Tuesday 11/5

Ex Machina I

Today and Thursday we break with our usual lecture/discussion approach to this material so as to watch and discuss the first and second halves of the 2014 film 'Ex Machina'. My plan is to spend approximately the first hour watching the film, followed by fifteen or twenty minutes to take up the following discussion questions (which you should bear in mind as we watch the film).

Discussion Questions

1. How is this a Turing Test?

Caleb points out that in a genuine Turing Test, the interrogator (Caleb himself, he presumes) cannot interact directly with or see the computer undergoing the test. Nathan replies that that would show nothing, that he wants Caleb to see the android with whom he is interacting, recognize that it is an android, and yet still conclude from his interactions with it that it is intelligent. Has Nathan's response merit? What would Turing himself say about it, do you think?

2. Is Nathan just a sexist creep?

Given his boxing, weightlifting, drinking, belligerence, arrogance, and the way in particular he treats the ever-submissive, compliant, and oft-abused Kyoko, what does the fact that Ava is gendered female and not male, say, or even just a gray box with servos and wheels, say about Nathan and the 'test' he has constructed? Does Ava's femininity set Caleb up in a way a gray box would not have done? Are Nathan's sexist and abusive displays a ruse by Nathan to encourage Caleb to empathize with Ava, or are they just Nathan being Nathan?

3. Is Caleb particularly gullible?

Caleb is clearly very smart and keen to understand the computational/engineering side of what Nathan has accomplished in constructing Ava, but Nathan keeps pushing him in their early conversations to just tell him how interacting with Ava 'makes him feel', ignoring the question of mechanics. In pressing Caleb so, is Nathan compromising the 'test' by inviting Caleb to anthropomorphize Ava?

4. How is Ava doing?

Knowing that Ava is an android, do the conversations she has with Caleb lead you think she is genuinely intelligent? What evidence have you that she is? What evidence have you that she is not? What would an android like Ava have to do to convince you that she is intelligent? Finally, Nathan has put a number of security measures in place. Is he wise to have done so, or are these measures simply a further part of the test?