In Ex Machina, Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), a doe-eyed coding prodigy gets the chance to spend a week at the research facility of eccentric billionaire and tech genius Nathan (think Google cofounder Sergey Brin crossed with Dr. Frankenstein) played by Oscar Isaac to test Nathan’s A.I. (artificial intelligence) creation Ava.
The movie asks hard questions about A.I. being the next stage in evolution and even what humanistic qualities might not be worth burdening an A.I. with (such as sexuality). However, I was most intrigued by one question it never asked: Why is Nathan’s A.I., Ava, a woman?
Recently, I read the book Demonic Males, which says - at this risk of drastic oversimplification - that men are essentially pride-obsessed, tribe-forming frat bros who use violence as a means to increase their odds at reproduction, traits which they inherited from their evolutionary precursors: apes.
So, is men’s desire (it’s seemingly always men) to create A.I. as a woman an unconscious attempt to break free from their evolutionary original sins and create something better, or is female A.I. simply another byproduct of their ape brain?
My gut is telling me it’s the latter. Here’s why: [Note - brief spoilers below]
- A.I. is frequently intertwined with male loneliness. In Ex Machina, Caleb is a nice, single guy albeit a tad lonely and melancholy. The fact that he would be attracted to a pretty girl in a glass cage isn’t likely, it’s inevitable. In fact, his archetype is unsurprisingly familiar to Theodore Twombly in 2013’s movie Her or Raj Koothrappali in the Big Bang Theory when he falls in love with Siri (to name a couple examples). For A.I. being a new-ish subject in media, these lonely-men-loving-A.I. plotlines are showing up with a peculiar frequency. In Demonic Males, the authors demonstrate the lengths men and apes are willing to go to attract attention from women. Is creating A.I. simply an extension of an inability to get laid?
- A.I.s’ lack of control is a virtue, and autonomy is a vice. To continue with the three examples above, in each, the men are happiest when women are in their glass boxes (glass room in Ex Machina, computer in Her, iPhone in The Big Bang Theory). It’s when the women escape that problems arise. Are these glass boxes just a manifestation of feminism’s symbolic bird cage?
- Female A.I.s are hot - because of course they are. This point has less to do with science than it does with pop culture, but whenever men create a female A.I., she’s almost always attractive. Bro-nus points (in the form of high-fives) are given if nudity is incorporated. The nudity in Ex Machina isn’t gratuitous, but it’s not subtle either, and when an undercurrent of sexuality purposefully runs throughout the entire movie, the nude scenes stand out. However, cut them out, and I don’t see much of a difference. While there’s no nudity in Her or The Big Bang Theory, when Theodore and Raj meet their A.I. lovers in human form, they’re gorgeous women ready to have sex with them. Why’s it so hard to imagine a movie or episode of TV that plays out differently?
When tackling big issues in a 500-word blog post, you risk oversimplifying and showing a one-sided argument, both of which I’ve done here. For each example I cite, you could find another disproving me. Nonetheless, you can’t entirely dismiss the makings of a trend here.
Nothing sums up where I’m coming from better than the last five seconds of The Big Bang Theory when Raj meets the beautiful woman behind Siri. After hello, the very first thing she says to him is, “If you’d like to make love to me, just tell me.”