Humility, Ex Machina, and Playing God

May 5, 2015

Categories: Humility

Last weekend I saw the movie Ex Machina. I thought it was a great movie. It was unsettling, but it made me think.

I don’t want to give too much of the movie away, but the basic premise is the main character, Caleb, is a computer programmer and is selected to visit his boss Nathan, who is the owner of a tech company called Bluebook. Once at Nathan’s compound, Caleb finds out Nathan has been developing artificial intelligence. 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 Ava, 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 has repeated 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, 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? What do you think is the right balance between power/control and humility?

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