Easter eggs are now a regular feature of any proper geek-targeting movie because we geeks love puzzles and spotting things with extra-special relevance. Mostly we find Easter eggs in the movies of Pixar, Marvel and major franchise releases like Mad Max: Fury Road. And usually they’re at least easy enough to spot that lists of such goodies pop up online as early as the weekend of said movie’s release (here’s one for Fury Road). Most movies don’t exactly bury their Easter eggs so they can potentially rot, like real eggs.
Ex Machina is not like most movies. For one thing, it’s better than your average sci-fi release. But for another thing, it’s got a significant Easter egg that is only now coming to our attention four months after its debut overseas and more than a month since its US release. Okay, so it’s not actually a sudden revelation. Even the movie’s writer/director, Alex Garland, has been pointing it out in interviews for a while now. But it’s new to us (via Blastr) and definitely worth pointing out now, because it’s a pretty clever little nugget.
At one point in the movie, some computer code is displayed on screen. As it turns out, you can run that code through your computer and wind up with an ISBN number for a book. That book is Embodiment and the Inner Life: Cognition and Consciousness in the Space of Possible Minds by leading cognitive roboticist Murray Shanahan. Not only was it a major influence on the movie, but it was the initial spark that led Garland to write the script for Ex Machina after reading the book during production on Dredd.
Here’s what Garland told Engadget about the book last month before also spilling the beans on the Easter egg:
Within it there’s a really beautiful idea, which is an argument against metaphysics [the philosophy branch that explores how we experience the world] in terms of the mind. And in a way, if you can get rid of metaphysics as a problem, it allows for an artificial intelligence — or a strong AI. … And I have to say, as I was reading that book — and as a layman, it’s f**king difficult for me to read this stuff; I struggled like crazy — but it was while reading it that the idea for this movie appeared in my head.
Check out a screenshot of the code from the movie and see for yourself if you’re interested:
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