Being Human | Human Being: a panel discussion of Ex Machina


Back in March I co-curated a Passengerfilms event in London which used Alex Garland’s 2015 film Ex Machina to provoke a panel discussion about what it means to ‘be human’ in a world in which the digitally -or algorithmically – processed ‘virtual’ is increasingly experienced in the actualities of everyday life. I wrote a post on my own blog about the event at the time, but have now had the chance to edit the audio recording of the panel discussion, which features thoughts on the film and on the wider discourse from John Danaher (NUI Galway) and myself, as well as Lee Mackinnon (Arts University, Bournemouth), Oli Mould (Royal Holloway) and Mike Duggan (Royal Holloway).

We held the event in the downstairs area of The Book Club, an East London club venue, so some of the audio is accompanied by a booming bassline from the upstairs bar. I have tried to reduce this noise, and it does get much better halfway through, but apologies for the poor(er) quality in the first half of the recording. Please see show notes below for a breakdown of the discussion for ease of reference.

You can listen below or download here.


Show Notes

Introduction – Mike Duggan

Lee Mackinnon 0:00 – 12:00

0:40  – digital frontiers –  a return to the American Romantic project

3:00  – automatic art / automatic acts – the Pollock painting

4:25  – Turing Tests and Tinder bots

10:40  – posthumanism and materialisms

John Danaher 12:00 – 21:30

12:40  – AI, existential risk and the ‘boxing’ problem

15:35  – sex robots / sex and robots

18:50  – so is it a Turing Test or not?!

Oli Mould 21:35 – 29:12

21:45  – a Freudian reading – layerings of Id/Ego/Superego

25:15  – waves of feminism

27:40  – the metaphor of Plato’s Cave

Mike Duggan 29:20 – 30:40

29:20  – big data, culture & algorithmic ways of knowing how to be human

Pip Thornton 30:40 – 34:30

30:55  – the film as a critique of Google and commercialized data

32:10  – where/who/what is the ‘Deus’ in the Deus Ex Machina?

Q&A  34:25 – 47:30

34:30  – AI and the problems of anthropomorphism

37:40  – questioning the feminist critique and the Hollywood blockbuster – the film as an ‘algorithm of feminism’

41:20  – is the film just a rehash of the Femme Fatale trope?

44:00  – can this type of AI happen, and if so when?!

47:00 closing remarks



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