In a recent post, I outlined the intended schedule for Member Calls in 2024.
This weekend we’ll be discussing Ex Machina (2014).
It is described as a ‘science fiction psychological thriller’.
I saw it for the first time myself a month or two ago, and quite enjoyed it.
More on that in a moment.
Here are the call times for this weekend:
Call 1 (suits Aus)
Call 2 (suits US)
If you can’t make it to the call
…But you want to share your thoughts on the film, please leave a comment below, I can read it out during the recorded part of the call.
Alternatively, you can use the voicemail function, which is available on the right-hand sidebar of the site.
I can play your voicemail during the call.
Either way, you can still be part of this episode, and every episode going forward, even if you can’t make it to the call proper for whatever reason.
Please use a decent mic
As you probably realise by now, I take my produce a little bit more seriously than most content creators in the ACT realm.
For example, I take the time to edit all of the Member Calls to bring them up to a decent standard.
I politely ask that if you want to appear on the show, you use a decent microphone, so that your audio quality is sufficient.
USB microphones are relatively inexpensive and produce far superior sound to the typical laptop default mic or whatever.
If you cannot source a decent mic, it isn’t a ‘big’ deal, but if your sound isn’t up to scratch, I may have to ask you sit out the recorded part of the call.
Of course you will still be welcome to join in the aftercall discussion as usual.
After the call
Depending on how many Members are present, we often chat off the record for an hour or two, once the recording is finished.
This will be the plan once again this week and for most Member Calls in 2024.
Members are welcome to join us for the recorded part only, or the off the record part only, or both, whatever suits you best.
The call times listed earlier are the nominal start times for the recorded parts of the call.
Why Ex Machina?
Spoiler alert i.e. if you haven’t seen the film yet, perhaps you ought to close this page and go and see the film for yourself first
What better way to kick off the new season of Member Calls than with a film which is centred on ‘intelligence’?
You’ve probably heard of the ‘Turing Test’; Ex Machina follows a young computer programmer whose job is to determine if his boss’s latest invention can pass for human.
There’s a few themes and topics which I’m hoping to discuss with whoever turns up for the calls this weekend.
Here I will provide some screenshots from different scenes which stood out to me, and some of the ideas and concepts which I think might make for good discussion on Saturday.
First up, the contrast between nature and technology.
How often do you hear people in the ACT realm talking about their desire or dream to go ‘off grid’, away from humanity?
If I had a penny for every time I heard some well-meaning fool talking about going ‘off grid’…
The boss’s compound is a long way away from everything, and sure, if I were a techbro billionaire, I’d probably like a similar retreat for little getaways.
Would I really want to be so far away from humanity in general, though?
And for people whose honest answer is ‘yes’, my question is, why?
The young dude won a ‘staff lottery’ which is why he was flown out to the compound to participate in the Turing test.
Only later we find out that the ‘lottery’ was a sham: the dude was selected for other reasons.
This leads me to wonder about how and why some of us found ourselves tumbling down the ‘truth’ rabbit hole in the first place.
I’ve told my own story quite a few times: one day circa 2013 I was minding my own business, surfing the web, when somehow I find myself watching a youtube video about ‘crisis actors’ in Sandy Hook and the Boston Hoaxathon.
One thing led to another and here we are more than a decade later, my life has never been the same since.
Do you ever wonder how and why your own social media feeds first began showing you truth-related stuff?
There’s a heavy focus on alcohol and alcoholism in the film.
Would a techbro billionaire really drink himself to inebriation so often?
I kinda would like to think that the answer is ‘yes’, because if it’s good enough for a techbro billionaire, then maybe it’s good enough for me 👍
To be fair, the boss and the young dude don’t seem to have all that much in common, so it makes sense that they’d use alcohol to help take the edge off and get to know each other a little better.
What’s your relationship like with alcohol? Is it something you’d be happy to discuss?
The masks we wear.
That’s right Wendy, we all wear masks, metaphorically speaking…
At various times, both main characters, and the robot, are shown to be intentionally engaging in large-scale deceptions of one another.
Saying one thing and meaning another.
Pretending to be friends when they are more like foes.
Wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Are humans anywhere near as honest and upfront as some of us like to think we are?
Or are we closer to deception machines, created (?) to deceive as a matter of course?
The techbro billionaire is shown lifting weights and hitting the heavy bag several times throughout the film.
He’s in decent shape, credit where it’s due.
My question is, why is lifting weights so popular among young men in the west these days?
Is it really as good for us as we have been led to believe?
And why are steroids so commonplace now, even among amateur lifters and occasional gymbros?
Is there an agenda here?
This is one of my favourite scenes in all of cinema.
Brilliant film-making and story-telling.
What was your favourite scene in the film?
When the young dude first decides to engage in deception of his boss, we see a dead animal head right behind him.
If only he knew then just how far the deception had already gone…
The creator is shown between two white pillars, as he reveals the artificial brain.
I could wax lyrical about this one scene for an entire two hours all by myself.
At some point in your life, you realised that dressing a certain way leads people to treat you better.
For most folks, this is a large part of the teenage and early adulthood ‘going out’ experience:
Mixing and matching clothes and shoes and hairstyles in an attempt to attract mates and possibly even long-term partners.
In the scene above, we see the the robot showing off her wardrobe and hair in an apparent attempt to sexually ensnare the unsuspecting prey.
How did you develop your own sense of fashion / style?
If your current partner wasn’t wearing what he / she was wearing the day you met them, do you think you would have ‘hit if off’ the same?
“The challenge is not to act automatically. It’s to find an action that is not automatic, from painting to breathing to talking to f*cking to falling in love.”
Eventually we learn that the techbro billionaire is sleeping with at least one of his robots.
She cooks food for him, dances with him, kisses him…
He seems to have deliberately designed her to not speak English, perhaps to avoid having to deal with any potential ‘domestic’ dramas which might arise in the course of a relationship.
We’re probably a long, long way away from realistic robots ‘in real life’, but it does lead to interesting questions.
If a robot were sufficiently advanced to be able replace most if not all of the functions of a ‘real’ partner, would you at least consider getting one for yourself?
If not, why not?
Is it too ‘icky’?
And if the ‘NPC theory’ is indeed more accurate than most folks want to recognise, are some of us not already sleeping (and falling in love) with organic robots?
If you know your partner not only doesn’t get it, but cannot ever get it, does this change the dynamics of your relationship on a fundamental level?
Can you ever really love an AI and if not, can you ever really love a human who is dumber than AI?
Bring your own questions
If you plan to be on the recorded part of the call, I hope you come along with your own reflections from the film, and your own questions for myself and the rest of the panel.
This is how good discussion works: people ask one another sincere and thought-provoking questions, and things proceed from there.
If you can watch a film like Ex Machina and come away without any questions or ideas of your own, then I wonder what makes you think you are more intelligent than the AI which already exists today.
Do you think I’m kidding?
Remember that if you can’t make it to the call on Saturday, you can leave your thoughts in the comment section below, and / or via the voicemail function which is available in the right hand sidebar of the front page of this site.
I hope to see quite a few of you at the call on Saturday, friends 👍