Artificial Intelligence: Gods, egos and Ex Machina

Even with its flaws, last year’s Ex Machina perfectly captured the curious relationship between artificial intelligence, God and ego. A tiny change in its closing moments would have given it an intriguing new dimension.

It’s taken me a year and a several viewings to collect my thoughts about Ex Machina. Superficially it looks like a film about the future of artificial intelligence, but like most science fiction, it tells us more about the present than the future; and like most discussion around AI, it ends up reflecting not technological progress so much as human egos. (Spoilers ahead!)

Artificial intelligence is one of the most narcissistic fields of research since astronomers gave up the geocentric universe. A central conceit of the field has long been that creating human-like intelligence is both desirable and some sort of ultimate achievement. In the last fifty years or so, a chain of thinkers from von Neumann to Kurzweil via Vernor Vinge have stretched beyond that, to develop the idea of the ‘Singularity’ – a point at which the present human-led era ends as the first super-human AIs take charge of their own development and begin to hyper-evolve in ways we can scarcely imagine.

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