We give personal names to our boats, our cars, we talk to the snack machine when it doesn't dispense our selection. We talk to our smartphones and they talk back—but it’s only programmed responses--

For now…

The Turing Test says that if a machine exhibits behavior equivalent to or indistinguishable from that of a human, it can be said that the machine can “think.” (Last June, a computer program pretending to be a 13-year-old Ukrainian boy “beat” the test buy being “surly” (when it couldn’t answer  a question) and “not speaking English as a first language” (when it misunderstood something or gave an inappropriate answer). I think that’s cheating.) Even then the computer only fooled 33% of the humans, just enough to pass the 30% threshold. (But look at your local elections: Just how hard is it to fool 33% of the people?) Despite the pretend-teenager’s “success,” there is no “definitive” performer on the Turing Test--

For now…

Caleb is a code writer for Bluebook, a search engine that processes 94% of all Internet traffic (Google only processes 60%). He wins a company-wide lottery to spend a week with Nathan, the reclusive genius who created the company, at his home/research facility, a place so remote it takes two hours to get there by helicopter. It seems that Nathan has created Ava, an artificial intelligence, and he wants Caleb to administer the Turing Test to it. Caleb says if you already know you’re interacting with a machine, the test is moot. Nathan says if you know that and you still feel that you’re not, then the machine has passed the test he’s looking for.

Caleb meets Ava, who looks like one of the Mechas from A.I. on the way to the Flesh Fair. They immediately bond and Caleb grows closer to her than his eccentric host, who appears to be like the little brother who is the total opposite of The Office’s Michael Scott: same distraction but none of the warmth—or cluelessness. And Caleb begins to wonder what exactly is going on…

Ex Machina is a very intelligent script, with very intelligent people (and machines) doing very intelligent things. There’s just enough technobabble to make you believe “it’s real” and discussions of deep philosophical issues (like the basis of sexuality or the inevitability of technological evolution) are not presented in the usual flow-stopping expository speeches, but as just “a couple of guys having a conversation.” The actors make you believe they are the people (and machine) they appear to be and you are led on the journey of discovery along with Caleb as he learns “the truth.”

But as good as it is, Ex Machina is not perfect. There are a couple of slight-of-hand metaphors used as plot devices that are not exactly fair to the audience and the ending is more “I can’t believe they did that!” than “Yes, that is the logical outcome.”

But (thankfully!) it ain’t Transformers, either. So if you’re looking for a movie about robots (and people) doing something more important than fighting over an extraterrestrial battery, Ex Machina is the movie for you.

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