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OK, I will admit it — I grew up a bit of a sci-fi geek. I loved Twilight Zone, Outer Limits and Star Trek and read books by Asimov and Bradbury. But I lost my passion somewhere along the way to adulthood with the occasional lapse when movies such as E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind came along.

But two recent movies have made me think about one aspect of sci-fi  — artificial intelligence — in a different light, given my focus in this blog on relationships, love and sex: Her and, now, Ex MachinaExMachina

I wrote about Her last year, when the movie, in which a divorced man falls in love and has a relationship — and sex — with his operating system, first came out.

I find a different discussion in what transpires in Ex Machina, but one just as fascinating. Again, it says more about us as humans than it does about robots: how easily we are deceived and deceive, and how our primal instincts of desire make us stupid.

I must issue a spoiler alert — if you haven’t seen the movie and plan to, stop here. If you haven’t seen the movie and don’t plan to, stop here — and reconsider; it’s worth it.

There are many fascinating issues brought up in Ex Machina (the dude-bro relationship between Nathan, an eccentric billionaire, and Caleb, a peach-fuzzed coder, as well as  how we are literally selling our souls to companies like Google), as well as the deception humans are capable of  (to ourselves most importantly). It’s too much to talk about all that here, so I will limit my discussion to how Ava, the robot, seduces and basically destroys Caleb, who was chosen by Nathan, his employer, to interact with her to see if she passes the Turing test, which examines if a machine has consciousness and is indistinguishable from a human.

Part of the problem is that Caleb has been sort of set up — Nathan tells Caleb that Ava has a vagina-like opening “with a concentration of sensors.” Meaning, yeah, sex with her will feel pretty damn good for both of them. That matters because Ava’s appearance has been modeled on Caleb’s online porn history. Basically Ava is his fantasy come true (and what man doesn’t want that?)

So of course he falls for her, of course he foolishly trusts her and of course his desire for her makes him stupid. He lies, loses reason, chooses sides without considering all possibilities (even when presented with a reasonable one, that Ava may be playing him, and she does), and he makes rash decisions.

How human! Especially when it comes to love, or at least lust.

Caleb is reacting like any other man in the presence of a beautiful woman — his mind gets fuzzy. And that makes him relatively helpless. Of course, Ava is a seductresses. She knows exactly what Caleb wants in a woman, and presents it to him.

But while we may meet many beautiful people who leave us stupid, what does it mean to meet our perfect person — The One or our soul mate? While Ava may be the woman Caleb wants to masturbate to in the privacy of his home, does he really want to have a relationship with her — perhaps until death do they part?

Well, probably in the beginning, when things appear easy. And easy is really attractive nowadays, when we’re all so busy, stressed and, as clinical psychologist and  Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Sherry Turkle, says, feeling “a certain fatigue with the difficulties of dealing with people.”

Because people are messy, we have needs and we cause drama; a robotic woman wouldn’t be (although most of the robotic women of sci-fi movies don’t stick to the program and more often than not lead to chaos and destruction, which is what many men might say in-the-flesh women do, too. AI cannot be programed to have a sense of morality).

But is easy and perfect what we really want?

Maybe. A recent poll of American heterosexual men indicates they’d prefer a wife who is “intelligent,” “attractive” and “sweet,” with “attractive” being more important to men in the prime marrying years, 18- to 49-years-old.

Ex Machina director Alex Garland isn’t sure. But he acknowledges that we’re closer than ever to making our perfect person come true regardless: “The thing we desire and think we can’t have we can now shape exactly to the specification of how we want it. There’s something incredibly scary about how unstoppable it feels.”

Interested in creating a specific kind of marriage? Read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press). Order the book on Amazon, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

One Response to “‘Ex Machina’ and the promise of finding The One”

  1. blurkel says:

    There is no One. There is the One Today.

    There is a saying among wise and experienced men that every married man is a bigamist. He marries 28 different women for a day a month.

    Studies have found that female mate selection is affected by their menstrual cycles, so to be fair my comment about men also applies to women, although in a slightly altered form.

    So for those who think they have found The One, it’s because they aren’t paying attention to their inner dichotomy between what society expects and their hormonal changes.

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