Why “Ex Machina” is about Search Engine Optimization

So if you are a fan of sci-fi films, watch “Ex Machina” you’ll enjoy it. If you’re a fan of sci-fi films and a digital marketing, please watch “Ex Machina” you’ll love it. You’ll love it because it’s a film about the perfect A.I. and an allegory of the perfect search engine. P.S. Massive spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t watched the movie, watch it, then come back.


Multiple references to Search Engines

The easiest way for a filmmaker to make an allegory is to refer to it. Caleb, the hero, is a programmer at BlueBook a Search Engine company, which represents Search Engines or Google. Nathan, the CEO and Larry Page stand in, even mentions using Google to collect the audiovisual data of the world’s cellphone users to create the facial expressions for his A.I. However given this movie is 20 minutes into the future, Nathan has eclipsed Google by, “taking 94% of users” and he achieved this because as paraphrased “Search Engines are not about what people think, it’s how people think.”

Article Ex Machina- Ava Brain 

He demonstrates this with Ava’s brain, a compilation of how people think. In essence, Ava is the perfect A.I. and the perfect search engine, and she proves this by not only understanding how every character’s (including hers) implicit narrative guide their actions but taking advantage of them.



Nathan, if he had to choose how his life was defined by what he searched it would be something like “Visionary” “God on Earth” or “Need some good Quotes”, after all he created Bluebook, he created the perfect A.I. He is also a middle-aged heterosexual male who lives alone. And his real searches would be “looking for submissive female” or “asian porn”. Nathan is a genius on par with Mozart, Larry Page or Gideon Graves from Scott Pilgrim. Like Gideon, Nathan wants to be recognized for his awesome intellect yet twists it to fulfill his sexual tendencies. He’s going to win because Ava will prove herself as the perfect A.I. while cuckolding Caleb while he is recognized as the genius he already is. It’s this narrative he expects to play out and this assumption ultimately leads to his downfall.

 Article Ex Machina- Nathan



Caleb’s entire persona is having a strong moral compass, doesn’t have a girlfriend, doesn’t have many meaningful connections and an experience programmer. All of this is found online by Nathan and used to play out the narrative he wants for Caleb. Caleb realizes this when he asks “did you design Eva’s face based on my porn searches?” Imagine Caleb is a typical search engine user, Nathan is the SEO expert and the invitation to his estate and Ava is the site Caleb wants. It’s almost a example of successful SEO.

Article Ex Machina- Caleb 

However Caleb is a good man, or at least the most sympathetic character besides Ava, both Nathan and Ava both worked out Caleb wants the White Saviour narrative. His imagined narrative for the film, and the one we expect as he is the protagonist, is him rescuing Ava and escaping Nathan together. While race is not A.I., he can’t help himself from following his role as a white male heterosexual hero which is brutally subverted at the end. While Caleb is the hero that Ava needs, Ava is not the site Caleb wants.

 Article Ex Machina- Caleb & Nathan



Ava wants to escape, and the only way she will be able to is by being the perfect A.I. and not just know what Caleb and Nathan want but why they want it. In the same way the perfect Search Engine will be able to provide the answers for why we want what we search for. While the perfect search engine is designed to help people, Ava is not designed to help people but herself and in this way subverts the narratives of both Caleb and Nathan to successfully escape. She dutifully follows the narratives of both Caleb and Nathan, and when they diverge, she is able to brutally subvert Nathan’s goals to the point of being “unreal” and utterly twisting Caleb’s narrative by abandoning him to die.

 Article Ex Machina- Ava

Initial SEO experts were simply around gaming the search engine algorithm, and taking advantage of it to push shoddy sites up the rankings. However with the Penguin & Panda updates and continuous updates to Search Engine algorithms, it’s no longer about dirty or even ambiguous-but-still-works SEO tactics to game the algorithm. Just like the inevitability of human progress, SEO will have to offer not what but how people think by fulfilling their narratives i.e. creating genuine content people actually want to read, if it will be acknowledged by Search Engines.

Article- Penguin & Panda Updates