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Ex Machina and AI communication

As AI keeps progressing and becoming more and more human-like, the line between man and machine is blurred begging the question: how can we successfully coexist? Ten years ago, Alex Garland’s debut film “Ex Machina” was released to critical acclaim. In the film, Garland tackles this complex issue. Making the movie still extremely relevant to today’s debate around the use of AI as a means of communication.

The AI question

The 2014 film posed interesting and profound questions regarding technology, showcasing the blurred line between human and machine communication. Since its release, the world has seen a tremendous advancement in machine learning and AI. Mere months later, in November 2014, Amazon announced Alexa, a virtual assistant using a human-like voice.  Today we have grown accustomed to communicating with AI and rely on it for a lot of our information or activities. But what does this say about the definition of “human” and what will it lead to in the future?

Every new, disruptive invention is always met with a lot of scepticism and fear. When the first steps in the field of robotics were made, many were afraid human factory workers would become obsolete. However, as technology entered the workforce it  produced more jobs than those it replaced, fostering a safer and less repetitive work environment. 

Nevertheless, AI is a completely different beast. Contrary to robots used in manufacturing, AI is based on machine learning technology which, not only may impact more fields, but it also involves a different approach and communication. 

Generative AI

« With the data we currently possess, AI is only capable of replicating information, it can’t create from scratch – comments digital marketing specialist at ScopriNetwork Srl, Erika Zaffalon – Therefore it can be a valuable helper, however it still needs to be managed by a human. In the next few years, AI will be ever more present. Just a few years ago we were all hesitant to Alexa, now we even ask her to purchase on our behalf, becoming almost our personal assistant. Another glaring example is Chat GPT, despite people using it improperly to become “non-thinking” communicators, it still is a tool that can be extremely helpful in many professions».

Chat GPT is a great example of this. The natural language processing chatbot, driven by generative AI, has proven, on one hand, to be a great tool for writing, brainstorming, organising text or ideas or translations, on the other hand, it seems to have been used by some as an excuse to get AI to generate most if not all of their text. 

Because AI isn’t capable of actual thought, but generates text using specialised algorithms to find patterns within data sequences, it falls short of replicating human communication and that should be fine.

Deus Ex Machina

There is no need to recreate humans with technology, there is a need of optimising workflows through machine learning technology. The name “Ex Machina” comes from the latin expression “deus ex machina”. This term was used in the theatre when a god would descend, using wires and a kind of crane, to resolve all of the characters’ problems and end the play.

That’s what AI should be, it should be an end to our mindless repetitive tasks or a tool to make work more efficient.

Unfortunately, it seems that some multi-millionaire CEO’s do not agree with the use of generative AI as a simple tool. Big media companies, such as Netflix, have begun looking for AI experts, possibly as a way of replacing screenwriters or other creative roles. This was one of the reasons for the Writer and Actor strike in the US in 2023. 

« Just recently, Elon Musk decided to fire many employees to “cut costs” and this doesn’t surprise me. His companies have always favoured machines over people. Elon Musk, a controversial figure that some may or may not like, has declared in the past that working will, eventually, be a choice and no longer necessary. I think it’s quite idealistic honestly» adds Zaffalon.

Generative AI can be a powerful tool for communication and work. However it’s important that it remains a tool and not a reason to full human workers, who are still crucial to most fields. 

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