Response To Ex Machina (2015) - An Essay (PART 1)

"Precisely how and when will our curiosity kill us? I bet you're curious," (Friend). Curiosity beginning in the human mind drives innovation and change in the human surroundings, but is there ever a point where our curiosity will cause our very own destruction as it did in Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein? Will humans create another form of life that is bigger, better, smarter, and more efficient than we are? There is most definitely a possibility, as we are currently heading in the direction of creating a monster that will end human existence through the development of Artificial Intelligence; and there have been several films released to portray these fears and anxieties. In Alex Garland's film Ex Machina (2015), A.I. Ava's ability to pass the Turing test brings forward the fear of A.I.'s intelligence surpassing human intelligence as presented in the film where she is able to outsmart both Nathan and Caleb to claim her free will, which brings into question whether the excessive curiosity and quest for knowledge that human beings have may result in our destruction and the end our time.

What is the Turing test, and does Ava pass? The Turing test is a test developed by Alan Turing in 1950 and is designed to determine whether an A.I. is "a true A.G.I" or not based on whether it "could fool human judges into believing it" is human, (Friend). In Ex Machina (2015), the Turing test is conducted on Ava, the A.I. developed by Nathan, but it is conducted in a different manner. Rather than conducting the test with a panel of judges, a young coder Caleb is to interact with Ava, and whether or not Ava is able to convince Caleb that she has consciousness will determine whether or not she passes the Turing test. So, does Ava pass the test? Since the test is not conducted in the traditional manner, it is not possible to determine whether Ava truly passes the Turing test. However, the Turing test is meant to determine whether an A.I. is a true A.I. through the A.I.'s ability to demonstrate that it has human qualities and independent thought; and therefore even though the Turing test is conducted differently in the film, it can be determined that Ava passes the test because she is able to convince Caleb that she is conscious, which is the objective of the test to begin with. In other words, she is able to convince Caleb, as well as the viewers, that her feelings of attraction are innate rather than programmed. But what are those human qualities that Ava possesses that make her a true A.G.I?

Part of being human is the demand for and the right of free will, which is what Ava works to achieve during the film and is what makes her characteristic of a human as she utilizes manipulation and deception to free herself. The task given to Ava by Nathan is to escape from her room using given tools, including Caleb. She is able to deceive Caleb into freeing her; however, "for all she knows, Caleb is only freeing her so he can be with her, and that's not what she wants," (Awad). Because Ava uses Caleb as a tool for escape, some may argue that she is not truly passing the Turing test as she only sees him as a tool rather than a human being with feelings. Even though Ava utilizes Caleb as an object to escape, she acknowledges he has feelings and manipulates them to her advantage to lead to her escape as she captures him through taking advantage of his attraction to her. Therefore, using Caleb as a tool is not inhumane, rather a smart strategy that she uses to her advantage, and as humans, we do what is necessary to gain freedom when it is taken away. Ava's manipulation and deception of Caleb is a part of her problem-solving strategy for the pursuit of free will, which she ultimately achieves. Her completion of this task shows her ability to think critically to fulfill the desire to save herself through the use of abstract tools such as emotion rather than physical tools such as a hammer to escape, which is a characteristic of human beings.

Manipulation and deception in humans stem from the desire to achieve a goal or complete a task, and this desire is vital to consciousness and is why Ava has the same consciousness of a human being. As humans, "we strive to promote the occurrence of anything that we imagine to be conducive to an increase in the power with which we strive to persevere in being; but we strive to avert or destroy whatever we imagine being incompatible with this thing or, whatever is conducive to a decrease in the power with which we strive to persevere in being," where striving is equivalent to desire in the pursuit of joy (LeBuffe). Ava has the desire to escape from the room Nathan has placed her in, not only because it is the task he has given her but also because she believes she is entitled to the same freedom that humans have, as she expresses to Caleb. She strives to destroy what is not compatible with her goal to be free, which is Nathan. Therefore, the destruction of her creator to persevere in being, as Lebuffe mentions, is an essential part of consciousness and the sense of self that humans develop in early stages of life, which makes Ava an aware and conscious A.I. rather than a psychopath. But is Ava designed and programmed to have this consciousness and self-awareness, or does she develop it later just like a human child who learns self-awareness rather than being born with it? The answer lies in human programming vs machine/A.I. programming, which will be discussed in Part 2.

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