Ex Machina, Artificial Intelligence, and the Ethical Dangers--or Benefits?--of New Technology


"If you've created a conscious machine," says Caleb to Nathan toward the beginning of Ex Machina, when Caleb discovers Nathan is on the verge of creating an artificial intelligence indistinguishable from human intelligence, "it's not the history of man. Ex Machina, written and directed by Alex Garland, is an intriguing film about the wonders and dangers of artificial intelligence (AI). Garland's tale is stylishly told, beautifully photographed, and aided by a clever script that subverts standard cinematic clichés. It is also suffused with religious themes and theological motifs--unsurprisingly, because ever since Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the prospect of human beings creating human-like beings of their own has almost invariably raised the issue of "playing God." In Ex Machina, Caleb is a computer coder brought to Nathan's secret research facility to apply the Turing Test to Nathan's AI--that is, to test whether a human interacting with the robot would be able to tell that the AI is non-human.