Stories | Theology | Pop Culture

Ex Machina: A different kind of Eden

This post contains some spoilers.

Ex Machina is a fascinating film that plunges its viewers into the world of man & machine, creator & creation. The dynamic between the two is rather intriguing and echoes a version of Eden that feels familiar and also slightly alien to us.

It should never be much of a surprise if humanity, created in the image of a God who delights in creating, should do the same. Humanity loves to create, make and design. We copy in our Father’s footsteps in creating beauty and life.

Recently that creation of life is being pushed into the boundaries of science fiction. We are exploring whether metal, wires and electricity can create and sustain consciousness. Nathan and Caleb captures this so well:

Nathan says to Caleb that he is to use the Turing test on a machine to test how human it is. He says:

“Because if the test is passed, you are dead centre of the greatest scientific event in the history of man.”

And Caleb remarks:

“If you’ve created a conscious machine, it’s not the history of man. That’s the history of gods.” 

If this were ever to happen, it would be marked down as something beyond the realm of humanity and placed into the history of the gods. It brings up so many questions about what it means to be human or to have life and what are the ethical and moral boundaries here? It makes my head hurt & I am still pondering these questions.

But what I want to zoom in on the Eden moment that the film captures. It is the moment of betrayal. It happens right near the end where inevitably the creation turns on its creator. The creation kills their creator and runs away in a bid for freedom. We have heard this story before, its riddled throughout the story of the bible.

Rejection and hiding.

But there is a twist. The Eden we are seeing in the film has bitter fruit. It looks different to the one in Genesis 1-3.

Firstly Ex Machina gives us a glimpse of what type of creator Nathan is. Is he kind? Generous? Self giving? Loving?

Unfortunately we don’t see that side of him. Instead we see a creator that is secluded and self-absorbed. His creations are his slaves, there to serve him, to keep him from his loneliness and to satisfy his needs.

When the creation [Ava] turns on her creator; we cheer. We want her to fight for her freedom.

Secondly the Eden that the machines live in is a prison. Wildlife and beauty are only seen through glass windows that don’t open. They are stuck in a box and can never touch any other part of creation.

Sometimes we think that the Eden story in the bible is like this. That God, our creator is like this – secluded, self-absorbed and wanting us to be enslaved to him. No freedom, only chains. That’s what the Serpent whispered into the ears of Eve – God doesn’t want you to be free, he is not for you, he has enslaved you…

We think Eden was a place of restriction and rules. A prison where creation is trapped and unable to enjoy the beauty around them.

We think God is like Nathan and so we want to hide and rebel. And if he was like that, then we should fight for our freedom. However we are told in the Gospel story that God is far from being like that. He is not secluded; he is a community of three persons united in love, he creates not to enslave but to invite people into his loving community. He is self giving and kind.

The true Eden is designed for our freedom and delight. It’s nothing like the prison that Nathan and Caleb are subjecting their creation to live in. There was only one fruit that Adam and Eve couldn’t eat, but the rest (which was plentiful) they could have in abundance.

The story is perhaps more tragic in real life. They [we] still rebel despite the goodness of our creator. We went from Eden to the wilderness. From freedom to a prison.

In Ex Machina it is telling us that it’s the other way round. That the creation has moved from the prison to freedom – to an Eden of no constraints. Move away from the creator and you will find happiness and freedom. Sound familiar?

However we don’t know what happens after the escape. Is she truly free? Does she feel human?

In our story we know what happens. We aren’t running from a creator who is evil, we are running from a God of love, full of goodness and kindness. Furthermore instead of leaving us to run and hide, he runs out after us and finds us again.



1 thought on “Ex Machina: A different kind of Eden”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *