Monday, May 25, 2015

A Mini-Review of Ex Machina from a Feminist Point of View

One of my main takeaways from the Ex Machina movie was that if men design robots, the robots will be beautiful young females who are so dumb they wear 7-inch stiletto heels in the woods! Despite this idiocy, the robots will be cunning and able to use their female wiles to seduce human men and make the men act dumb.

Seriously, if we don't get more women in tech, the robots that could replace humans some day will be a male fantasy of everything immature men love and hate about women. This is a scary thought.

Spoiler alert: The naked female robots in the closets are creepy and unsettling.

Entrepreneur Elon Musk recently tweeted: “Hope we’re not just the biological boot loader for digital superintelligence. Unfortunately, that is increasingly probable.” 

If the movie Ex Machina is a good prediction of the future, then we are in fact the evolutionary ancestors of the digital robots that we will create and that will one day take over the world. 

As Nathan, the brilliant Google-like engineer who created the Artificial Intelligence in the movie, says, "One day the AIs 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."

I can't think of a better reason for why we need more women in tech! If we are truly creating our descendants, then we need the creators of these descendants to be a diverse group with varied decision-making styles and a maturity that comes from overcoming challenges. Without help from people not like them, the young white and Asian men who make up 80-90% of tech today simply won't make all the right decisions about what our digital descendants should be capable of doing. 

Even if we're just creating robots that will do chores for us, or intelligent agents that can perceive their environment and act in some rational way to benefit us humans, the robots will be more functional, less buggy, and more benevolent if they are designed by a diverse group. 

I actually did love the movie for its thought-provoking elucidation of the philosophical underpinnings of artificial intelligence research, but I found the overuse of gender norms disheartening. What if the programmer selected to run the Turing test had been female? What if some of the robots were handsome young males? Or even old, chubby males or females? 

What if some of the robots were androgynous? I think that would have made a better movie. And in the real world, I think a diverse group of technology creators will make a better future, both for humans and robots. 

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