'Ex Machina' and the future of artificial intelligence

A scene from 'Ex Machina.'
Source: Universal Pictures | YouTube

In an age of NSA monitoring concerns, increased data hacks and cybersecurity threats, artificial intelligence isn't necessarily the threat on the top of everyone's mind.

But for Alex Garland, writer of the screenplay for the film "28 Days Later," it should be.

Garland is director and writer of "Ex Machina," a new film that follows Caleb, a 26-year-old developer (Domhnall Gleeson) for a giant search engine that controls 94 percent of the global Internet search, as he wins a competition and gets flown to the compound of the company's founder (Oscar Isaac). Upon arrival, he discovers a major project in the development of artificial intelligence and is forced to confront moral dilemmas.

"If you make a film about strong [artificial intelligence] and make a self-aware machine, you inevitably start to talk about human consciousness," Alex Garland told CNBC.

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Garland chose a fictional tech company as the entry point into the topic, as companies invest hundreds of millions into the development of A.I. (Microsoft and Google, among others, have made big investments in artificial intelligence.)

To develop the film, Garland did massive research into cognitive robotics and human level-intelligence which forced his own opinion to evolve. And while some people see the A.I. future as ominous, he's not one of them. "I'm not concerned at all, but I've encountered a lot of people who are," he said about A.I.'s future development.

"There's someone who works in the active development of A.I. and is considering telling his children not to have children because of the implications of A.I."

Recently, Elon Musk and Bill Gates expressed concern over the possible threat of A.I. Gates thinks that it could help with jobs initially but fears eventual development of A.I. becoming too intelligent.

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Garland, for the most part, dismisses such concerns. "Any major breakthrough, whether nuclear power or industrial revolution, contains latent danger and latent benefit, but it's up to us how we contain that."

Most immediately, he anticipates A.I. being useful in key areas such as health services and hospitals.

As for his film, Garland says he's not pushing a pro-A.I. agenda on anyone but rather starting the conversation.

"It's a sympathetic look, and I hope it provokes interesting thoughts and conversations."