Dennis D. McDonald (ddmcd@outlook.com) is an independent consultant located in Alexandria Virginia. His services and capabilities are described here. Application areas include project, program, and data management; market assessment, digital strategy, and program planning; change and content management; social media; and, technology adoption. Follow him on Google+. He also publishes on CTOvision.com and aNewDomain.

Alex Garland's EX MACHINA

Alex Garland's EX MACHINA

Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald

Ex Machina has developed a reputation for being one of the more cerebral science-fiction movies to come along in many years. While I agree that it’s a pleasure to see a non-crash-bang/non-superhero-film-masquerading-as-SF, I was a bit let down by the AI (artificial intelligence) aspects of the film.

The film is more successful at exploring roles, relationships, and expectations about sexuality. Is that not the point, you might ask, to explore such questions in the context of our relationship with synthetic humans?

That’s where the film disappointed me somewhat in terms of exploring questions of artificial intelligence. Why make a sentient, feeling, and potentially manipulative being in the form of a human? The question is not really explored in this film. We are left to divine such motivations from glimpses into the manipulative and dominant personality of the inventor.

Perhaps a hint to understanding the “why” question is that Ava is usually seen as part human and part machine. The technology is clearly available to the inventor to make her appear 100 percent human but her machine components are usually clearly visible (via some of the best special effects I’ve ever seen). Is this because the inventor wants to make the “Turing Test” conducted by his young visitor to clearly focus on verbal and empathic interaction? Or is it because the inventor sees a value to making the machine aspects of Ava clear to all since her physical appearance is less important than how she communicates and interacts?

Such questions are not really answered by the movie. That said, this is a masterfully well-made film complete with effective mystery and plot surprises. But, I suspect that when “true AI” is married to a physically independent and mobile platform, what eventually evolves is going to be a lot different from beings that look, act, and even feel like us humans. These new beings, as suggested at one point by the inventor, might view us as pitiful fossils long supplanted by technological evolution.

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Review copyright (c) 2015 by Dennis D. McDonald

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