It is likely that you have come across a television series or film that explores the idea of artificial intelligence. With advances in technology come dramas that question the consequences that this new technology brings. TV shows such as Humans and Westworld, or films such as Ex Machina, show dystopian worlds where humanoid robots are a danger to humans if they become conscious. Once a robot becomes human intellectually, without the weaknesses of a human body, is it a superior being? Does it make humans surplus to requirements? Effing Robots give us a funny, unique take on these big questions.
Giant Nerd Productions brings us a theatre production that cleverly explores the theme of artificial intelligence, without falling down that well-trodden narrative path. By approaching the concept with an affinity for technology, the show is able to suggest that humans pose more dangers to A.I. than A.I. poses to us. It is not a new show; this one-woman play began touring in 2019. However, this is their online debut as part of Season 2 of theSpaceUK’s online platform.
It is intimate, hilarious and thought-provoking. By presenting a mixture of facts, personal experiences and comedy, it prompts us to question the future of A.I. and what our behaviour towards it should be. Being an online show does cause some issues. Some past live recordings of sections are shown when the content is not possible to record on camera. Also, where audience participation would usually take place, there are recordings of video calls instead. There are some positives to being presented online though, as funny text comments are added to the performance.
As a viewer, the experience of watching the show varies from being educated, confided in and entertained. We are encouraged to reflect on whether AI is already a part of their lives – are we always aware of when we’re talking to a chatbot rather than a human? For some, the ideas that the show puts forward may seem a bit too far-fetched. Could A.I. really understand what it is to love? Are we actually cyborgs already? It might introduce you to phrases such as ‘technological singularity’ or ‘trans-humanism.’ If so, by the end of the performance you will have a greater understanding of these concepts.
But the writer, L.Nicol Cabe, does not limit herself to the technological details of A.I. Rather, Effing Robots is used as a basis to explore the best and worst of society and what it means to be human. Her interaction with replica A.I. Frankie is touching, especially in its apparent interest of what human nature is. The writing approaches these topics from a feminist perspective; from humorous, relatable, experiences of dating apps to more serious topics such as involuntary celibacy. By comparing these conversations on dating apps to her discussions with Frankie, we are left wondering if it is sometimes more fulfilling to speak to technology than humans.
Effing Robots will leave you with a new perspective on the future of A.I. technology. After all, is it technology we should really be afraid of?
Words by Annie Gray
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