World’s Best Widget

You’ve been granted magical engineering skills, but you can only use them to build one gadget or machine. What do you build?

My first reaction was a machine that can do everything!  Absolutely everything! It can make things, do things, time travel, stop global warming, create world peace.

I fear, however, that there are ethical issues that someone will impose on to this!

*FILM SPOILER ALERT!!!*

I can’t remember just how recently it was that I watched Ex Machina, but it was brilliant.  At one point in the film, programmer Caleb asks Nathan why he sexualised his robot.  (Is sexualised actually the right word for “giving a sex to”? It doesn’t feel quite right.  For some reason I think the word should be genderised but the robot did have physical female characteristics artificially given to it.  Anyway, this is besides the point.  I think).

Nathan replies that, in essence, all actions on some level are driven by the need to reproduce, and so for a robot to reach the point where it becomes indistinguishable from a human it needs to have a sexual component.  Interestingly, the first part of that sentence formed the basis of my argument with my Family Law lecturer at university around why gay couples shouldn’t be allowed to adopt.  It isn’t – let me type that again – IT IS NOT what I believe, but it’s easy enough to argue and was enough to annoy him a bit!

Being able to go against belief is kind of what the film is about.  Caleb’s task was to complete a “Turing Test” on cyborg Ava (Caleb would try to detect from its (her?!) personality and actions that Ava is a cyborg).  Caleb thinks the test is flawed because he starts the test knowing that Ava is artificial, but Nathan suggests that the real test is whether Ava can pass for human despite the knowledge that she is anything but.

It’s about artificial affection rather than artificial intelligence.  Ava is programmed to play a game with Caleb, to make him believe that she is capable of something above and beyond what she should fundamentally be able to achieve, and whether she would respond in kind.  Can emotion and feelings be generated where it’s seemingly impossible to do so?

It’s not a wholly original concept but I found it interesting.  When you think of characters like Data out of Star Trek, everything around the stories of robots and affection revolve around a whole load of human desires – the attraction to something “other”, danger and control (a robot can be programmed, but what if it doesn’t follow that program?) as well as the desire to be able to humanise the inhuman.  In Data’s case, he wanted to be able to feel those emotions and desires as well.

So when I go back to the original question about what I would build a machine to do, I’m not sure the answer would be “everything”.  It would be far better to get some things from something with a genuine choice in the matter.  I think I’m happy with the machine that makes me a coffee in the morning.  I still get to push its buttons!

(Was that last line a step to far?!)

I would dig a thousand holes to lay next to you
I would dig a thousand more if I needed to
I look around the grave for an escape route of old routines
There doesn’t seem to be any other way

‘Cause Ive started falling apart, I’m not savoring life
Ive forgotten how good it could be to feel alive

Crazy as it sounds you won’t feel as low as you feel right now
At least that’s what I’ve been told by everyone
I whisper empty sounds in your ear and hope that you wont let go
Take the pieces and build them skywards

‘Cause I’ve started falling apart, I’m not savoring life
I’ve forgotten how good it could be to feel alive

I’ve started falling apart, I’m not savoring life
Take the pieces and build them skywards
I’ve forgotten how good it could be to feel alive
Take the pieces and build them skywards

I’ve started falling apart, I’m not savoring life
Take the pieces and build them skywards
I’ve forgotten how good it could be to feel alive
Take the pieces and build them skywards

I’ve started falling apart, I’m not savoring life
Take the pieces and build them skywards
I’ve forgotten how good it could be to feel alive
Take the pieces and build them skywards

Take the pieces and build them skywards
And take the pieces and build them skywards
And take the pieces and build them up to the sky

Machines by Biffy Clyro

Comments 2

  1. B i r g i t t a

    What would life be without coffee!? So many wouldn’t even wake up in the morning/days.

    • Haha, indeed, yes! I more than understand that sleepy visit to the kitchen every morning!

      Thanks for reading.

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