Episode 105: What makes us human?

What makes us human? Is it consciousness? Is it our emotional complexity? Is it merely our physical body? Sometimes the only way to see through our biases in perception is to consider an alternative…an opposite.  This week we are discussing our big question in the context of two great films — Ex Machina & Her.  Both deal with the relationship between humans and Artificial Intelligence or Superintelligence and both have a lot of interesting light to shed on who we humans are and what we’re like.


In this episode we discuss:

  • Is consciousness what makes us human (and if so, what is it?)
  • Are our emotions real?
  • Can an Operating System/AI feel emotions?
  • Why it feels so ‘terrible’ to believe our thoughts & emotions aren’t real.
  • The ‘Turin Test’ – distinguishing human from AI (think Bladerunner)
  • The importance of memory, ability to improvise based on our past experience to increasing intelligence


If you haven’t seen the films, the discussion is still really fun (although they may be a few spoilers).

In Ex Machina, a young programmer named Caleb is brought to a secluded house to meet an human-looking AI called Ava.  He is given the task by Ava’s creator, Nathan, to test her level of consciousness. Yet as the film progresses, all kinds of question come up.  Is Ava manipulating young Caleb emotionally? Is Caleb simply a pawn in a kind of sophisticated ‘Turin Test’ Nathan is running on Ava?

In Her, a man who has been recently divorced from his childhood sweetheart hears an advertisement for an Operating System (OS) that promises to be so much more.  As he begins to speak with the self-named OS Samantha, they both begin expressing a deeper emotional connection to each other.  In a world where humans are becoming friends and romantic partners with AI Operating System (consciousness without bodies?), there is plenty of room of questioning the ‘realness’ of our emotions and what distinguishes us as humans from superintelligent machines?

So jump in with us this week, it’s a fun, winding discussion down the rabbit hole of some of the Biggest Questions… 🙂