Thu, May 17, 2018 - Page 14 News List

Artificial intelligence: it may be our future but can it write a play?

As AI encroaches on our day to day lives, it will increasingly make its way into the art world. So how will it be used?

By Jane Howard  /  The Guardian

Visitors last month try out virtual reality head-sets during the 10th Global Mobile Internet Conference in Beijing, China.

Photo: EPA-EFE

The first half of Lifestyle of the Richard and Family is all too familiar theatrical content: the unhappy couple; the disaffected teenager; the dinner party; the secrets; the affair. The characters and beats come from a kind of theater that steadfastly refuses to go out of style, no matter how stale it is.

But something is strange about the words coming from these mouths on stage. The sentences, while technically complete, veer off on weird tangents. There is no witty dialogue here; if the lines are funny it is because of their nonsense. But playwright Roslyn Helper can be forgiven.

She wrote the play with the help of artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a specter that haunts the modern workforce. Some studies suggest up to 30 percent of people could lose their jobs to it. Driverless vehicles could see the end of truck drivers, robots could increasingly take over even complex manufacturing, personal assistants and customer support workers may be made redundant. Robots look set to judge gymnastics. Not content with the three options provided in reply e-mails in Gmail, Google will now even write a whole e-mail for you.

So if AI is the way of the future, is it the way of theater?

Lifestyle, a play presented by Next Wave festival and Melbourne Knowledge Week, suggests not. The “artificial” of AI sits heavily on the work; it’s amusing for its glitches rather than its sense. But as AI encroaches on our day to day lives, it will increasingly make its way into the art world. So how will it be used? And what does it mean for how we understand art?

MALE BIAS

AI is a learning system. To create AI artists, humans will need to select the information the system learns from. So while AI is nominally intelligent and separate from humans, its algorithms are built through the lens of human bias. We are currently seeing a distinct white male bias in AI. Not surprisingly, the history of western theater is also one of white male bias.

Lifestyle isn’t the only work in Next Wave to be thinking about this robot future. Bureau of Meteoranxiety is an installation piece acting as satire on contemporary mindfulness and self-care, and our disconnection from nature and fears about climate change. As part of the work, you are invited to talk with an AI chatbot, Gail, about your weather-based anxieties.

While she often seems to answer a question that is slightly different from the one you actually asked, there is something strangely comforting about this discussion of weather. Yet Gail’s female name (most chatbots, in a position of subservience, have female names ) hides the male influences that have gone into her. In my discussion with her she quotes (uncredited) the work of male poets and then, gallingly, Donald Trump.

By using AI in this artistic context, the artists encourage us to view the technology through a critical lens. The Bureau, and Gail, feel like services people might very much want to use, but if we did, whose biases would we be fed? For that matter, whose biases exist in the AI we increasingly use? If AI becomes the artist, how will we know to look at who created the AI? Who is the creator’s creator?

Singularity, part of Melbourne Knowledge Week, had perhaps the most pessimistic view of an AI future. Imagining an Australia in 2040, when most people dine alone, the audience was segregated into single eating booths and served by robots fulfilling “all of [our] nutritional and emotional needs.” In fact, large wooden boxes hid the artists sitting inside these moving robots, feeding a person at one table a gray cube of jelly while serving the person sitting next to them an inscrutable progression of images via screens.

This story has been viewed 2327 times.

Comments will be moderated. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned.

TOP top