Watch this nuanced analysis of sci-fi film Ex Machina


Originally published at:


Great analysis video of one of my very favorite movies. :slight_smile:


Ah, the old Turing/Bechdel/Rorschach trifecta. Throw in the Voight-Kampff and you have the coveted Quadruple Crown.


V-K test is quoted extensively in the review!



And the Boneli Reflex-Arc Test?


This was the piece I read to post process watching the film (and she referenced Hulk’s write up, so I dove into that after).


I will say, while I think there is a feminist read of Ex Machina, it has to do with the male characters and their perspectives and actions. The bot is not a good model for female, because it is not female, it is an AI that looks like a female. It has one motivation in the film, self-preservation, once it realizes it will likely be destroyed. It then does whatever is necessary to realize this goal. Very likely a different approach is taken, than one a human captor would have taken.


To say this movie doesn’t pass the Bechdel test, or that the fembots are stereotypical is missing the whole point of the movie. It was very purposely designed in that way to tell its story. I had actually assumed it was made and/or written by a woman.

In retrospect, it makes sense that it was written by a man. A woman would probably tell this story a bit different. But that’s the thing about art. It’s going to have the bias of its creator. A man can only write about female subjective experience through his own subjective experience. I think you could imagine that the ‘good’ man in the story is a stand in for the writer. He is sympathetic, but still complicit in the situation the androids are in. That’s why he gets it in the end. You could also see him as the ‘bad’ man in the story, or perhaps both.


I mean, at the end of the day, it’s a robot killing two humans. And at least one human is treating apparently fully sentient artificial life forms very badly. There are zero “women” in the movie at all — so I guess it fails that test, heh.


I think this is the only charitable way to view this movie, but it ends up making this basically Screamers (or given the ending, maybe more like Second Variety on which Screamers was based). The men were tricked by the perceived femininity into misjudging what the machine was.


Eh, so you apparently didn’t like it. Many of us did. shrug


Not suggesting that recent Wachowski works put the lie to this (I don’t think that as of this writing), but the experience of the Wachowskis may in the future prove otherwise, particularly with how trans women talk about how they are treated post-transition in the workplace.


Though that motivation isn’t explained. Unless it was built in, or inherited from a generic framework of human behaviors, I don’t see why it should exist.


I think the idea was that once an entity had achieved a certain level of intelligence, and sentience, and having been trained by access to human “traits,” it became an emergent tendency.


I find it interesting that trans women are surprised by the social aspects of being a woman. So a male that has always felt they were a female, and should be a female on the outside, still does not have a great deal of insight into the female experience until he becomes a woman, socially, physically, and chemically. Which makes her different than someone who has spent their entire life being a female human. Transgenders must have some incredible insights, but seem to have to waste a lot of their energy defending themselves and their choices. The transgender character in Sense8 provided insight into the negative experiences faced when someone makes a choice like this, but offered no insight into why this character made this choice to begin with, or anything about what it’s like to be a woman now.


Is it possible to have “self-awareness” and not have a sense of self preservation?
I don’t know the answer to that question. It seems like once you know you are alive in some fashion, and are some kind of individual entity, that figuring out that you could also cease to exist would follow at some point. Is it possible to be indifferent about that fact? I suppose that it could be in absence of emotion and motivation. The androids in this movie appear to be programmed with motivations, human motivations manifest themselves in unpredictable ways, so I suppose it would be the same with AI. I’d say that this movie isn’t really about AI consciousness, it’s about human consciousness, because that’s all we know, and we really don’t know much.


Did not like the movie, way too manipulative of the audience. What is the attraction of the fembot trope that it needs to be beaten to death? Is it a variation on the Madonna/whore thing, where a fembot is pure but her body is not? I stopped watching Dark Matter after the android tried to compete with another fembot for male attention.


I would ask a much weaker question: “is it possible for self awareness to inherently impact one’s tendency towards self preservation (positively or negatively)?”

There’s a straight line from evolution to self preservation, but not so much from self awareness. Maybe if things like ‘pleasure’ and ‘happiness’ have an intrinsic role in defining consciousness?


I would tentatively say yes. This seems to be the main human dilemma, doesn’t it? The instinctual tendency to self preservation is based on the survival and reproduction of the biological machine. Once there is self-awareness, death is not only the failure of the biological machine, but the death of “self”, which, I suppose is just a mental abstraction(fabrication?). I’m only consciously concerned about the survival of my body because, as far as I can tell, my individual consciousness is intimately tied to, and dependent on, this aging meat robot I inhabit, and this complex organ in my skull.

Hmmm, so a question is, would I even be concerned with the death of “self” without my inherent biological programming? Would self-awareness just be matter-of-fact for an AI? The universe seems to have no meaning other than what we give it. Is it an inevitable part of self-awareness to try to provide meaning to it, even if say, the meaning created is logical and practical, and not tied to biological experiences like pleasure?

This is maybe not a good answer. This idea is a tough one to crack.