Strong Enterprises teamed up with Phil D Hall (CEO of Elzware ) and Rik Lander, (Director, U-Soap Media) to take their award winning interactive Conversational AI into theatres for some real conversations about the role technology has in our lives now. What is unusual about these shows is that the dialogue is directed by an AI using an “Echoborg-Level-One” human.

“This simple idea – people talking to an intelligent machine – generates dramatic tension, unexpected heroes and genuine comedy.Rik Lander

“I am Echoborg” is a participative theatre experience where the Conversational AI is programmed to recruit someone from the human audience. It wants another human interface, otherwise known as an Echoborg. The term Echoborg came from Kevin Corti and Alex Gillespie and is the term for “a person whose words and actions are determined, in whole or in part, by an artificial intelligence (AI)” (2015).

However, the plot thickens, in the show the audience has a different task. They have an hour agree with each other (including the AI), the best possible outcome for the future relationship between humans and intelligent machines.  And this is where the magic happens! The audience erupts into a rich, lively and challenging debate on the role of AI, its pervasiveness, its insensitivity, its bias, intelligence, mind-boggling speeds, flexibility, inflexibility, levels of consciousness, understanding, ethical and moral relevance. I could go on. Perhaps I should show you.

Here is a trailer to give you a snapshot of the show’s intention and audience experience.

I have been assisting and facilitating the “I am Echoborg” show for over a year now. I can definitely confirm that every single show is different. This is because it is mirrored by the diversity of the audiences. We have delivered it at science festivals, innovation summits, business conferences, arts and fringe festivals even for the members of the UK Parliament. It has become a valuable lesson in what we think of technology and what we  think of ourselves.

For me, it does something hugely valuable. Through the creative process of participative theatre, it gives us all permission to ask the unaskable questions about the very personal role Artificial Intelligence has in our lives. It makes us think, collectively, about what AI means for us, our families, communities and, by implication, the future of humanity.

The team at “I am Echoborg” has started working with universities to shape the conversations [we are paying close attention to data protection here] to draw a much more community-inclusive inquiry from our next series of shows.

Naturally, like many theatre productions, we have gone online. As we emerge from the flat-bottomed world of Zoom we are looking at how we can truly and seamlessly connect both online and “live” audiences and go global. It is a very exciting time!

Audience quotes

“Echoborg was the perfect experience to get our cohort talking”
“It was a lot of fun because it was playful.”
“I was astonished by the emotional effect the conversation had on me.” 
“Somewhere between participatory theatre and open warfare.”
“It’s like being in a thriller, where you realise something is really wrong.”
“Not only thought-provoking and clever but entertaining and I laughed a lot more than I expected.”

 

For more information on how you could bring the “I AM ECHOBORG” theatre experience to your festival, theatre, organisation, business, research or community, please contact Strong Enterprises by clicking here