AI in Cinema: Ex Machina

May 22nd, 2015

Ex Machina ​is one of the most intense and thought­-provoking movies I’ve ever seen. More of a psychological thriller than an action flick, Ex Machina is a chilling exploration of the boundaries between man and machine. The movie looks at artificial intelligence in a critical, unromantic light. It examines the realistic implications of computers someday outsmarting humans.

AI would be the biggest event in history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last.
Elon Musk

The idea that we humans are just a momentary step in the ongoing chain of evolution is undeniably frightening, even for the most avid technophiles. One of the official trailers to Ex Machina plays on this fear by quoting prominent leaders in technology such as Elon Musk and Bill Gates. Only after seeing the movie and watching the trailer a second time did the message really sink in. With the pulsating music and ponderous quotes, I wondered if Ex Machina is a cautionary tale, and if so, what kind of cautionary tale.

Summary (Spoiler Alert)

The opening scene takes place inside the offices of BlueBook, a search engine company vaguely reminiscent of Google. Caleb, a 26­-year old programmer, wins the company-­wide raffle to visit the CEO in person and learn about his latest undertaking.


What I understood right away after seeing the film is the lack of a moral imperative. The movie is descriptive rather than prescriptive. Intelligent machines are on the horizon, and there’s no reason why they should live to serve us, their inferior predecessors. This doesn’t mean that human beings will be obliterated by machines. What it does mean that we will have to get off our laurels as a species and realize that our place at the top of the food chain is a precarious one. In order for our species to survive and to coevolve with machines, we must stay relevant.

Ex Machina is devastatingly indifferent to the romantic ideals and over-hyped fears surrounding the future of technology. It neither glorifies nor demonizes technological progress. That’s what I love about the movie; the fact that it breaks away from the usual human­-centric tropes of science fiction and fantasy. The universe does not exist for our benefit and neither does our technology. Some day, our technology may very well beat us in the Darwinian competition for survival. While this thought chills me to the bone, it excites me and gives me an odd sense of transcendent hope. I actually look forward to something better than humans coming along.

Easter Eggs

While searching online for more information on the movie, I came across some interesting results. One of them was an “Easter egg” found within one of the snapshots of the computer code used in the movie. The actual code is written in Python and, when executed, will output the ISBN number for Embodiment and the inner life: Cognition and Consciousness ​by Murray Shanahan (2010). A low­-resolution screenshot and code snippet can be seen below.

Heres the python code

 #BlueBook code decryption

   import sys
   def sieve(n):
       x = [1] * n
       x[1] = 0
       for i in range(2,n/2):
               j = 2 * i
               while j < n:
                       j = j+i
       return x    def prime(n,x):
       i = 1
       j = 1
       while j <= n:
               if x[i] == 1:
                       j = j + 1
               i = i + 1
       return i - 1
   code = [1206,301,384,5]
   key =[1,1,2,2,]    sys.stdout.write(“”.join(chr(i) for i in [73,83,66,78,32,61,32]))
   for i in range (0,4):



Categories: Artificial IntelligenceReviews