Alex Garland’s directorial debut Ex Machina was released this earlier this week. Not only is it an amazing film, but it also opens the discussion to some big questions.
Full disclosure, this will have spoilers from the film.
1 – What is consciousness?
In the film, the lead character Caleb, played by Domhnall Gleeson, is the human counterpart in a Turing test. They are assessing whether a robot, Ava, has a conscious mind, even when a person can clearly see that she is a robot. In one part of the film, Caleb challenges the test format. He argues that by testing a robot by having a conversation is like testing a chess computer by playing chess. The robot may very well do great at chess, but does it understand the concept of chess; this is a difficult aspect to test. By the end of the film, does Ava have consciousness? If she does, is it the same type of consciousness you and I have?
2 – Can a Turing test ever tell if something is alive or pretending to be alive?
Okay, we build a robot, it fools everyone that it is able to hold a conversation, and shows the ability to understand. However, how do we know it isn’t simply pretending? The ending of Ex Machina is left open to interpretation. Did she pretend to have feelings for Caleb in order to manipulate him into what she wanted? Or is it more simple than that? As Oscar Isaac’s character Nathan said, she is a mouse trapped in a maze, and Caleb was her only way out. Perhaps the entire escape plan was a simple task for her that she executed perfectly? Was she alive and lied to Caleb, or was she simply pretending to be alive?
3 – Is A.I. inevitable?
When Caleb asks why Nathan created Ava, he’s told that artificial intelligence is inevitable. With technological advances happening all the time, will we get to a point where A.I. simply just happens? Even if there are laws put in place, I still believe it is unstoppable. Are we ready for this impending doom?
4 – Are humans a step in the evolutionary chain, and not the end result?
If A.I. is inevitable, what does that mean for old-fashion intelligence? Why would a robot with A.I. ever offer to help a dumb-minded ape? Humans have already changed the game of evolution and natural selection. We’re the only animal outside of the food chain; we have no natural predators, thus leading us to be able to live longer, and mate with whom we want. Instead of characteristics such strength and agility being seen as desirable, personality qualities such as loyalty and truth are seen as attractive. An evolution 2.0 if you will. What about evolution 3.0? Are we supposed to create A.I. as the next step in evolution?
AM I A ROBOT!?!?!
If A.I. is possible and the creation of a conscious mind is plausible, will we reach a stage of existential confusion? If the difference between A.I. and human intelligence is minuscule, then how can anyone comfortably judge whether they are one or the other. To blow your mind further, how do we know that we’re not robots already! Perhaps we were all designed as an organic body with a conscious mind.
On that bombshell, what do you guys think?
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