The Vaults, London
All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain… Time to die – Blade Runner
In popular culture, as well as true life, the boundaries between Man and technology are diminishing daily. With scientists speculating that advances in computing will lead to artificial intelligence eventually passing the Turing Test, it’s not so hard to believe that in the near future, there will at least be an attempt to create ‘articial companions’ for ‘romantic consumption’. Ethically, this opens up a can of worms, which is where the premise of this show falls into place.
Every performance, Peter Dewhurst and Eve Ponsonby take it in turns to be the AI model and the human being they are having a ‘relationship’ with. The AI models may be indistinguishable from human beings, but they are also susceptible to the law of entropy and can develop faults over time.
On the occasion I attended, Ponsonby played the AI April and had developed a bug in her programming. April fears this is just the beginning of many ailments she will endure and that the only humane thing to do is let her retire (to use an expression from Logan’s Run) and be recycled for use elsewhere. Dewhurst’s heartbroken Adam objects to this for many different reasons.
As the ‘Creative Biolife Ethical Steering Committee’, the audience at regular intervals in the show are asked to vote on the persuasiveness of the arguments they have just heard. This allows the audience to change their mind throughout the show. From my perspective, a lot of the issues raised all hinged on whether April (or Adam if he’s the AI when you attend) can be classified and treated as ‘human’.
An entity that is truly sentient can be classified as ‘human’ and has certain, inalienable rights. With the exception of Dignitas in Switzerland, we generally don’t allow assisted suicide for human beings. But then, doctors do turn off life support machines for people who aren’t going to recover from massive injuries. These arguments, of course, regarding ‘euthanasia’ and ‘human rights’ are just as pertinent for ‘real people’ and it makes one think whether just because someone maybe ‘artificial’ that they are not applicable to the same criteria.
Of course, along with the notion of being sentient resides ‘free will’ and not being subservient to another’s wishes. (Can this be applicable to machines?) Also, just to keep the audience on their toes, certain information during the latter half of the show throws the exercise into a new light.
It’s a very simple premise, but this show really engages with the heart as well as the brain, which is what any good theatre succeeds in doing.