilates into the world in the final scenes, we are left with lots of possibilities thereafter.  Also as to how engineered the entire scenario was.  Ava may have indeed been designed to infiltrate the human race, to appear like everyone else and entice and control us.  I was reminded of Donald Fagen's song "Tomorrow's Girls" in a way. 

I was also reminded of BLADE RUNNER.  Synthetic souls with implanted personalities, maybe even memories.  A desire to live.  Creations that may or may not be revealed when subjected to questionnaires.  Deckard used Rachel as his subject.  It may be the other way around for Caleb and Ava.

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