The Future at Battersea Arts Centre
Does artificial intelligence know what it’s like to be them? Are they conscious beings with their own “inner movie” playing in their minds, or are they highly functioning zombies with no awareness?
These are questions Little Bulb company asks us to consider in The Future, an hour-long performance that combines Ted Talks with acting, philosophy and live electro music to make these big questions feel more accessible. The piece feels very family friendly, making use of a lot of humour and intense facial expressions to keep the audience entertained, but it doesn’t sugarcoat the possible fate of humanity.
The staging area looks like a quintessential Ted Talk stage, but with a few eccentricities. Three of the performers, who play the scientists, wear large silver tinfoil cones on their heads. In the middle of the stage lies a small green grass-style rug. Light tubes hang from the ceiling, which subtly ramp up the atmosphere by responding to the tone of the show. There is also a small box with grass on the bottom and a black lid, which is used to portray AI as a “genie in a box” that can grant all our wishes – although perhaps not in the way we’d hope.
The Future features catchy song lyrics that are both funny and impressively deep: the electro beats, spoken word and excellent vocals bring the big questions to life. This isn’t a play, but it contains entertaining storylines that highlight some of the popular ideas about the future of artificial intelligence. This is one of those rare shows that you wish could’ve been longer because it’s so much fun to watch.
Asking whether we can program AI to advance our society without wiping us out sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but these are real questions that real scientists are talking about. The Future is a lot of fun and it feels so fantastical that it’s hard to take seriously, but the show is based on real ideas, real scientists and real possible scenarios. The important thing to take away from The Future is that we need to talk about where humanity is headed, because as hard as it is to believe, the future isn’t that far away.
Photo: Adam Trigg
The Future is at Battersea Arts Centre from 12th until 29th June 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.