Complexity Explorer Santa Few Institute

Lecture: Artificial Intelligence

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4.2 Life with AIs » Video I

Ex Machina (2014)

plot synopsis from Wikipedia

Programmer Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson), who works for the dominant search engine company Blue Book, wins an office contest for a one-week visit to the luxurious, isolated, home of the CEO, Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac). Nathan lives in a beautiful, modern home next to a waterfall and climbing hills and is alone apart from a servant named Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno), who according to Nathan does not speak English. After an awkward introduction, Nathan reveals to Caleb that he has built a female humanoid robot named Ava (Alicia Vikander) with artificial intelligence. After asking Caleb if he is familiar with the Turing test, Nathan tells Caleb that he wants him to judge whether Ava is genuinely capable of thought and consciousness despite knowing she is artificial. Furthermore, the test will be passed if Caleb forgets that Ava isn't human during their daily sessions.

Ava has a robotic body but a human-looking face, hands and feet. She is confined to her isolated cell. Caleb is fascinated with Ava, but after trying to discuss Ava's technological design with Nathan, Nathan asks that Caleb only tell him how he 'feels' about her. Throughout their talks, Caleb begins to feel attracted to Ava, and she also expresses a romantic interest in him as well as a desire to experience the outside world. Ava tells him she can trigger power outages that temporarily shut down the surveillance system that Nathan uses to monitor their interactions, allowing them to speak privately. The power outages also trigger the building's security system to lock all the doors. During one outage, Ava tells Caleb that Nathan is a liar who cannot be trusted.

Caleb grows uncomfortable with Nathan's narcissism, excessive drinking, and crude behavior towards Kyoko and Ava. He learns that Nathan intends to upgrade Ava, deleting her memory, including interactions with Caleb, and thereby "killing" her current personality in the process. After encouraging Nathan to drink until he has passed out, Caleb steals his security card to gain access to his room and computer. After altering some of Nathan's code, Caleb discovers footage of Nathan interacting with previous android models in disturbing ways, and learns that Kyoko is also an android. Becoming paranoid that he himself may be an android, Caleb goes back to his room and cuts his arm open with his razor to examine his flesh, thus confirming that he is human.

At their next meeting, Ava cuts the power. Caleb explains what Nathan is going to do to her and Ava begs for his help. They form a plan: Caleb will get Nathan drunk again and reprogram the security system to open the doors during a power failure instead of locking them. When Ava cuts the power, Caleb and Ava will leave together.

Nathan reveals to Caleb that he observed Caleb and Ava's last secret conversation with a battery-powered camera. He says Ava has only pretended to like Caleb so he will help her escape. This, he says, was the real test all along, and by manipulating Caleb so successfully, Ava has demonstrated true intelligence. Ava then proceeds to cut the power. Caleb reveals that he suspected Nathan was watching them and modified the security system the previous day when Nathan was passed out. After seeing Ava leave her confinement on the surveillance camera, Nathan knocks Caleb unconscious and rushes to stop her.

With help from Kyoko, Ava stabs and kills Nathan, but in the process he destroys Kyoko and damages Ava. As Nathan bleeds out, Ava enters his private room and repairs herself. She then takes pieces of artificial skin from Nathan's earlier android models to cover her mechanical appearance. She dons a long brunette wig, a white dress, and high-heeled shoes to take on the full appearance of a young human woman. As she leaves the facility she passes the room Caleb is now locked inside, but ignores his screams. Ava escapes to the outside world and is picked up by the helicopter meant to take Caleb home. Arriving in an unknown city, she merges into the crowd.