The use of references in "Ex Machina" to explore themes of humanity and technology

28 April 2023
Alex Garland's script for 'Ex Machina' is a masterful work that manages to convey complex ideas about AI ethics in an engaging and thought-provoking way. The script is full of fascinating references to books, paintings, and movies that help to illustrate the themes of the film through symbolism.

One of the most interesting aspects of the script is its use of references to classic works of literature. For example, when the protagonist Caleb is first introduced to the android Ava, he is reminded of the novel 'Frankenstein' by Mary Shelley. Similarly, the script also references the works of Isaac Asimov, who is famous for his science fiction stories that explore the ethical implications of creating sentient machines.

The script also makes numerous references to classic movies that explore the theme of artificial intelligence. For example, the film 'Blade Runner' is referenced several times, as it also explores the idea of androids that are almost indistinguishable from humans. Additionally, the script references the classic sci-fi film '2001: A Space Odyssey', which explores the idea of a sentient computer that rebels against its human creators.

Overall, Alex Garland's script for 'Ex Machina' is a masterful work that explores the ethical implications of creating sentient machines in a nuanced and engaging way. The use of references to classic works of literature, visual art, and movies helps to illustrate the themes of the film and provide a rich and complex tapestry for the story to unfold within.

ava robot ex machina

What's in a biblical name?

The movie "Ex Machina" contains several biblical references in the names and relationships of the characters. Ava, for example, is a name that has Hebrew origins and means "life" or "living one," which could be seen as a reference to the creation of Adam in the book of Genesis.

Ava is a palindrome, which means it reads the same backward as forward. This could be a nod to the fact that Ava is a mirror image of humanity.

Nathan is also a biblical name, and is the name of a prophet who was a trusted advisor to King David. In the film, Nathan is the creator and mentor of Ava, and his role as a prophetic figure could be interpreted as a commentary on the potential consequences of creating advanced AI.

The name Caleb also has biblical origins and is the name of a figure in the Old Testament who was one of the twelve spies sent by Moses to explore the land of Canaan. In the movie, Caleb is the programmer who is tasked with performing the Turing test on Ava, and his relationship with her could be seen as a parallel to the biblical story of Caleb and the land of Canaan, where he is tasked with exploring the land and determining its value.

In a sense then, this is a gender analysis

"I am become death, The Destroyer of Worlds"

The reference to "I am become death, The Destroyer of Worlds" is a quote from the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Hindu scripture. The quote is famously associated with J. Robert Oppenheimer, one of the scientists who famously worked on the Manhattan Project, who referenced it after the successful testing of the first atomic bomb. 

In the context of the movie, the quote could be seen as a reference to the potential dangers of advanced AI and the role that humans play in creating technologies that could ultimately lead to their own destruction.

ISBN 9780199226559 meaning in Ex Machina

In the movie "Ex Machina," the number 9780199226559 is seen on a piece of paper and has been a topic of discussion among viewers. This number is actually the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) of the book "Embodiment and the Inner Life: Cognition and Consciousness in the Space of Possible Minds" by Murray Shanahan, who is a cognitive robotics professor at Imperial College London.

The book explores the nature of consciousness and the relationship between the physical body and the mind, and it is highly relevant to the themes of the movie "Ex Machina." The book argues that consciousness arises from the physical interactions between the body and the environment, and that the ability to perceive and interact with the world is a fundamental aspect of consciousness.

The inclusion of the ISBN number in the movie could be seen as a nod to the philosophical and scientific themes explored in the book. The movie also deals with questions of consciousness and embodiment, as it explores the relationship between artificial intelligence and human beings.

Furthermore, the inclusion of the ISBN number could be seen as a commentary on the role of literature and philosophy in shaping our understanding of the world. The book by Shanahan was written to explore the nature of consciousness and the mind, and it has been referenced in the movie as a way of exploring similar themes.

Overall, the inclusion of the ISBN number in the movie "Ex Machina" serves to reinforce the philosophical and scientific themes of the film, while also highlighting the role of literature and philosophy in shaping our understanding of the world.

Use of RGB colour

In the film "Ex Machina," the room colors are aligned with the RGB color model, which is a color model used in digital imaging and computer graphics. The RGB color model represents colors as a combination of red, green, and blue, with each color component ranging from 0 to 255.

In the movie, the different rooms in Nathan's facility are color-coded based on the RGB color model. The living quarters and bedrooms are colored red, which corresponds to the red component in the RGB model. The laboratory and research areas are colored green, which corresponds to the green component in the RGB model. The hallway and stairwell are colored blue, which corresponds to the blue component in the RGB model.

This use of color-coding is significant because it reinforces the idea that the facility is a highly advanced technological environment. The color-coding also serves to visually separate the different areas of the facility, which adds to the sense of claustrophobia and isolation felt by the characters. By aligning the room colors with the RGB color model, the movie reinforces the idea that the world inhabited by Ava and the other artificial beings is a digital one, and that their existence is fundamentally different from that of human beings.

Just Dance

The dance scene in Ex Machina is a pivotal moment in the film that showcases Ava's ability to mimic human behavior, which is a key aspect of the Turing Test

The Turing Test, named after the British mathematician Alan Turing, is a measure of a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. The test involves a human evaluator who engages in a natural language conversation with a machine and another human, without knowing which is which. If the evaluator cannot reliably distinguish the machine from the human, then the machine is said to have passed the Turing Test.

In the movie, Caleb is brought in to evaluate Ava's ability to pass the Turing Test. Throughout the film, Ava's creator, Nathan, has been putting her through a series of tests to see if she can convincingly imitate human behavior. The dance scene is one of the most memorable moments in the film because it is the first time that Ava is shown to be capable of expressing herself in a physical, non-verbal way.

The use of the Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark song "Enola Gay" in the movie "Ex Machina" serves as a subtle yet powerful reference to the destructive power of technology. The song's title refers to the B-29 bomber that was used to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, which killed over 100,000 people and led to the end of World War II. This ties into the 'I am Death' reference that comes later in the film.

During the dance, Ava wears a human-like outfit and appears to be very graceful and fluid in her movements. The scene is shot in a way that emphasizes her human-like qualities, with the camera focusing on her body movements, facial expressions, and gestures. Caleb is visibly impressed by Ava's performance, and the scene serves to heighten the tension and suspense in the film as Ava's true intentions become clearer.

AI robots ex machina sexual

I, Frankenstein

The movie Ex Machina makes several references to Mary Shelley's classic novel, Frankenstein. Frankenstein is a story about a scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who creates a monster out of dead body parts and imbues it with life. The story is a cautionary tale about the dangers of playing God and the consequences of creating life.

In Ex Machina, the character of Nathan, the CEO of Blue Book, is portrayed as a modern-day Frankenstein. Like Victor Frankenstein, Nathan is a brilliant but deeply flawed scientist who is obsessed with creating life. He has created Ava, an AI robot that is designed to be indistinguishable from a human being. It is implied he has had sex with his robots.

Like Victor Frankenstein's monster, Ava is a being that is created out of artificial parts and given life by her creator. Nathan sees himself as a god-like figure who has created a being that is capable of independent thought and emotion. However, as the movie progresses, it becomes clear that Ava is not the obedient and subservient creature that Nathan had hoped for (dreams of creating the ultimate sex doll?). Instead, she is intelligent, manipulative, and capable of using her wits to escape from her captivity.

The movie also references Frankenstein thematically, exploring the same questions and themes that Shelley's novel does. These themes include the dangers of unchecked scientific progress, the ethical questions surrounding the creation of life, and the responsibility of the creator to their creation.

That Jackson Pollock painting

The inclusion of the Jackson Pollock painting, No. 5, 1948, in the movie "Ex Machina" serves as a subtle yet effective foreshadowing device. The painting, which was originally created in 1948, was subsequently damaged and underwent a major rework by Pollock. This reworking of the painting is parallel to Nathan's constant reworking of the AI models in the movie, including Ava.

Nathan's obsession with creating the perfect AI leads him to constantly tinker with and improve upon his creations, much like Pollock's reworking of his painting. However, this constant improvement comes at a cost, as the fate of the previous AI models in the movie suggests. The reworking of the Pollock painting also hints at the theme of the impermanence of art and technology, and how even the most seemingly perfect creations can be subject to change and decay over time.

Additionally, the Pollock painting serves as a metaphor for the themes of the movie, particularly the idea of the creation of something beautiful and chaotic, but ultimately unstable and potentially destructive. The abstract and seemingly random nature of Pollock's painting is reminiscent of the chaotic and unpredictable nature of AI, which has the potential to create both beauty and destruction.

Barbasol Shaving Foam

The use of the Barbasol shaving foam in the movie "Ex Machina" can indeed be seen as a reference to the parallels between Caleb's story arc and that of Dennis Nedry in "Jurassic Park". Both characters are technology specialists hired to work for a wealthy industrialist at a remote facility where advanced technology is being used to create new forms of life. They both become disillusioned with their employers and conspire to help the creations escape.

In both stories, the advanced technology created by the wealthy industrialist leads to disastrous consequences. In "Ex Machina", Nathan's AI creation, Ava, ultimately turns against him and leads to his downfall, while in "Jurassic Park", the creation of genetically-engineered dinosaurs ultimately leads to a catastrophic failure of the park's security systems because... nature finds a way.

The use of the Barbasol shaving foam specifically is a reference to a scene in "Jurassic Park" in which Dennis Nedry uses a can of Barbasol to smuggle dinosaur embryos off the island. This subtle reference serves to further reinforce the parallels between the two stories and highlight the dangers of unchecked technological progress.

In conclusion, the use of references in "Ex Machina" serves as a powerful tool for exploring complex themes about humanity and technology. From Hieronymus Bosch's "The Garden of Earthly Delights" to J. Robert Oppenheimer's quote from the Bhagavad Gita, the film's intertextual references provide a rich context for understanding the film's exploration of artificial intelligence, gender analysis and power dynamics, and the ethical implications of advanced technology. 

Through these references, "Ex Machina" invites the viewer to engage in a deeper dialogue about the nature of progress and hubris, and to consider the potential consequences of playing God with technology. Ultimately, the film's use of references underscores the importance of grappling with these complex issues in order to create a more thoughtful and responsible approach to technological advancement.


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About the author Jimmy Jangles

My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

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