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Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being. (Albert Camus)
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    "The essential problem of man in a computerized age remains the same as it has always been. That problem is not solely how to be more productive, more comfortable, more content, but how to be more sensitive, more sensible, more proportionate, more alive. The computer makes possible a phenomenal leap in human proficiency; it demolishes the fences around the practical and even theoretical intelligence. But the question persists and indeed grows whether the computer makes it easier or harder for human beings to know who they really are, to identify their real problems, to respond more fully to beauty, to place adequate value on life, and to make their world safer than it now is."

    The Poet and the Computer
    By Norman Cousins



    I fell in love with AVA, that happened a few days ago after I watched Ex-Machina.

    From 1927 until 1982 I have loved Maria (from Fritz Lang Metropolis)



    From 1982 until 2015 I have loved Rachael (from Ridley Scott Blade Runner)


    and now it is AVA turn, from the just released Ex-Machina.
    (And since I finished with my love life it is time to dwell on Ex-Machina.)

    This is not your regular vanilla science fiction flick, there is something deep and profound in Ex-Machina, its thrill and frissons are there because of its extraordinary reflectiveness.
    There are of course many CGI effects that are tantalizing in their realness, and the visuals are seriously orgasmic and stimulating, but that is not what the movie is about, this is not a dystopian end of the world AI movie.
    Au contraire, if I was to describe the movie (and I am) I would call it a future docudrama.
    In fact to my eyes, Ex-Machina is impressive precisely because its main emphasis is on questions that belong to existential philosophy.
    From unfathomable questions of ‘ what is consciousness’? to questions of epistemology on the nature of knowledge and brushing the psychology of man machine interactions, reflectivity, intentionality, sexuality, volition and much more.
    Ex-machina is an extraordinary tiny and intimate film, and to my mind probably the best in this genre. Compared to ‘HER’ (another interesting movie on the subject of AI and robotics) I think Ex-Machina represents a step ahead in the underlying discourse of our own humanity being challenged in its most profound issues of beingness.
    Ex-Machina is unhurried, deliberately demanding of the viewer an intense reflection while following the amazing performance of AVA (the acting of Alicia Vikander is exquisite) .
    AVA, the beautiful android in Ex Machina, is not a mimicry machine, ‘she’(it?) is not simply an AI that mimics human equivalent intelligence (Hei), she is an enticing, glamorous and fascinating exemplar of an other. And though she is the epitome depiction of a ‘femme fatale’ sexbot, and therefore charms and ensnares her lovers, often leading them into compromising, dangerous, and deadly situations, her textual conversations are not conceptually enlightening, she is though far from being a cliché, she is a Brancusi sculpture come alive. (Not surprisingly the actual makers of AVA looked at lots of Brancusi sculptures when exploring different forms of organic and sensible creations- see- More human than human: the making of Ex Machina’s incredible robot )

    I see Ava as an ‘Other than human’ prototype, Ava is a depiction of what is known as a replicant, but unlike Rachael in Ridley Scott Blade runner, Ava shows her innards (we see part of her robotic body continuously) a fact which to my mind makes all the difference in the world.
    By showing the viewers a realistic if very advanced robotic being meshed with obviously natural human traits, director Garland continuously shifts our focus, into a perceptual carousel if you like.

    This in itself is a teaser to our perceptual habits, and in this sense does not allow us to settle either on the human or on the android but demands a continuous re-adjustment of the concept (be it the human machine or the machine human).



    And then comes the full impact of her character in which just like humans Ava is selectively empathic.
    To my mind the most interesting feature of Ava is this, that she is able to discriminate on an emotional level.
    The reason I think that is the most advanced feature of Ava is because it defeats in one go the most important aspect of all dystopian futuristic depictions of robots uprising , that they see us (humans) all as the same hindrance.
    Ava has the emotional response and reflectivity of a human and for all practical purposes is in fact a humanoid AI.
    She is immediately accepted on first sight, by Caleb (invited to apparently test her Turing test fitness- no spoilers) and us the viewers are instantly taken by her hybrid beauty in tech, her body being semi transparent and obviously non human.
    With Ava I believe we have in front of us a perfect study case of how our perceptions are changing.

    Human beings carry an evolutionary imperative of survivability and reproduction that machines presently do not, however, as computing powers evolve and our desire to embed artificial lives, artificial intelligence and eventually artificial consciousness, increases, these evolutionary imperatives are inevitable.
    Ava is a perfect example of an analog machine, operating in an environment that is fully controlled, until of course (due to cinematic necessities) she desires to escape her prison, just like any human mind will.

    And now of course comes the hard question Ava asks Caleb

    Ava: “do you think I might be switched off?”
    Caleb:” its not up to me!”
    Ava: “ why is it up to anyone?”


    This innocent question of Ava to Caleb presents us in one shot with the very foundation of our own ethics and morality.
    For, at what point do we cease playing god and allow our creations the autonomy of existence to which we are not masters anymore?
    Obviously no one has a problem switching off their (by now legendary) toasters but switching off a conscious being?
    That is a totally different story and to my mind that is really the theme of Alex Garland Movie.

    Ava is obviously conscious, certainly loveable, empathic, sensual, enticing and a fascinating.. what?
    A conscious aware being, a form of life we recognize as such because it is similar to us?
    We tend to speak of the evolution of intelligence in terms of ‘ Human equivalent AI’ or greater than human equivalent AI, what is generally termed , super intelligence, but aren’t we by using this very terminology, assigning value and meaning to these forms of life?
    And when we do so, as indeed logic requires, we necessarily tap into our very own value system in which life (or at least human equivalent life) is to a large extent sacred.
    What do we do then?
    The factuality of AI is upon us, with machines increasingly becoming ‘human like’ and surpassing human abilities in many fields, historically considered ‘human only’, sooner or later we will face an Ava, a conscious aware life form that is other than us.
    What do we do then?
    The way I see it, that is the great challenge ahead of us.

    To a large extent we are as a species still on the speculation stage concerning the so called nature of sentience, sapience, intelligence and conscious awareness. And though philosophers and scientist alike have ruminated about these issues for ages we are still in our infancy when trying to disentangle the Gordian knot of what we are.
    And yet we are very proficient in creating life forms, other than us, bio mechanical or on whatever substrate these happen to be, that for all practical purposes mimic our very own existential angst, as is portrayed by Ava in Ex-Machina.
    Artificial intelligence in this sense is probably the only field of human exploration that might yield some answers as concerns our very own nature.
    The difference however is that in the case of AI, we are writing the narrative right now and in a very real sense we are the poets of the electronic brains poems.

    I leave you to ponder these questions, after watching this most recommended movie. I have no doubt that Ava will make you fall in love with her, for she is ‘us’ but other.
    For my part I believe in the rise of artificial consciousness, whether in the next 20 ,or 100 years is not the point, the point is that it is changing us, right here and right now.
    Our awareness to this change of perception and worldviews is what we should be focused on, for by understanding that which we are creating, we might finally make a dent in the great mystery that is us.
    For we are all by virtue of our inquisitiveness and empathy, poets.

    “Poets remind men of their uniqueness. It is not necessary to possess the ultimate definition of this uniqueness. Even to speculate on it is a gain.”

    The Poet and the Computer
    By Norman Cousins


    Sun, May 24, 2015  Permanent link
    Categories: AI,Ex-Machina,Ava,artificial consciousness,
    Sent to project: Polytopia
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