Ex Machina Director: Scientists Made Sure the Film's Artificial Intelligence 'Stands Up' in Real Life

Tuesday, 07 April 2015 - 4:43PM
Ex-Machina
Tuesday, 07 April 2015 - 4:43PM
Ex Machina Director: Scientists Made Sure the Film's Artificial Intelligence 'Stands Up' in Real Life
The upcoming sci-fi thriller Ex Machina, which comes out in theaters this weekend, raises many real-life questions about the ethics surrounding artificial intelligence. But is the depiction of the AI itself true to life? In a new interview with Wired, director Alex Garland claimed that he had several scientists who specialize in AI go through the film with a fine-toothed comb in order to ensure that the science in the film was accurate. 

"In particular, I came across a book by a guy called Murray Shanahan, a professor of cognitive robotics at Imperial College, the UK's version of MIT. I felt very sympathetic to its argument when I read it. So when I wrote this script I contacted him, and also a couple of other people, and, 'I want you to be really tough on this script and make sure it stands up.'"

But even so, he conceded that there were underlying assumptions that were necessarily speculative to some extent: "There were two conceits we made. One is that you can create a sentient machine and the other is that you have incredibly high-level robotics which let that sentient machine have a face, to have nuance. Now those are huge conceits, and somebody might reasonably say it's equivalent to the warp drive. But it is science fiction-and within those conceits, I tried to be quite tough about it."

So essentially, the film is accurate so long as the viewer accepts the main premise. This might seem like a little bit of a cop-out, but the premise may not be as speculative as it sounds. One of Ex Machina's scientific advisors, Adam Rutherford, recently stated that the film's portrayal of Ava's intelligence is relatively realistic, although on the physical side, a robot with a human-like body is likely still decades away at best. 

But regardless of whether the film is 100% scientifically accurate, it promises to be intellectually compelling, as Garland has many interesting ideas about the philosophical implications of artificial intelligence. When asked if he was afraid of superintelligent, Skynet-esque AI, Garland said, "I kind of welcome it. Humans are going die on this planet. It might be because of eco-disasters or maybe because of changes that happen within the solar system or the sun. But when it happens, we're not going to go through a wormhole and go to another galaxy and find an old planet. It's just not going to happen. What will survive on our behalf is AIs-if we manage to create them. That's not problematic, it's desirable."

To sum up, Garland states that he intended Ex Machina to be a "pro-AI movie." "It's humans who fuck everything up; machines have a pretty good track record in comparison to us."
Science Fiction
Sci-Fi Movies
Ex-Machina