Geek gets his Turing on


Title: Ex Machina

Rating: 3 Stars

A software geek developer wins an internal company contest that entitles him to spend a week with the eccentric, isolated billionaire founder of his country.

It turns out that said billionaire has developed a realistic robot woman and he wants the developer to perform a Turing test on her.

In so doing, the developer develops a crush on the robot and together they try to plot her escape off of the island.

First comment is the inherent sexism that runs through this movie. It plays with the trope that the dream of every geek male is to somehow have a robotic non-human sex toy that just wants to meet his every need. It’d be so much easier not to have to deal with a real woman with real emotions. From experience, I can tell you that this is a real thing in the software world, so this movie gets a demerit for playing up to that.

This movie seems to imply that the founder has done all of this himself. There is no one else around. He talks about how hard some parts of the development was. Really? A sophisticated, very realistic robot with seemingly full AI capabilities is the work of one man? Kind of ridiculous.

And, as usual in such films, there is the obligatory programming sequence where a developer can just magically walk up to any terminal and start typing in what appears to be some shell script and can do anything with the system that he desires.

The above two comments made me initially assess it lower. The two things that redeem it is that in the movie there are some echoes to The Magus, a classic novel by Fowles in which a naïve young man ends up going to an essentially deserted island estate of a wealthy recluse who then plays mind games on the young man to the extent that he ends up doubting his insanity. There are several echoes here where the founder wreaks similar mental havoc on the young man to the point where he begins to question whether he himself is real or not.

And, of course, being a movie about robots and AI, there are interesting connections to Blade Runner. It plays with the idea of what mortality and death means to a sentient mechanical non-human. I’m not sure if new territory was broken, but it did leave me thinking interesting thoughts.


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