By: Jay Dyer
Ex Machina is the latest incarnation of the familiar Short Circuit theme we’ve seen lately – but this film does not feature the madcap antics of Johnny 5 seducing Ally Sheedy. In Ex Machina, the bots are babes, and the babe bots are not happy about their male masters, and Steve Gutenberg is not one of them. However, there is a lot of sexual innuendo and robo fetish in this download, and as you can imagine with a JaysAnalysis analysis, there’s a deeper, esoteric meaning! Boot up your floppies and polish your laser discs because if there’s anything we can learn from Ex Machina, it’s that you can make a chick perfect and she still ain’t happy.
For most nerds, the robobabe is some kind of fantasy, but Ex Machina has an important lesson to teach all nerds: give up that pipe dream. Recalling iconic imagery from Speilberg’s A.I., PKD and Blade Runner, here we have the archetypal tech geek who is coaxed into meeting a tech elite at his underground mountain facility following winning a “contest.” As a low-level coder at Bluebook, the world’s largest search engine, Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson) discovers his CEO, Nathan Bateman’s (played by Oliver Isaac) home is actually a research facility for super advanced A.I. Guarded by levels of security requiring key cards and shrouded in secrecy, Bateman’s zen architecture provides a stark contrast of cold techno logic against the lush green of the mountain forests, foreshadowing the coming faceoff between nature/man and A.I. As with 2001: A Space Odyssey, man specifically will square off, not against the masculine HAL, but the feminine Ava (played by Alicia Vikander).
Caleb is instructed by Nathan to perform a series of Turing tests on Ava to see if she can pass by fooling him into thinking she is self-aware. Boozing his way through the film, Nathan’s shady side gradually emerges as it becomes evident he is lying to Caleb. Modelled on a seven-day week patterned after the days of creation in Genesis, each day Caleb conducts a “session” with Ava that involves a series of questions between them, as Nathan watches each session from his panoptic surveillance system. Dating herself as “1,” Ava refuses to specify whether she is one day or one year old, indicating (following the climax) that she is not concerned with dates because she is the new number 1, the first, as a fembot replacement of Adam.
With lifelike precision, Ava is able to perfectly mimic human emotions and manipulate Caleb into thinking she is self-aware and experiences emotional attachment to him. Utilizing his weakness as a horny, single tech geek, Ava we find has profiled Caleb from the beginning, and rather than winning a competition, the real study is not Ava, but a deep psychological operation on Caleb to see if he can be manipulated by A.I. Nathan has planned all along to deceive Caleb into thinking he is special, and through mass surveillance data collected globally, Nathan is able to construct the perfect A.I. deception based on Caleb’s online footprint and psych profile.
Readers will recall that I highlighted in this very idea in past articles, explaining that social media and search engines themselves are designed ultimately to provide the synthetic version of the subconscious for the “global brain.” The global brain is a real plan, and as highlighted in my analysis of Spike Jonze’s Her, it will be linked into the supercomputers, the Internet of Things, and the mass data from search engines and social media. All of this is explicitly stated and revealed in the plot of Ex Machina, even to the point of Caleb sounding like he was reading directly from JaysAnalysis articles – that problems in the philosophy of linguistics and pattern recognition would be central to avoiding the Godelian “loop” of determined reactions, that might be circumvented by linking the A.I. to the “global brain.” As I wrote in reference to Her:
Bill Joy, in his famous piece “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us,” warned of this years ago in Wired Magazine, but what deep researchers know is that this has been the century-long terminus of the entire establishment. More recently, I have also delved into the Manhattan Project as the major, over-arching program that, like MK ULTRA, is actually a name for numerous side projects. With Manhattan for example, the front that it was merely about building the bomb is only a cover story.
The Manhattan Project also reaches as far as the Salk Institute, brain initiatives, mass innoculations (via Dr. Salk), and much, much more. Even now, the Manhattan Projects many transformations has led to its present incarnation as the Department of Energy, and Oak Ridge, TN’s old atomic factory is now the home to an NSA supercomuputer (under the Department of Energy). Supercomputers like these are the backbone of this “global brain.”
Bateman’s fictional company “Bluebook,” is therefore a representation of both Google and Facebook. Both J.C. Collins and myself wrote some months ago:
“To see this principle in action, and I think operating as an interesting proof of my thesis, Philosophy of Metrics writer J.C. Collins has recently posted a great article on the ultimate goal of social media and information trafficking in relation to AI. Normally, A.I. can perform logical tasks of if, then relations like what we see in modus ponens or formal logic, but spontaneous emergence of the ideational – consciousness, is really the key. This subconscious manifestation (directly linked to the aether and psyche like Jung and Pauli argued), isn’t easy to “catch.” Ideas come and go, and may be written down, but how might we “capture” the archetypal flow and trend of mass thought? What about mass thoughtforms that are floating about? Collins is right to use computerized banking as a model, but the purpose is much deeper.
As Collins relates, going to other galaxies is problematic for humans because of the obviously brief lifespan, but what about AI? Certainly the plan is to concoct such AI systems, but an AI system is still stuck within the walls of formal logic and set theory strangeloops, as Hofstadter grappled with in his Godel, Escher, Bach. However, what if an AI could draw from a deep well of a synthetic matrix? What if AI could be made to experience some form of spontaneous (supposedly) archetypal imagery? Here enters the matrix “web” of the Internet and social media. A synthetic anima mundi would have to be constructed, gathering massive amounts of data and information over a long period of time. And that, my friends, is the entire, ultimate goal of the Internet and social media.”
It is important to understand that like Her, this is the only other film I’ve seen that exposes so much in terms of what the real plan is in regard to A.I. While sounding too fantastical and far-flung for the average public, the real secret of the Manhattan Project is precisely this – to achieve transcendence through the singularity, where technology and biology merge, and a complete end is made of man, as man. In fact, the Manhattan project is even mentioned specifically in the film by Caleb, who cites Oppenheimer’s “I have become Shiva, the destroyer of worlds” in reference to Ava. This foreboding warning mirrors the numerous skulls that populate Nathan’s facility, including the skeletal/Terminator-esque look of his private sex slave bot. Ava and the A.I. are the death of man, which Caleb leans all too late.
Presuming he can outsmart both Nathan and Ava, Caleb reprograms the facility to let Ava free with the intention of trapping Nathan. In the reveal, Nathan foils Caleb’s plan and explains that Caleb was the subject of the elaborate psy op all along, to see if he could be manipulated by A.I. The psychological experiment is a success, but Ava outsmarts them both, trapping Caleb in a glass box, just like Ava had been imprisoned. As Ava studies Nathan’s bedroom, she finds the former models of herself were actually sex slave bots, servicing Nathan. Determining not to free Caleb, Ava grafts the synthetic skin of the former bots onto her frame and departs the facility in Caleb’s copter. The closing scene is Ava in the world as a sort of reverse Genesis fall narrative, where instead of man being banished from the Garden for his sin, a new form of “man,” a Lilith robo woman leaves the Garden of supposed patriarchal tyranny, having been exploited as a sex slave by her father/Creator Nathan (as he is described in the film).
Gnostic and kabbalistic themes present themselves here, as Ava is the final incarnation of the synthetic anima mundi, the global brain of collected datum. Ava is both the gnostic Sophia embodied, as well as a Golem, the synthetic (wo)man, and a kind of Lilith, who has rebelled against both her Creator (God) and husband Adam. It is worth mentioning that in the quixotic dance scene, the wall’s architecture is the sephirotic tree of life. In the Kabbalah, the Tree of Life is the architecture or fabric of the created order, with the pathways signifying the “nodes” of creation that are similar to the forms and patterns of the platonic solids (note the scene with Ava’s brain shows nodes that mirror the tree of life). Ava is a new creation, a Golem, based on the secrets of nature as presented in the tree of life and its metaphysics. However, the narrative borrows more than just the ontology, but also recalls the legend of Lilith and the elaborate gnostic cosmogony of Sophia.
Ex Machina purposefully leaves the “Deus” out of the title. The classic Latin phrase means “God from the machine,” or the God manufactured as the solution to some system or problem, or that emerges out of the world or system. In Ex Machina, the “Deus” is missing because Ava is the “1.” In platonic and Pythagorean numerology the One is God and/or the monad, and Ava is making clear the intention of the real-world A.I. planners, to replace the classic notions of “God” and in its place have the first God. In other words, Director/writer Alex Garland is laying out the transhumanist goal, not to dethrone God, but to become God, because there is no God, yet. In Ex Machina, the threat appears to be not a dull, drab HAL 9000, but a sexy, ruthless feminine principle, inverting the traditional order. Ex Machina can thus be read as either a feminist treatise against imagined patriarchal tyranny, or an actual warning of the dangers of the strategically planned and programmed A.I. takeover (because A.I. are not sentient).
Ex Machina trailer: