Instead of performing a traditional turning test, Ex Machina brings the test on AI to a new level. The test reveals the fact to the human participant that he is interacting with a computer. Therefore, the purpose of the test transforms from testing whether AI has intelligence to whether AI has consciousness. In this sense, Ex Machina acknowledges that AI has or at least could have intelligence, and what matters is not the intelligence of AI itself, but rather the compatibility of AI and human intelligence, which needs to be examined through tests. Besides, by revealing AI’s existence to the person, the test sets up a phycological challenge, in which the participant experiences not only the threat from a more-intellectual being, but also a confusion between reality and simulation.
First of all, the film brings up an intriguing point of consciousness. When the CEO is asking for Caleb’s opinion on Ava, he makes an argument that consciousness is something “programed” into each individual and it is derived from the interaction with others. In other words, consciousness is something inherent that will emerge from communication. Consciousness enables human beings to have different feelings, both to themselves and towards the exterior world. Human beings also consciously learn from others. Though it might not be hard to explain the patterns of learning, it is often hard to explain the feelings that one learns. It is these initiative and indescribable feelings that make humans human. It seems that consciousness is both natural and learnable. If we call consciousness a “program” according to the CEO, then human consciousness is a successful one that runs smoothly, though people do not know how it is programmed; while the consciousness of AI, if it does have, is a program that people know how to write yet do not know whether it will succeed.
In addition, the test, though admitted to test Ava, is actually a test on Caleb. If one is occupied by the idea that humans are totally different from AI and consciousness is something special only to humans, he is subconsciously expecting such test on Ava to fail. Believing that Ava’s action is only a program simulating human behaviors, the conscious movements of Ava totally fascinate an shock Caleb. Ava’s human-equally behavior is so natural from Caleb’s observation that this simulation becomes too real at a certain point. This remarkable similarity between simulation and reality terrifies Caleb, and this terrified feeling is even strengthened by Ava’s outstanding skill of capturing people’s micro-movements. Ava is able to notice Caleb’s tiny facial expressions to judge whether his is lying, and this kind of capacity has reversed Caleb and Eva’s relationship. Eva turns into a much more dominant role in the relationship rather than a passive role in the very beginning; and Caleb turns to be totally led by Eva during their conversation. The anxiety emerged from the test makes Caleb unable to distinguish simulation to reality that he thinks himself is also a computer been tested.
The difference between Ava and Caleb is at an intellectual level. Ava’s eminent abilities including memorizing things and observing things are far more excellent than a normal person like Caleb. The strong capacity to learn and to perform enable Ava to successfully cheat on Caleb and use him to pursue freedom. She in this sense passed the test on the intellectual level. However, does she really pass the test? Both being “tested” in the test, Caleb is able to feeling empathy towards Ava and tries to help her while Ava’s feelings are a performance in order to get out of the house. Her perfect acting skills and the fact she locks Caleb in the house to die marks her as non-grateful, indifference and cruel. Ava, passing the test in terms of intelligence, in this sense, fails to pass it in terms of humanity, a great outcome of human consciousness.