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Humility, Ex Machina, and Playing God

Dr. Joshua HookPosted on November 17 by Dr. Joshua Hook in General Humility

Recently I saw the movie Ex Machina. I thought it was a great movie, and it was deeply unsettling and thought-provoking.

I don’t want to give too much of the movie away, but the basic premise is the main character, Caleb, works as a computer programmer and is selected to visit his boss Nathan, who is the owner of a company called Bluebook, the world’s leading search engine company. Once at Nathan’s compound, Caleb finds out Nathan has been developing artificial intelligence, and Caleb’s job is to interact with Ava (the latest AI) and determine whether Ava is able to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to that of a human.

Caleb is understandably impressed by the AI, and in one exchange compares Nathan’s ability to create ‘life’ to that of a God. Nathan seems to quite like the comparison.

As things at the compound begin to fall apart later in the movie, I started to think about humans, our quest for power, and how these quests usually end badly. It’s a cycle that repeats itself throughout history.

In the story of Adam and Eve, in a way it was their quest for power, their quest to be ‘like God,’ that led to their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. The unmitigated quest for power has led to all sorts of atrocities throughout history-murder, slavery, rape, and war to name a few.

I think that’s part of why humility is so important. It’s natural for us to want power. We want to control ourselves, the people around us, and even our external circumstances. A little bit of power and control is healthy. We need to have some power over our own lives and what happens to us. We need to be able to effect change in our own lives and in the world.

But left unchecked, power can lead to disaster. It blinds us to the plight of those around us. In the movie Ex Machina, Nathan doesn’t see how his power to create and destroy impacts the people around him. And this ‘not-seeing’ ends up leading to his downfall.

Don’t let your desire for power go unchecked. Balance your desire for power with a strong dose of humility.

Discussion: How do your desires for power and control show up in your life?

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