Thanksgiving evening, as my wife, daughter and I lounged around in a tryptophanic stupor, we opted for some mindless vegging with an appropriate movie to get us in the mood for the holidays. So naturally we settled on…Ex Machina, a dystopian movie that had critics buzzing last year, about an artificially created “female” robot that gains consciousness, and at the movie’s end (spoiler alert! spoiler alert!) kills her maker and escapes into human society. “Oh the A.I. outside is frightful…”
The film, directed by Alex Garland, is a refreshing departure from similar movies that are top-heavy on special effects (e.g. I, Robot and the 17 Terminator films), and instead attempts to hold an intelligent conversation on the difference between machine and humanity. Like all the other films is imbedded a warning: be careful what we wish for in terms of technology – it might come back to bite you.
But the imminent danger of killer robots (Stephen Hawking recently warned that artificial intelligence could ‘spell of the end of the human race’) was not where my brain landed after watching the movie. My mind went elsewhere.
There is an assumption in many of these movies that we humans are getting oh so close to duplicating God’s trick in the Garden of Eden when he created male and female. Listen to some scientists, and they speak with arrogance of the godlike powers that humans now wield. “Look at us, getting ready to fly to Mars! Look at us creating computers that can vanquish any human in chess! Aren’t we something!”
And it is indeed impressive what we humans have wrought. My girls and I capped Thanksgiving weekend off by going to the LA Science Center, where we walked around the space shuttle Endeavor and then attended a fascinating exhibit on the “Science of Pixar Animation” – which chronicled the ever-growing capability of computer technology that animators have used to produce Pixar’s wonderful movies. Humans – created in God’s image – have always had this ability in them.
The rise of science was always meant to be part of what God intended for us when he told us to “Be fruitful and multiply.” I believe God looked at us designing the Endeavor, hitching up the 230 miles of wires to power it, and the 24,000 silicone tiles used to protect it, and said to himself, “Attaboy!”
But the idea that we are somehow getting close to duplicating God’s power and creativity, or that we are even coming close to supplanting the need for God because science has us covered, is pitifully laughable.
Take Ava, the machine who becomes the ex-machine in Ex Machina. We’re meant to marvel at how human “she” is, because “she” has become self-aware with the capability of deceiving, even murdering, something that threatens “her” existence. But I came away from the movie thinking how incredibly far we have to go in our creating of robots that become human.
Ava attaches some sort of synthetic skin to her frame to cover up her metallic nakedness. But this skin is nothing like human skin, which grows, and protects itself, and heals itself. Once she heads out into the cold, cruel world on her own, and starts skinning knees and stubbing toes, she’ll start looking like a Walking Dead zombie.
She was made “female” and given appropriate holes and curves to approximate gender, yet contains nothing of the hormonal, chemical, cellular, emotional and reproductive wonder of an actual female.
Her brain is a computer, and marvelously programmed, but nothing Bill Gates or his intellectual heirs has created or will be able to create can ever hold a candle to the three-pound biological super-computer which God fashioned and fixed inside each of us, a neuroplastic wonder capable of learning, growth, imagination and creativity.
Ava’s arm is severed in her maker’s last-ditch attempt to save himself, but nothing as wondrous as blood comes from her injuries, as pours from the knife wound in her maker’s back, who has over 60,000 miles of blood vessels in his God-given circulatory system. (Take that, space shuttle!) And Ava feels no pain as does her maker feel coursing through his nervous system. She merely snaps in a replacement arm after her fell deed is done.
At the end of the day, a human can’t really create a thing. The best we can do is attempt to imitate what the true Creator came up with all on his own. He designed it all. And not just the human body. But the place where the human body would live. A planet filled with a treasure house of ecosystems, in a solar system filled with beauty and danger, itself part of a universe so vast we cannot plunge its depth or count its galaxies.
May every scientist, every animator, every filmmaker, every one of us learn to say with King David, “When I look at the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4)