Wednesday 17 June 2015

Ex Machina

Directed by Alex Garland and out now on DVD and Blu-Ray -and most illegal and legal streaming services I imagine- is the creepy and mind expanding film Ex Machina (Pronounced Ex MACK-EE-NA). It is a film I’ve never stopped talking about and never really recovered from.  Starring Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander and Sonoya Mizuno as Kyoko. It is, essentially, a live action retelling of Daniel Suarez’s TED talk on AI.

Caleb (Gleeson) is a programmer for Bluebook which in this fictional world is the most popular search engine, a bit like what Yahoo! was in the nineties, what Google is now and what Bing never was. He wins a competition to visit the CEO Nathan (Isaac) on his own private island in the middle of nowhere. When he arrives it is introduced that he has been chosen to take part in an experiment, the Turing Test. The test is that he has to come out as gay and see if he gets any credit for the work he has done, or if he is destroyed through some homophobic witch hunt. That’s obviously not true.

If I was to sit and take a Turing test I would find myself talking to a computer via some messenger style conversation box, it would be my job to then ascertain whether or not the conversation I was having was with a computer or a human being. Whether it is A.L.I.C.E or Eugene Gootsman, the purpose is that I would have to be be able to say that the machine was indistinguishable from a human being for it to pass the test.  In the case of the movie they told me and Caleb right from the beginning that Ava is a Robot, and makes it quite clear by only having  the basic body parts to indicate this. So the test for Caleb is more about seeing if he thinks she has actually got feelings, if she is indistinguishable from a human in the respect that he think that electronic brains and biological brains aren’t better than one another and this is in fact a person he is talking to, could he love her for example?

If I was to make a brain that was exactly the same as a human grey salty blob, and the being within which it was contained functioned as a person, then how would you argue that it wasn’t murder if you destroyed it? Just because you understand how it was made or that it was made form electrical goods, doesn’t change the fact that I was exactly the same as a human brain. The most terrifying thing is of course that our brains are finite in their ability, and most computational neuroscientists believe the human brain can hold somewhere between 10 and 100 terabytes of information. It is now possible to buy a Zettabyte hard drive which is the equivalent of a billion terrabytes.  Imagine a being with a mind that size. It wouldn’t even feel bad about killing you, about as bad as you would feel killing a mushroom and of course they could upgrade themselves at will. Imagine being able to slip a few sticks of extra ram into your brain before doing an exam?

The film is effortlessly great, Ava is portrayed as a naive innocent robo-woman who is elegant and lovable, and who is also somehow the maguffin, antagonist and protagonist all at the same time. She is magic to watch. Oscar Isaac starts of as an oddly likeable self absorbed prickish kinda character who gradually becomes the same thing but unlikable. He represents the kind of thinking that exists where a genius works really hard, messes around just to see what happens and destroys the planet in doing so.  Gleeson is a great protagonist as the lonely Caleb, and doesn’t just sit on his archetype evolving and changing as effortlessly as every other actor in the film, everyone of which take on the role of the suffering protagonist and conniving antagonist at some point. While not as action orientated as Terminator or Age of Ultron, this film is much more creepy because it seems so grounded in reality.

Ex Machina gets a highly evolved 4/5.


Dave Roberts

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