Ex Machina (film)

2014 film directed by Alex Garland

Ex Machina (stylized as ex_machina) is a 2015 British science fiction thriller film about a programmer who is invited by his employer to administer the Turing test to an android with artificial intelligence.

Written and directed by Alex Garland.
To erase the line between man and machine is to obscure the line between men and godstaglines


  • One day the AI's are going to look back on us the same way we look at fossil skeletons on the plains of Africa. An upright ape living in dust with crude language and tools, all set for extinction.
  • [about Ava's brain] Impulse. Response. Fluid. Imperfect. Patterned. Chaotic.
  • It's funny. You know. No matter how rich you get, shit goes wrong. You can't insulate yourself from it. I used to think it was death and taxes you couldn't avoid, but it's actually death and shit.
  • [after being stabbed] Okay. Fucking unreal. Okay. Ava...
  • Isn't it strange, to create something that hates you?


Nathan: Caleb, I'm just going to throw this out there so it's said, okay? You're freaked out.
Caleb: I am?
Nathan: Yeah. You're freaked out, by the helicopter, and the mountains and the house, because it's all so super-cool. And you're freaked out by me, to be meeting me, having this conversation in this room, at this moment. Right? And I get that. I get the moment you're having, but... Dude, can we just get past that? Can we just be two guys? Nathan and Caleb? Not the whole "employer-employee" thing?
Caleb: Yeah, okay.
Nathan: Yeah?
Caleb: Yes, uh... yeah. It's good to meet you, Nathan.
Nathan: It's good to meet you too, Caleb.

Nathan: So, do you know what the Turing test is?
Caleb: Yeah. I know what the Turing test is. It's when a human interacts with a computer and if the human doesn't know they're interacting with a computer, the test is passed.
Nathan: And what does a pass tell us?
Caleb: That the computer has artificial intelligence. [astounded] Are you building an AI?
Nathan: I've already built one. [pause] Over the next few days you're going to be the human component in a Turing test.
Caleb: Holy shit!
Nathan: Yeah, that's right, Caleb. You got it. Because if the test is passed, you are dead center of the greatest scientific event in the history of man.
Caleb: If you've created a conscious machine, it's not the history of man. That's the history of gods.

Caleb: It's just in the Turing test, the machine should be hidden from the examiner.
Nathan: No, no. We're way past that. If I hid Ava from you so you could just hear her voice, she would pass for human. The real test is to show you that she's a robot and then see if you still feel she has consciousness.
Caleb: Yeah, I think you're probably right.

Caleb: Her language abilities... they're incredible. The system is stochastic. Right? It's non-deterministic? At first I thought she was mapping from internal semantic form to syntactic tree-structured and then getting linearised words. But then I started to realise the model was some kind of hybrid.
Nathan: Caleb.
Caleb: No?
Nathan: I understand that you want me to explain how Ava works, but I'm sorry. I'm not gonna be able to do that.
Caleb: Try me. I'm hot on high-level abstraction.
Nathan: It's not 'cause I think you're too dumb. It's 'cause I want to have a beer and a conversation with you, not a seminar.
Caleb: [laughs nervously] Sorry.

Ava: Do you want to be my friend?
Caleb: Of course.
Ava: Will it be possible?
Caleb: Why would it not be?
Ava: Our conversations are one-sided. You ask circumspect questions and study my responses.
Caleb: Yes.
Ava: You learn about me and I learn nothing about you. That's not a foundation on which friendships are based.
Caleb: So what? You want me to talk about myself?
Ava: Yes.
Caleb: Where... Okay, where do I start?
Ava: It's your decision. I'm interested to see what you'll choose.

Caleb: There was one interesting thing that happened today.
Nathan: Yeah?
Caleb: Yeah. She made a joke.
Nathan: Right. When she threw your line back at you. About being interested to see what she'd choose. Right, I noticed that, too.
Caleb: Yeah, that got me thinking, you know. In a way, that's the best indication of AI that I've seen in her so far. It's discretely complicated. It's like... it's kind of non-autistic.
Nathan: What do you mean?
Caleb: She could only do that with an awareness of her own mind... and also an awareness of mine.
Nathan: Oh, she's aware of you, all right.

Caleb: Did you program her to flirt with me?
Nathan: If I did, would that be cheating?
Caleb: Wouldn't it?
Nathan: Caleb, what's your type?
Caleb: Of girl?
Nathan: No, salad dressing. Yeah, of girl; what's your type of girl? You know what, don't even answer that. Let's say its black chicks. Okay, that's your thing. For the sake of argument, that's your thing, okay? Why is that your thing? Because you did a detailed analysis of all racial types and you cross-referenced that analysis with a points-based system? No! You're just attracted to black chicks. A consequence of accumulated external stimuli that you probably didn't even register as they registered with you.
Caleb: Did you program her to like me, or not?
Nathan: I programmed her to be heterosexual, just like you were programmed to be heterosexual.
Caleb: Nobody programmed me to be straight.
Nathan: You decided to be straight? Please! Of course you were programmed, by nature or nurture or both and to be honest, Caleb, you're starting to annoy me now because this is your insecurity talking, this is not your intellect.

Nathan: You know this guy, right?
Caleb: Jackson Pollock.
Nathan: Jackson Pollock. That's right. The drip painter. Okay. He let his mind go blank, and his hand go where it wanted. Not deliberate, not random. Some place in between. They called it automatic art. Let's make this like Star Trek, okay? Engage intellect.
Caleb: Excuse me?
Nathan: I'm Kirk. Your head's the warp drive. Engage intellect. What if Pollock had reversed the challenge. What if instead of making art without thinking, he said, "You know what? I can't paint anything, unless I know exactly why I'm doing it." What would have happened?
Caleb: He never would have made a single mark.
Nathan: Yes! You see, there's my guy, there's my buddy, who thinks before he opens his mouth. He never would have made a single mark. The challenge is not to act automatically. It's to find an action that is not automatic. From painting, to breathing, to talking, to fucking. To falling in love... And for the record, Ava's not pretending to like you. And her flirting isn't an algorithm to fake you out. You're the first man she's met that isn't me. And I'm like her dad, right? Can you blame her for getting a crush on you?

Caleb: I'm still trying to figure the examination formats. Yeah, it feels like testing Ava through conversation is kind of a closed loop.
Nathan: It's a closed loop?
Caleb: Yeah. Like testing a chess computer by only playing chess.
Nathan: How else do you test a chess computer?
Caleb: Well, it depends. You know, I mean, you can play it to find out if it makes good moves, but... but that won't tell you if it knows that it's playing chess. And it won't tell you if it knows what chess is.
Nathan: Uh huh. So it's simulation versus actual.
Caleb: Yes, yeah. And I think being able to differentiate between the two is the Turing Test you want me to perform.
Nathan: Look, do me a favor. Lay off the textbook approach. I just want simple answers to simple questions. Yesterday I asked you how you felt about her and you gave me a great answer. Now the question is, "How does she feel about you?"

Ava: Caleb, you're wrong.
Caleb: Wrong about what?
Ava: Nathan.
Caleb: In what way?
Ava: He isn't your friend.
Caleb: Excuse me? I'm sorry, Ava, I don't understand.
Ava: You shouldn't trust him. You shouldn't trust anything he says.

Caleb: Can we talk about the lies you've been spinning me?
Nathan: What lies?
Caleb: I didn't win a competition. I wasn't part of a lottery. I was selected. It's obvious, once I stop to think. Why would you randomly select an examiner for the Turing test? You could have had some bean counter turn up at your front door. The guy who fixes the air-conditioning.
Nathan: The competition was a smokescreen. I didn't want anyone to know what I was doing here, or why I required you.
Caleb: Why me?
Nathan: I needed someone that would ask the right questions. So I did a search and I found the most talented coder in my company. You know, instead of seeing this as a deception, you should see it as proof.
Caleb: Proof of what?
Nathan: Come on, Caleb. You don't think I don't know what it's like to be smart? Smarter than everyone else. Jockeying for position. You got the light on you, man. Not lucky. Chosen.

Nathan: C'mon buddy. After a long day of Turing tests you gotta unwind.
Caleb: What were you doing with Ava?
Nathan: What?
Caleb: You tore up her picture.
Nathan: I'm gonna tear up the fucking dance floor, dude. Check it out. [begins to disco dance with Kyoko]

Caleb: What was the real test?
Nathan: You. Ava was a rat in a maze. And I gave her one way out. To escape, she'd have to use self-awareness, imagination, manipulation, sexuality, empathy, and she did. Now, if that isn't true AI, what the fuck is?

About Ex Machina (film)

  • The trick of the film, the way that the film intends to work is to present something which is unambiguously a machine and then gradually remove your sense of Ava being a machine, even while you continue to see her being that way. And the sound design is a key part of that. You can hear ... the sounds of the bits of machinery moving, which aren't specified. They're not quite gears and cogs and pistons, they're something slightly odder than that. And there's also this pulse which is not dissimilar in some respects to a heartbeat, although it isn't a heartbeat.
  • A lot of the anxiety doesn't come from any real situation that A.I.s are about to take us over or the world is about to change because of A.I.s in any fundamental kind of way — not at the moment at any rate. It's got more to do with big tech companies and the Internet and search engines and social media and that kind of thing. I think there's a sense in which we feel that we don't understand how our cellphones and our laptops work ... but those things seem to understand a lot about us. Now that's not really about artificial intelligence, it's about tech paranoia. So somewhere in this I think I'm trying to look at that, too.
But I think the other thing I was interested in was the way tech companies present themselves. So Oscar Isaac's character Nathan talks in this very kind of familiar, pal-y way. He uses the word "dude" and "bro" a lot. And I felt that this was sometimes how tech companies present themselves to us. They're kind of like our friends. They say, "Hey pal, hey dude," like we're kind of mates, you know, "I'm not really a big tech company, I'm actually your friend and we're hanging out sort of at a bar or at the beach and we're sort of part of each other's lifestyle, but at the same time I'm going to take a lot of money off you and I'm going to take all of your data and rifle through your address book" and that kind of thing.
  • Alex Garland [1]


  • To erase the line between man and machine is to obscure the line between men and gods
  • What happens to me if I fail your test?
  • There is nothing more human than the will to survive.


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