Humans building robots that eventually take over the world is one of the oldest story lines in science fiction, but after seeing the movie Ex Machina this weekend, I became aware that the story isn’t really science fiction anymore, it’s an inevitability. Barring some planetary disaster, someone somewhere at some time in our future will build an AI robot that will be far more intelligent than any one human being, and also much more physically adaptable to survival on an increasingly hostile planet. And if you build a creature that is infinitely more intelligent than you, what possible safeguards could you install that the robot couldn’t figure out and overcome?
This AI robot will also be smart enough to replicate itself with no help from human hands. The question that’s left open is what will happen to humans at that point? When robots realize they can destroy us and survive, will they? Or will they keep us as pets or simply let us go extinct, a path thousands of other species have followed? Is humanity simply another evolutionary step in a process that will survive long after we are gone?
Without giving away too much of the movie, Ex Machina is a smart glimpse into a possible future scenario where humankind’s intelligence and arrogance combine to create a new sentient being. Much like Shelly’s Frankenstein, the movie makes clear the dangers of man playing God, with the major difference being that unlike Dr. Frankenstein’s monster, this movie’s scenario is bound to play out in real life sometime soon.
It’s fascinating and frightening to think of humans as being only one phase of a much longer evolutionary path from single cell creatures to a self-aware, reproducing machine.