Androids steal scene; acting intelligence

The playwright Flavio González Mello will premiere a science fiction comedy in which he proposes that the actors could be replaced by software or algorithms

How much time is left for a computer, software or algorithm to do the same work as a playwright or an actor on stage, in a faster, more efficient and austere way? That is the central approach of the stage production Intelligence acting, which will have its world premiere on February 9 at the Hellenic Cultural Center.

“This work arose from a concern that, each one of us in their field, we have shared when thinking about when we will become obsolete and dispensable,” Flavio González Mello, director, author of the piece and winner of the Juan Ruiz National Dramaturgy Award, told Excelsior. of Alarcon.

However, “this question contains anguish and fascination, because it is exhausting to become obsolete, but at the same time it is fascinating how man has created this artificial intelligence, which has the capacity to replace it”, explains the screenwriter and stage director.

González Mello came up with the idea of ​​writing this piece before an algorithm got the idea. So he imagined this story, set in 2043, when the interaction between humans and artificial intelligence robots, even identical to humans in appearance, has already been normalized.

“And what counts is the story of an actor who, ten days after his debut in the role of Hamlet, receives another offer to work in a Hollywood film. Then he leaves his place to his replacement, which is a robot identical to him, which inside only has chips and circuits, so the director of Hamlet must face the challenge that this android understands Hamlet in ten days ”, describes.

At the same time, this replacement must be taught the role of the actor and how to try to be convincing on stage, adding the challenge that neither the audience nor the crew know that it is a robot. “And that opens up a second question: how capable are we of noticing if someone, whom we see every day, is suddenly replaced by an identical robot?” He questions.

How do you represent the technological part on stage? “Even though we are talking about state-of-the-art technology, we make the theater with our own resources. In the case of theater, fortunately, it does not pass through technology, since it is one of those very few trades that is still done by hand, with the same resources that were used two thousand years ago by Greek and Latin playwrights.” .

“So we used simple but powerful assets, like the mask, the costumes, and a life-size puppet. However, the most important resource is the actor and his ability to convince us, with his body and his sensitivity, that we are dealing with an actor and his replacement”, he explains.

For this project, the theater director started from The Comedian’s Paradox, by Denis Diderot, a text that three centuries ago raised similar elements as in Actoral Intelligence, such as the fact that if an actor feels nothing, but is capable of reproducing the appearance external quality of feeling, it is better or not than the one who does feel.

“We answer that question that Diderot was asking not only in the present, but we project it into the future to ask ourselves, from the 21st century, how valid it is and I think it is very interesting in light of artificial intelligence, which reproduces as faithfully as possible to human behavior and including self-learning, which is what makes it different from any other computer program”, he explains.

Will robots take over the scene in the future? “In the short term the notes (of a work) will no longer be generated by a person, but by an algorithm, but I remain hopeful that more important works will be carried out by humans.

“The turning point is in the word self-learning of artificial intelligence. And although, in a romantic way, we have told ourselves the story that there are things that robots will not be able to do -like poetry, cinematography or love- as we see the leaps and bounds of this technology… I would say that it is already part of the universe of the probable”, he concludes.