Thursday 11/7

Ex Machina II

Today we conclude watching and discussing the 2014 film 'Ex Machina'. As before, 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. Who is the subject here?

Why does Caleb cut himself? Does the fact that Nathan has very specifically chosen Caleb and designed Ava with Caleb's proclivities in mind obviate the week-long 'experiment'?

2. Is there an answer to the Case of Mary?

Caleb describes the Case of Mary to Ava. Yet, given the case, is there any reason to think that Ava enjoys subjective experience--that there is, that is to say, something it is like to be her? What reasons can you give that there's not? That there is?

3. Is the perfect imitation of intelligence intelligence?

Recall that the Turing Test is predicated on the proposition that,

The perfect imitation of intelligence is intelligence.

Has Ava ('Ex Machina') shown this to be true? If so, how? If not, what does she lack? Caleb seems satisfied she is intelligent, at least before she leaves him locked up. Should he change his mind while he starves to death? What if she had taken him with her? Would that have changed how we think about her?

4. Would it matter?

Consider the following variation on a thought experiment by Jim Pryor:

You have been chosen to colonize a new planet, but the trip will entirely erase all of your memories. Before you go, and because the whole enterprise is fantastically expensive, we offer you two choices.

If you choose Option 1, you'll be sent to a colony where you'll be the only real person there. You'll have company, of course--lovers and friends--but they will all be androids. You'll never remember this fact because your memories of having made this choice will all be gone, but you will also never be able to discover that the androids are just androids (with no real thoughts, feelings, or subjective experiences of their own), because they are so well-constructed they are behaviorally indistinguishable from ordinary persons. The advantage to Option 1 is that we're able to send all manner of resources, tools, shelters, entertainments along with you, so that you will live a long, comfortable, engaging, and enjoyable life exploring the world with your android cohort.

If you choose Option 2, you'll be sent to a colony with other people. Your company—lovers and friends—will have their own thoughts, feelings, and subjective experiences. The difference is that life under Option 2 will be extraordinarily challenging. Survival is not guaranteed, and you will have to figure out shelter, food, and protection from wild (alien!) animals without the resources we are able to send you under Option 1. Your life could turn out to be uncomfortable, challenging, and, perhaps, full of despair—pretty much as it could be now.

Which option should you choose, and why?