When computer programmer Caleb wins a company competition he gets to visit his boss Nathan’s island hideout. Once there he is invited to test Nathan’s latest creation – an artificially intelligent robot, going by the name of Ava. It’s a tough assignment, and Caleb is not sure whether he will pass the test, never mind the artificial, yet beautiful and intelligent, Ava. Ultimately this test is not merely about how Ava responds to his questions, but how they both respond to the situation they find themselves in.
Domhnall Gleeson plays the part of Caleb in this movie. He features in another film, Calvary, and in that he claims that controlling others makes him feel as if, in his words, ‘You become like God.’ But the local priest emphatically replies, ‘No you don’t. No you don’t.’ The local priest, a very good man, understands the nature of God as compassionate, patient and caring. Not some kind of A.I. designer who can then manipulate his creation for selfish purpose. The debate about how much God intervenes in his world will continue till the end of time, but what is pretty clear is that people have an awful lot of freewill. Freewill to look to or away from that Designer, freewill to serve or manipulate others, freewill to use or misuse the gifts we have been given. The temptation offered to Adam and Eve was that if they went their own way they would become like God. Like robot designer Nathan, you might say. But when we look at Jesus the challenge to ‘become like God’ is a very different one. Though he was God Jesus did not hang on to that privilege selfishly or wield manipulative power, instead he was humble, became fully human and walked a path of obedience, laying down his life for others. (Philippians 2 v 5-8).
We may not operate in the realm of artificial intelligence, I can barely string together a stickman on paper, but we all want to control others at times. It seems to me that we all have moments of attempting to play God, (I certainly do!) it’s within our human nature now, but we are also invited to look beyond our own plans and schemes to the designer of all life. The one who, in the words of Psalm 148, is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and rich in love.