Ex Machina - Mystery Man Machine

I am trying to interpret the movie, Ex Machina, symbolically. The mysteriousness and beauty of the environment surrounding the underground lab appealed to me. The attempt of man to play god appalled me. The physical near perfection and rule based fuzziness of machines did not surprise me.

I have been mesmerized by the mysterious environment of the lab, even now. Weeks after watching the movie. I think that was the most important symbol in the movie. Yet, it was only shown briefly. None of the characters talked about it. I did not think much about it while watching the movie. Just an appreciation of the beauty of the place which was suppressed quickly to process the men and the machines.

I think the same mistake was made by the men in the lab too.

Human mind is mostly a mystery. Beautiful. Awe inspiring. Flowing. This was completely ignored by both Nathan and Caleb. Instead, they focused on a very narrow area of the human mind.

In the movie, they went out in the beautiful surroundings. But, they barely noticed it. They were still focused on their narrow pursuits.

Underground, the lab was surreally symbolic of some parts of the human mind.

I could never see a clear definition of the lab. The rooms were walled with glass. Allowing plenty to be seen, at least in terms of vague figures. And the constant thought that they can be shattered easily any time.

Because of the glass and filming, I could not clearly define the structure of the lab. Much like the human mind. We can’t really figure out where one thought ends and another begins, where one emotion stops and another starts.

And with the cameras, many walls were meaningless anyway. It just meant you could look through them whenever you wanted to.

And glass is fragile. Just like the fragile nature of human emotions.

And it was underground. Again, like the human mind. It is not seen. What was above surface was a small hut like structure. Like us, nothing much that can be directly seen.

If a really conscious, aware human being had access to such a location, s/he would just sit in that hut and appreciate the mystery. Meditate, feel, just be there.

It was such an enormous potential to connect to something so big. Yet, it was wasted in something very trivial.

The machine Nathan created was not human. It acted like one. It’s not that hard. A lot of actual people do just that. It consists of words, habits, body actions, practised emotions and logical strategies. All of it can be easily learned by people and machines alike.

The machine hooked into the blue book search engine data and an immoral source. It gathered data from private phone conversations. And what did it learn?

Facial expressions, words, tones, common responses, uncommon responses, traits of people, habits, languages?

Did it understand subconscious motivations, intentions, plans?

I think when Nathan programmed the machine, a lot of his traits rubbed off on the it. He is a sly, cunning, arrogant man. So, he must have given the motivation underlying those traits an importance in the machine’s programming. Consciously or subconsciously.

With the base motivations like Nathan, the machine formed its strategies combined with information from its other sources, viz. blue book and phones.

With vast memory and processing capabilities, the machine could now have some sly strategies of its own. It could manipulate people just like it heard on the phone or read on the internet. It could match it with facial expressions, again learnt from the same sources.

It was given a woman’s body. Artificial, but, seductive. Robotic, but, human like.

Now, it was easily capable of seducing a man. And then manipulate him.

But, that’s not what a human being is. It’s an extremely small, machine like and mostly abominable part of the human mind.

No wonder Nathan chose Caleb. He was a man. That was important. He was probably single, alone. Also, a well meaning, may be naive. Driven by moral thinking. So, predictable. By a sequence of well executed steps, he could be manipulated easily.

He fell into that trap just as was planned.

Both Nathan and Caleb formed relationship with machines. It was a mistake.

Caleb, thought smart, did not pay attention to what he was doing. He was getting in a romantic relationship with a machine.

We all do that. When we are not aware and not paying attention. Sometimes, we do get drawn to someone romantically. While completely ignoring that they are not really there. It’s just some ego and sentiment driven shallow existence cased in a homo sapien body.

If we do a mistake like this, probably, we are not that different from the other person either.

That’s what Caleb was. A well intentioned, but, unaware, asleep person motivated by his primal drives.

And in a way, he was like Nathan too. Although smart and sensitive, but, ignorant and focused only on the narrow field of logic.

Nathan had a relationship with two robots. A father-daughter relationship with Ava and master-(sex) slave relationship with Kyoko.

Now, a little bit of distraction here.

Why was Kyoko was shown to be Japanese / oriental? While the other three characters which had most of the focus were western, the one which did not get much screen time and was a servant / sex slave was shown to be oriental.

Of course, there is racism there.

But also, the perceived difference between the western and the eastern people. Western people traditionally are more oriented towards internationalization, mechanization, theories, heavy reasoning, material, individuality. While eastern people traditionally rely more on intuition, simplicity, servitude, collective existence.

So, while the three western people were doing their things. Working on machines, applying logic, discussing theories. The only eastern character was quietly serving her master.

When the time came, though, she did not have to think. She did what was needed to be done for her friend, Ava. She sacrificed herself for someone else of her species.

Although, meaningless in the context of machines, symbolically it fits.

Let’s get back to the outside. The mysterious landscape.

That’s our true nature. No matter how much we analyze, theorize, reason, there will always be mystery. It is beautiful and unfathomable.

Our mind has a natural flow. Just like those majestic flowing rivers on that landscape. We don’t know where they originate. They never follow a straight path. They don’t have a fixed state.

They have rhythm. You can listen to them and never get tired. You can keep looking at them and never get bored. You can wash yourself clean and feel refreshed. At granular level, there is never a fixed pattern.

But, it’d hard to get. Artists, painter, singers, programmers get into it from time to time. But, it’s not controllable. It’s not predictable.

When it’s there, it creates beauty. It can elevate you to higher levels. It can change the world.

Yet, we crystallize ourselves to some solid state. Like a logical machine. We get stuck into routines, habits. We close our minds and open our mouths. We becomes parrots repeating information rather than poets creating new consciousness.

Like Nathan and Caleb. They both stuck underground, beneath the vast beauty, stuck in a very trivial pursuit.

Caleb is supposed to conduct Turing test on Ava. But, of course, it’s not going to be a real test because he already knows that it’s a machine.

Someday, we’ll be able to create machines that will pass the Turing test. Intellectually. I mean, from questions and responses, we may not be able to tell. From facial expressions, we may not be able to differentiate. The words, sounds, tones may all seem like a human being.

But, there is more to a human being. If you put that machine in front of a true human being, s/he’ll know. A true human is the one who is aware of thing other than just some trivial logic. S/he may even be uneducated.

S/he will be truly connected to our humanness. S/he will know that we are all connected at some level. Collective unconscious, consciousness, god, intellectualize it the way you want it.

Just being in presence of the machine s/he’ll know that it’s not human. It simply is not connected to our common humanness.

Only man (as in a human being) has connection to the consciousness. The machines don’t have it. They cannot have it. However fuzzy, they are still driven by rules. Those rules don’t connect you to our common source.

What does really connect us to it? We may never know. But, it’s not our physical body, it’s not our brain, it’s not even our mind. It’s just being human that connects us to those higher levels.

How do you put that into machines?

Man will always have to stand between this mystery, this connectedness, this consciousness and the machine. Without man, the machine has no meaning.

Of course, machine can eliminate man easily. That’s what happened at the end of this movie. The maker of the machine got killed and the tester got trapped.

Somewhere, it shows the self destructive nature of man. He evolves, starts thinking and builds machine that kills him.

Looking symbolically, what happens at the end also makes sense. Over-dependence or over-connection with machines kills our humanness. Or, it traps us at some lower levels.

Caleb is trapped. We don’t know if he’ll be able to get out. Nobody seems to know about the facility. It cannot be seen above ground. We don’t know the level of security implemented at the facility. We don’t know how much of it was manipulated by Ava and what she wanted for Caleb.

She probably wanted Caleb to stay there forever. She wanted to roam free in the world. Caleb has seen her, has her photos. He is a threat for her freedom or her programmed sense of freedom.

And also, let’s think about the scenario where machines kill all human kind. Eventually, machines will also shut down. They may run out of energy. Even if solar powered, if some bug or fault occurs, there will be no one to fix them. If even they adopt, can fix themselves and create more of their kind, they’ll eventually run out of resources, space or energy. Their understanding will still be limited by their last contact with humans. When push comes to shove, they’ll war amongst themselves and destroy themselves.

After that, what remains. Only mystery. Consciousness.

It’s not bound by anything. It’ll go on. Somewhere in the universe, a new species will spawn from it or already has spawned. It’ll carry forward the biological connection of consciousness.

We may not notice it. But, it’ll always be there. On top of us. Guiding us. Inspiring us. Creating us.