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Movie Night: Ex Machina

October 28, 2019

Author: Elizabeth Dietz

On August 27, 2019, the Life Science Ethics program kicked off another year of events with a screening of the 2014 film Ex Machina, which stars Oscar Issac and Alicia Vikkander and follows a computer programmer who becomes the human component of a Turing Test of a humanoid AI. The goal of Movie Night events is to bring the ASU community together at the beginning of each semester to view a popular film and have an intellectual discussion of ethical and scientific topics from that film. Students, staff, and faculty from programs across the university ranging from SOLS to Computer Science to Journalism to Music joined a panel discussion after the film.

 The panelists also came from diverse backgrounds: Rao   Kambhampati is a professor of computer science at ASU,   and a past president of the Association for the   Advancement of Artificial Intelligence. He offered an expert’s   take on what the film got right, and which parts are “like   what a Flintstones movie must be to biologists: great fun to   watch – until you pay attention to the ‘science’ and cringe.”   Andrew Hudson, a speculative fiction author and affiliate of ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination, prompted the audience to think about the work in AI, and the ways that the Turing Test, a central conceit of the movie, has been gendered from the start. Liz Dietz, a second year PhD student in the Biology and Society program on the Bioethics, Policy and Law track, reframed audience questions about bias in AI training sets toward the idea that all data sets – and all of the humans that produce them – are always already biased.

The film series, which asks “what makes a human” will continue on April 7,2020 with a screening of a new film Code of the Wild on controversial new gene editing technologies. Gene editing is a key theme for some of this year’s events at the Center for Biology and Society: 


  • February 5, 2020. Conversation Series.  Discussion of “Altered Inheritance: CRISPR and the Ethics of Human Genome Editing” with author Francoise Baylis, Ben Hurlbut, and Sanghamitra Das
  • March 26, 2020. Bioethics Breakfast Club.   “Gene editing safety and efficacy” with Karen Anderson and Bert Jacobs
  • April 7, 2020. Movie Night.  Code of the Wild with Samira Kiani, co-producer.

A full schedule of forthcoming life science events, which will touch on ocean plastics, vaccines, and novel ways to conduct scholarship outside of the lab, can be found here. We hope to see you there!


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