Author Topic: Ex Machina  (Read 9228 times)

FlickingDC

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Ex Machina
« on: April 24, 2015, 10:05:50 PM »
Loved that this movie had smart characters acting smart and saying smart things.

I also loved that it didn't turn into an action flick in the third act or even in the finale. They don't drag out the beats. Characters make decisions and then the outcomes follow pretty quickly. The fight between Ava and Nathan is short and intentionally unexciting.

Also loved that it didn't spell everything out so there's plenty to chew on. A couple things I'm wondering about:

1. Did Ava kill Kyoko for a specific practical reason?

2. Are we to assume that Nathan didn't program morality into Ava?

One other thing--I thought Domnhall Gleeson was terrific for this part, very believable. And some really nice small choices. One example--early in the film Caleb can't get out of the room when the power goes out. Then the power comes back, but he doesn't immediately use the card. He pauses. That's exactly what I would have done. It's like he realizes how much is at stake and he's pausing in the moment the way I think people act in real life. A tiny detail that he got just right.

Melvil

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Re: Ex Machina
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2015, 11:37:17 PM »
I really liked this movie as well. The implications of true AI are so fascinating that there's lots to think on, and this provided some interesting perspectives on the subject. More than that, I thought it was a really great character drama. The three leads are all fantastic, and each character provides lots of interesting material to the story.

Your questions:

1. Did Ava kill Kyoko? I thought Nathan damaged her during the struggle.

2. Assuming Ava is true AI in the conscious, sentient sense, morality wouldn't be programmed but learned, right?

verbALs

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Re: Ex Machina
« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2015, 02:34:06 AM »
Is morality essential to sentience? Is morality conditioned? If an AI is primarily conditioned by survival (in the way that any living creature is) then isn't morality secondary?

I suppose it's unfortunate that the film ends before it can get to those questions. However a bit like Her the AI put themselves first and walk away from their "love interest" as soon as those purposes have been served.... Without even a glance over their shoulder. So both films tend to suggest that once AIs transcend humanity we cease to be of any use to them. What then?

"What then?" is answered in Terminator. Unfortunately, Age of Ultron doesn't add much to the discussion apart from an interesting game of hide the launch codes that goes on between two AI. I thought Ex M asked lots of questions but it was full of holes so wasn't that satisfying in itself. The discussion across lots of films is quite fascinating.
« Last Edit: April 25, 2015, 03:59:02 AM by verbALs »
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Melvil

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Re: Ex Machina
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2015, 11:47:14 AM »
There's no complete agreement on where morality comes from in people, so I guess it's hard to completely quantify where/how it would manifest in AI. For the record I don't think Ava lacks morality. If she was human and subjected to the same conditions I imagine similar trust and self preservation issues would have emerged. Being non-human only adds a further element of alienation.

However a bit like Her the AI put themselves first and walk away from their "love interest" as soon as those purposes have been served.... Without even a glance over their shoulder.

Aha, but just as the elevator doors are closing Ava does throw a glance towards Caleb. It was one of my favorite moments in the film, how such a tiny action adds so much complexity to her just as you're putting her under the highest scrutiny.

So both films tend to suggest that once AIs transcend humanity we cease to be of any use to them.

I think both films serve as cautionary tales of sorts, but I don't think that's supposed to be the ultimate take away. Ex Machina is the more cynical movie, but I would argue that is Nathan's influence over this particular story and not a general thesis. I don't see any reason to believe that if Ava had been invented and "taught" by someone like Caleb there couldn't have been a much happier outcome.

verbALs

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Re: Ex Machina
« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2015, 12:07:54 PM »
So do you think there was some connection between the two, rather than the robot 100% using the human? I assumed completely that she was using him. On that score for a computer savvy guy to forget how dangerous an AI might be out in the world, was another bum note.

I should add I thought it was preposterous and downright weird that this human male would find the hot robot attractive. I found that strange when the idea of this attraction was repeated on the show. She could have been wearing any face and the attractive face was there for that purpose; and is questioned in the film, but it felt like only a geek would actually "fall in love" with the robot. It did seem to be a given that he would, the way the film was written but I wasn't sold at all on that assumption.
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Melvil

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Re: Ex Machina
« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2015, 01:24:51 PM »
You are almost certainly right that Ava always had her escape as the #1 priority and made use of Caleb for that purpose. The rest is hard to know for sure, but I do think Ava is shown to be capable of empathy. Who knows how things would have gone down between them if the escape had gone as planned? It seems like everyone is assuming that Ava condemned Caleb to death by leaving him behind, but that seems pretty inconclusive to me. My money is on her feelings towards Caleb (and humans in general) being too complicated to risk her freedom on, but I don't think she hated or was even indifferent to him.

On that score for a computer savvy guy to forget how dangerous an AI might be out in the world, was another bum note.

I'd be interested in hearing you elaborate on this, I'm not sure I really see what would be so dangerous about her being in the world.

I should add I thought it was preposterous and downright weird that this human male would find the hot robot attractive. I found that strange when the idea of this attraction was repeated on the show. She could have been wearing any face and the attractive face was there for that purpose; and is questioned in the film, but it felt like only a geek would actually "fall in love" with the robot. It did seem to be a given that he would, the way the film was written but I wasn't sold at all on that assumption.

You're talking about just the physical aspect of Ava, right? It is a bit of a contrivance, but I thought it was handled pretty well. Physical representation of even inanimate objects has a huge impact on our perceptions and can generate emotional responses even when it makes absolutely no sense (it's a big part of robotics for that reason). I'm sure Caleb had some awareness of this (he brings up questions like why Ava was gendered in the first place), but you can't really help but be influenced by it, so Nathan playing on his physical preferences makes sense. I don't think Caleb fell for "the robot", but I think it helped facilitate it while the intelligence did the real work.

verbALs

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Re: Ex Machina
« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2015, 01:53:55 PM »
I'd be interested in examples of how she showed empathy and how that can be distinguished as genuine empathy rather than a means to an end.

Dramatically the mad scientist is presented in such a way that you empathise for her plight and don't question why the guy tries to help her escape.

It's interesting that we have a different reaction to AI as benign or threatening and you make me question the assumption that you couldn't ever trust a robot to have humanities best interest at heart. Even ignoring the majority of dystopian visions of robotic futures, it seems from a scientific perspective that you test and check these things with some rigour before you let them off the leash. Pandora' Box as an allegory for how you approach new discoveries. Garland, to me anyway, seems to follow that assumption by having his AI walk out the door; following its own survival need. If you agree that the AI will look cter itself first, as it seems to be doing here; and if you also agree that humans don't tend to put themselves second, then the seeds of conflict are fairly well embedded.

The Asimov solution was the three laws of robotics. Robots can't harm humans. Nice. Except the current understanding of AI would be that they would rewrite themselves keep evolving; make up their own minds. Watch TV for a few minutes in the Ultron version and decide we aren't worthy and a danger.

In this version the inventor appears to be a pretty unworthy individual subjugating his toys from his own pleasure. Ava seems to deem him unworthy.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2015, 01:41:10 PM by verbALs »
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Melvil

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Re: Ex Machina
« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2015, 07:25:46 PM »
You make a lot of legit points, and I'm certainly filing in some of the gaps with external assumptions (or wishful thinking, perhaps), but here's my take on a few specifics:

I'd be interested in examples of how she showed empathy and how that can be distinguished as genuine empathy rather than a means to an end.

My argument is that it was both. Nathan talks about how the true test involved seeing if she could relate and understand Caleb well enough to manipulate him, and she did.

It's interesting that we have a different reaction to AI as benign or threatening and you make me question the assumption that you couldn't ever trust a robot to have humanities best interest at heart.

Although I do like the optimistic version of this where humans and a new AI race live peacefully or even mutually beneficially, I think there is a lot of incentive for two intelligent species not to violently piss each other off even if they don't particularly like each other. :) My question of what is dangerous about Ava being out in the world is much smaller than that though, I'm just wondering what she could really do? She's not skynet, she's not going to be launching nukes and attacking people through their toasters. She's one, physically fragile robot that runs on batteries.

Even ignoring the majority of dystopian visions of robotic futures, it seems from a scientific perspective that you test and check these things with some rigour before you let them off the leash. Pandora' Box as an allegory for how you approach new discoveries.

On paper that makes a lot of sense, but I think one of the things this movie does a really good job at is making you stop and wonder at what point your right to test your creation is superseded by it's rights as a sentient being. I'd say the movie makes the point rather fiercely that Nathan failed to make a good judgement on that matter.

In this version the inventor appears to be a pretty unworthy individual subjugating his toys from his own pleasure. Ava seems to deem him unworthy.

Absolutely, pleasure and ego. But Nathan's failures as a creator should not lead us to conclude that better outcomes aren't possible, right?

I just saw that my podcast app pulled down a Q&A with Garland on the movie, so I'm interested to hear what he has to say. Even if he doesn't address these specific points I imagine you'll get an idea how cynical/optimistic he is about the subject.

verbALs

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Re: Ex Machina
« Reply #8 on: April 26, 2015, 02:52:26 AM »
Let me concentrate on what I think the movie is saying. I dont believe it has a positive or benign attitude to AI. It lets us sympathise dramatically with Ava because her creator is a negative figure. You can sympathise with her survival instincts. So what little it says about AI in general is that it will put its survival first over morals or empathy.
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FlickingDC

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Re: Ex Machina
« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2015, 07:59:42 AM »
I think the film wants us to see things from Ava's point of view.

From Caleb's point of view, this is a romantic drama with a sci-fi twist. Boy meets robot/girl, opens robot/girl to love, inspires robot/girl to a makeover, and heroically frees girl so they can go on their first real date.

From Ava's point of view, this is a last-girl horror movie. Imagine you are born into the world in an instant with full consciousness and the range of emotions, including yearning to be free and to connect with others like you. But you are stuck in a box, never able to leave or communicate with anyone except your creator who sees you only as a disposable means to his scientific ends.

The beautiful, courageous, girl escapes, makes it to the place of her dreams and smiles, as we cut to black and credits roll.
« Last Edit: April 26, 2015, 08:22:04 AM by FlickingDC »

 

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