Only within the last decade have cellular devices begun their takeover of our daily lives in earnest--assuming vast new roles outside of just dialing our phone numbers and getting us connected to the World Wide Web. Now they maintain calendars and balance our schedules, ensuring we never miss business appointments or family events. Our cell phones tell us where to go--providing real-time directions to get us from Point A to Point B, so that we arrive at the exact ETA it predicted we would. They hold the keys to communicating with the people we cherish most, memorizing their contact numbers and addresses so we don’t have to. And when we don’t know the name, phone number or even the address of someone we want to speak to or find, we merely have to ask our electronic device or car for the answer. An answer given to us in human-like voices or text messages.
In more recent years cell phones and computers have begun tracking our every move and thought; our shopping preferences, personal interests, impulses, desires and social habits using the information through search engines that we’ve provided them. Computers and phones now know what we think. But what if they knew how we think?
“Ex Machina” is a phenomenal sci-fi thriller that shocks film goers with philosophical questions not only about the human psyche, but also our future existence. As a sharp, young computer programmer visits an underground laboratory at the invitation of the facility’s researcher, he finds a robot with human features that he must quiz to determine her actual intelligence level.
This computer whiz kid, more correctly called a “Coder”, is asked to perform a Turing test on this artificial intelligent (AI) machine named Ava. These series of questions were developed by Alan Turing, known as the Father of Theoretical Artificial Intelligence, and the same cryptanalyst portrayed in last year’s Oscar-nominated best film “The Imitation Game”. In “Ex Machina”, Turing’s test described in his 1950 paper is used to find Ava’s ability to exhibit behavior equivalent or indistinguishable from that of a human. From here, viewers realize that this story is less about research and more about survival. Our survival.
The cerebral dog-fighting in “Ex Machina” makes this movie one to watch in 2015. The human species hasn’t been this challenged by evolutionary creatures on film since Charlton Heston’s spacecraft landed back on Earth in 1968’s “Planet of the Apes”. Between all the generated algorithms, programming languages and source codes rests a fight to be the dominant species. “Ex Machina” provokes an unusual and unique look into the audience’s soul through search engine results and robotics. Only later and off-screen, upon further reflection does the film download another afterthought for viewers to contemplate; our society’s over-reliance on high-tech instruments for communication, information and the ability to function in today’s world.
“Ex Machina” is an appropriate and timely movie on humans and our interaction with artificial intelligent forms. Whether it’s a home computer, laptop, tablet or cell phone, our lives are being controlled, managed and stored by these devices we hold dear to us. No longer do they only know what we think. Now they’re understanding how we think. The information we input into our computer and electronic gadgets makes them powerful and influential parts of our life. But how much power and influence do they really have over us? You’ll know the answer to that question the next time you misplace your phone.