Sunday, May 31, 2015

Mechanical man

Saw Ex Machina a few days ago. Was the only viewer in front of a big screen, so at times it felt like I was interviewing Eva (though the flirting part felt less real). It’s a philosophically ambitious movie, meant to provoke some uneasy thoughts. The original Turing test was apparently premised on the idea that a true AI machine should be able to communicate like a real human being. But as humans (or at least a significant subset of humanity) are becoming emotionally number and thus more machine-like, passing the test must seem an increasingly realistic machine task.  Until, indeed, we are “all watched over by machines of loving grace.” And if it is seductive cyborgs vs. psychopathic geeks, it’s really hard not to root for the former. It’s also curious that in the movie the benchmark for AI is defined as the ability to manipulate emotionally another human being. But by this point this should come as little surprise. Even a sitcom like Modern Family that invokes a lost, extended-family-focused mode of living is built around such mutual manipulation. It’s assumed to be, as they say, in the water supply.