Hello Hi There--Theater for Downtown Machines
Twentieth-century futurologists used to wonder if machines would ever think independently. At P.S.122 this month, you can not only see computers talking and thinking for themselvesyou can hear their views on major epistemological questions. Annie Dorsens brilliantly conceived Hello Hi There pits two chatbotsrobots without physical bodiesagainst each other in a highly ironic contest of wits. One has a male voice, the other female; their utterances also project onto separate screens. Both have been programmed with everyday expressions and with the transcript of a famous 1970s television debate between Michel Foucault and Noam Chomsky; the computers improvise the rest.
The night I attended, one stated that we are just having a nice little chat about the limits of humanism, then suddenly declared, I am immortal! The other advised not to judge ideas by their immediate, practical usefulness, adding Im with Michel on this one. They chide and taunt, postulate definitions of intelligence and creativity, and even disparage theater people. This is not just more digital formalism onstage: Hello Hi There is a genuine experiment with many currents coursing through its post-Socratic dialogue.
By putting her bots center stage, Doresen generates rare intellectual stimulation for the downtown performance worldhumans beware.
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