In episode #108 of Science Goes to the Movies, Dr. Heather Berlin and Faith Salie are joined by Christof Koch, President and Chief Scientific Officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, for a discussion about artificial intelligence (AI) and the fluid nature of consciousness as both apply to the 2015 film Ex Machina as well as 1982’s Blade Runner.
Ex Machina provokes a conversation about the neural basis of consciousness and whether the artificial intelligence in the film has consciousness. Does she have feelings or experience love? How close is she to human? Koch explains the importance of the Turing Test – the way in which each person, through direct access to his or her feelings, can fairly identify their own humanity, but no one else’s. Heather Berlin looks at human biology and robotics, and considers the way in which behavior is to some extent genetically pre-ordained. Next, they tackle the question of whether the scientist in the film is misogynistic due to his treatment of the gendered robots he creates, and the broader question of whether it’s possible in general to be cruel to an artificial intelligence.
Blade Runner leads to a discussion of humanity’s longstanding interest in, and anxiety about, artificial intelligence and its relation to our most basic questions—such as whether or not humans have souls, and an AI’s ability to value human life. Is our treatment of robots akin to enslavement, or are human beings subservient to, and dependent on, rampantly growing technologies? Koch predicts a future in which artificial intelligence features prominently, an inevitable moment in which humanity will have to decide collectively whether these are beings with rights or merely machines.
Written and Produced by Lisa Beth Kovetz.
Science Goes to the Movies is made possible by generous support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.