Anyone who has seen Alex Garland’s sci-fi opus Ex Machina can attest to the fact that it’s a sci-fi masterpiece, but it turns out there are even more subtle layers buried in the movie’s literal source code.
The film, which stars Domhnall Gleeson as a programmer tasked with testing a cutting-edge artificial intelligence housed in an android body (Alicia Vikander), is a thoughtful and tense examination of humanity and the way we treat one another. But, this being a sci-fi film, it also features a scene with some computer code splayed across the screen.
In most movies, that code is just total gibberish, but the team behind Ex Machina decided to bury a very nifty little easter egg in there. Basically, run the code displayed in the film through the Python programming language, and you’ll get a message.
It all adds up to: ISBN = 9780199226559
What is that, you ask? It’s the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) for Murray Shanahan’s book Embodiment and the Inner Life: Cognition and Consciousness in the Space of Possible Minds, which is about, you guessed it, consciousness (a big topic in Ex Machina).
Shanahan is a professor in cognitive robotics at Imperial College, and actually worked with Alex Garland in an advisory role while he was putting together the script.
Well played, Garland. Well played.