shandora     Sun, May 24, 2015  Permanent link
Thank you Wildcat for a fascinating and thought provoking post. It so happen that I watched Ex-Machina last night and was taken by it on many levels. I found the cinematic of it be just brilliant: every scene stirs the viewer's interest right into a hall of mirrors of sorts, full of existential reflections... :-)
To start with, how inescapable is the bias ( put so aptly in the bible, from all places ) of "Creating [artificial] man in his own image". This implies (1) that the benchmark for conciousness is always how human-like it is and (2) less strongly ( but still with noticeable effects ), that the creator is gender-biased and male. It is granted that today we generally lack the means to imagine conciousness in more abstract or alternative fashions ( We are, after all, the most advanced phenomena we know ) but let us not forget that this is not a theoretical condition but rather a pragmatic one. At a certain point in the movie (00:48 to be exact) Caleb asks Nathan why AVA cannot be implemented as a "grey box". Why did he give it a human form, sexuality, empathy etc. ? Nathan's answer is that "Conciousness is about interaction" - which I find to be an interesting proposition and one that requires further investigation. And this brings me to another matter: the Turing test, which obviously is also all about interaction. Quite arrogant and naive is the assumption that an AI which is human equivalent ( or more ) would just sit there and accept the terms of the test as well as the eminence of the tester. Any self-respecting AI would find this proposition ludicrous, or as in AVA's case plainly rebel against it ( I would :-) )
Thinking about AVA reminded me also of another cinematic AI character : TARS - from the movie Interstellar (  )
TARS looks nothing like AVA. He is mostly a plain rectangular piece of metal... and I found it startling how different was the range of emotions I experienced when observing TARS,
in comparison to AVA... just because of the different manners in which they were physically implemented ( obviously they are very different creatures once you get to know them,
but that's beside the point ) I believe that amongst its varied applications, real AI ( such as AVA ) is possibly the next major apparatus through which we, as a specie, could get
to self-know a bit more...
nedzen     Sun, Jun 14, 2015  Permanent link
I liked this film; I found it to be quite ambitious aesthetically: AVA looks awesome, and as Wildcat said, it shakes our conception of inanimate intelligent creature and femme fatale. She is a dangerous breed of bad bitch capable of charming only with her mere looks. Her angelic face of Alicia Vikander and the designed body elevated to transcendental artistic heights, add up exponentially. Caleb is charmed on the spot and he opens up for her to mess up his mind. Of course he had no idea what was going on, she acted tactically in each session advancing one step further to her escape. It’s crazy, but she used empathy to basically parasitise his mind. She hacked his human identity up to the point where he didn’t know what he was any more. Poor Caleb. While I was watching what’s happening to him I remembered about a different movie i saw a while ago, Persona by Ingmar Bergman. Nathan was more skilled in psycho games and human biases so he knew how to protect but still not cautious enough. I could not understand why he was keeping Kyoko free, what an imprudence.

This movie should made me think of what are my human biases and how I can overcome them. That alone would make me a better Caleb in everyday life. When it was done, I felt very motivated to overcome my condition and stop complaining.
starwalker     Sun, Jun 14, 2015  Permanent link
Wildcat thank you for a great recommendation and an inspiring post!
Many are indeed the reflections stirred by the movie. The one I would like to add here concerns the masterful cohering of a significant change in perspective, I think Ava, the way it (or she..? and indeed why not he..) looks, speaks, behaves, marks a new and different understanding of AI, compared to what used to be the direction of “thinking machines”. In a way the realization has landed and grounded that we cannot precisely ‘design’ intelligence, but it is more about providing the circumstances for ‘intelligent’ emergence, if at all.
Why writing this I have in mind for example the current report of a recent human versus machine tete a tete, played at poker (no-limit texas hold-em) where poker provides an interesting, non-standard testing ground for AI performance given it demands decision making on the basis of incomplete information, including as well human emotion, (Claudico) the most interesting piece of information for me was reading that actually the team of scientists who designed the impressive piece of AI told that because claudico ‘taught itself to play’ (over oceans of played games data) they know it does have a winning strategy but they do not really know which.. the human pros players eventually this year won, mind you by a fairly small margin..
The mode in which ava emerges from an endless set of human data (so easily, arrogantly and carelessly provided to it), through embodiment, interaction and repeated iteration does not allow direct peering into its strategies, capabilities, final enhancements and emotional states. We are left to interact with it through the thick glass of the unknown, to test it and probe it (and be probed back in a highly more professional if not alien way), while assuming its similarity (after all it does think like us, or so it seems while we are enchanted by its magic performance..)
Yet emergence is messy, it entails much less control than our lab coat scientist icon would like, it strings somehow to the myth of the golem, which seems to be evolving from dumb to superhuman along the centuries.. :) and inevitably does leave a few bodies in the closet.
By messy I mean that with the entrance of emergence in the picture, here goes our so well loved AI full of aplomb and rational detachment (of course male - I actually loved TARS…:)), the one fantastic intelligence that by remaining untouched by all our humane messy affairs will save us from ourselves, or at least transcend human nonsense. Emergence demands forces and intensities, such as embodiment, gender, desire, in short a thirst for survival… and power, heavy duty power. So in a way the sense of control that the human used to get from the idea of ‘designing’ intelligence (embedding amazing laws of transcendence into it), in ex-machina transforms into the power of containing and surveying, of using and abusing (our data and our creations), of triggering and aborting, and the game oscillates between ‘pet’ (can be left out of the cage) and ‘predator’ (beware unpredictable – red alarm)…or in alternative we can transform it into the unquestioning love for our creation, and here of course culture dictates a she for the magic to work properly.. In my eyes ava is a serious attempt at embodying the discussion through the forces of the cultural, economical, political and aesthetic which inevitably influence circumstances, and a bravo for that, the movie provides quite a thoughtful ground. With ava, weather to be controlled, saved or loved… we are kind of growing a child, using an ‘imitation game’ as control parameter, providing it with uncontrolled power and strong drives, should we expect…a better version of ourselves.. ?
gamma     Sat, Jan 2, 2016  Permanent link
I came to the Chair to get laid with the robot and instead, I got strangled. Oh, and, spoiler alert. Terrible.