Sunday, April 18

On the scene, like a machine obsessed with sex: when a robot writes a play | Theater

KAzuo Ishiguro, whose new novel Klara and the Sun is about artificial intelligence, has said that he worries about a moment when an artificial intelligence program is capable of writing fiction “that can make me cry, that can show human emotions… that can have the capacity for empathy ”.

the first drama written by artificial intelligence shows that we are very far from that future. Ninety percent of its “autobiographical” material has been generated from its depths, while the remaining touches, human, are managed by a team of computer scientists, theater directors and academics. A partnership between the Czech Center in London and the Švanda Theater in Prague, it is performed in Czech with English subtitles.

Ironically, the first live stream is plagued with stops, starts, and long periods of buffering. These glitches contain their own schadenfreude – it’s strangely satisfying to know that even artificial intelligence isn’t immune to online glitches.

The biggest revelation, however, is that while a computer’s imagination touches, somewhat randomly, themes of love, loneliness, antics, and performance, most of the time it becomes obsessed with sex, which may not be surprising. , given the prevalence of Internet pornography.

Directed by Daniel Hrbek, the drama has a robot protagonist at its center, played by Jacob Erftemeijer, who travels through mindless scenes with the air of a glazed, modern Frankenstein, wearing the platform shoes of a classic zombie. His teacher, Viktor (as in Mary Shelley’s story), has died and he must fight alone with the human race. He mostly meets sensual and suggestive women who moan, twist and throw themselves at his feet. It’s strangely reminiscent of a middle-aged male fantasy, but with clumsier lines of conversation. “I wish my binary self had a body like that,” he tells a woman. He tells her that she has lips like “warm honey” and says, “I will make love to you all over your body.”

There have been many powerfully drawn literary robots, aliens, or artificial creatures living in a state of romantic longing, from Shelley’s monster to Michel Faber’s alien in Under the Skin and Ishiguro’s clones in Never Let Me Go. This dramatic representation is not that tender, deep, or complex; The romantic subjectivity here is rude and uninteresting. Perhaps humans are simply better at imagining machines in love than the machines themselves.

AI: when a robot writes a play.
Reminiscent of a middle-aged male fantasy … IA: when a robot writes a play

Another scene shows the robot with a man pulling down his pants and saying, in an antagonistic way, “You have a finger in my butt.” They are facing each other on an almost empty stage and the stage has touches of Beckett, in his rawness, and of Pinter as well, in his unspoken power battle. But the dialogue ends up repeating itself and sounding absurd.

Questions about life, companionship, and mortality are voiced, but they seem like mindless emotionless reflections of drama, depth, or story, and the robot moves from one surreal scene to the next, as in a bad dream.

Martin Šimek’s scenic design combines an industrial landscape (iron doors or cage-shaped structures and floor grid that resembles the post-human terrain of Blade Runner) with interstellar arrangements of luminous circles or triangles on a black background.

Everything is quite puzzling and a great relief when the hour is up. It’s instructive too: even if algorithms can help us find love, recommend the perfect book on Amazon, and seem to know us better than we know ourselves, a robot can’t write an original or engaging play, at least not. yet.

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