Ex-Machina, the 2014 movie by Alex Garland, is an amazing example of how much artificial intelligence has developed in the past years and what we could see in the future. A young programmer, Caleb, wins a lottery in his technological company to participate in a Turing test for a new artificial intelligence robot developed by a billionaire genius inventor, Nathan, in a secluded place. Nathan’s goal was to have another human to measure the robot’s intelligence by responding to Ava’s thoughts and emotions as if they are real knowing she is a robot.
When Caleb meets Ava he feels that she is more than just a machine. Her interactions, ability to make jokes and to follow up with conversations with questions and answers shows an advanced cognitive capacity. In a way, Ava can read Caleb’s expressions faster than he can do of hers; therefore, Caleb starts feeling a personal connection with Ava. This expression recognition is possible by the object and person recognition software inserted in Ava, with data unethically recollected by Nathan from the telecommunication companies that monitored civilians. There is more data about facial and body expressions in the software than what Caleb’s has on his head. However, the way this data was obtained in the movie is unethical. This is a problem we are also facing in the real world. For example, in 2014 Cambridge Analytica acquired Facebook’s private data of tens of millions of users to sell psychological profiles of American voters to political campaigns. Whereas the ultimate goal was not intended for artificial intelligence, it is about how the data can be obtained and the non-ethical manners to do it.
Also, the AI implemented in the movie is based on the language of what it means to be a human. Therefore, she learns more than speech interactions and even basic emotions, but also behaviors that implicate emotions after a thought process, such as fear, lying and manipulation. For example, when Ava realises that her memory may be removed, he asks Caleb for help. This shows a thought process and mimics emotions, whether or not they are real. Some people believe that artificial intelligence will never be able to have emotions, whereas others see that as feasible for the future. Ex Machina demonstrates that artificial intelligence can be so advanced that it can be nearly impossible to differentiate whether it is an emotional actor or an emotional being. For now, robots’ emotional capabilities depend on the people who interact with them. Our relations with robots determine their emotional potency.
The movies finish with Ava escaping to the real world by killing Nathan and leaving Caleb locked inside. Also, it shows that Ava’s interest in Caleb was an act. Does this show emotion or a lack of emotion? On one hand, it can be argued that her emotion for survival was bigger for any feeling he had for Caleb so she left him inside. On the other, it can be seen as the robot to not have emotions at all and just follows its software to make decisions without thinking how they affect to others. Nathan’s absence of ethics is relevant throughout the movie, since he is only concerned on the small picture of creating the smartest robot but doesn’t see how it will affect others or what consequences it will bring. For the future of artificial intelligence, we need to make sure to be ethical and safe, and always think about how it will affect our society.