“Is the unknown extra treasured than the recognized?”
These are the ultimate phrases of “106,” Theater & Efficiency Research’ (TAPS) senior Sam Howell Petersen’s ’23 capstone mission, which opened within the Nitery Theater Thursday by means of Saturday. The unique play explores how modern expertise contributes to progress and simultaneous exacerbation of societal points.
I went into the efficiency considering it might encompass mini-plays that poked enjoyable at assignments of the introductory pc science course CS 106A. Nevertheless, “106” turned out to be a profound and crafted have a look at the ethics and impacts of expertise.
“I used to be actually drawn to the thought of unpacking pc science (CS) in an inventive manner, which is one thing that has precedent however I haven’t seen a lot at Stanford,” Petersen stated, relating to her motivation for creating the play.
The present is a devised work, that means that it was written, rehearsed and produced throughout this spring quarter. Rehearsals consisted of not solely memorizing strains and scene work, but additionally writing, enhancing and workshopping totally different concepts. First-time actor Peter Li ’25 loved this technique of collaboration.
“Having the ability to create one thing with a few of the most proficient individuals I’ve met has been an extremely rewarding expertise,” Li stated.
The manufacturing included 4 vignettes, every named after an project from CS 106A. The primary piece, “Bias Bars,” is about “the encroachment of tech upon our lives, which we not often take into consideration,” in accordance with actor Sophia Wang ’26.
The three actors, Li, Wang and Aiyana Washington ’24, portrayed a digital assistant, Purple, because it fulfilled requests from customers. Whereas issues began off with Purple answering easy questions in regards to the climate or time, the dialogue shortly started to escalate. The bogus intelligence (AI) assistants’ execution of duties similar to facial recognition confirmed bias of their algorithms and abuse of customers’ personal info.
Because the act progressed, I may really feel the viewers’s unease. We laughed initially as a result of the dialogues reminded us of what we requested our personal digital assistants on our telephones. Nevertheless, we fell silent as we realized the play portrayed bias mirrored our personal actuality.
I used to be impressed by the costumes of the AI assistants. Every had personalised clothes similar to mismatched rain boots and colourful patterned shirts, linked collectively by the fuschia-purple colour scheme, echoing their title “Purple.” The personalised costumes made the assistants appear individualized, and the colour scheme added to their synthetic really feel.
“Bias Bars” was adopted by “Babynames,” which explored AI’s position in artistic pursuits, a related query within the age of the pioneer AI expertise ChatGPT. Within the snippet, ChatGPT was known as upon by three mates to put in writing scripts, one being about an evil baby named “best future” who represented the way forward for expertise.
One other vignette, “Sand,” mentioned the notion of “how time runs otherwise for everybody,” Wang advised me. Throughout this sequence, Wang acted out how expertise is taking away individuals’s “keys” to alternatives similar to jobs. This scene confirmed how expertise “is a double-edged sword.” It made me consider methods by which expertise can be utilized to create prospects moderately than simply taking them away.
“Sand” had the three actors portraying the totally different each day routines: that of a programmer for a expertise firm, a pc science scholar working part-time at Costco and a woman consuming an apple. I believed these performances had been significantly superb. It even included a stay musical efficiency from Li and Washington.
The play was stuffed with hilarious moments, one in all which was within the “no cellphone” warning in the beginning. The TV display displayed a video of Stanford College’s president Marc Tessier-Lavigne telling viewers members to silence their cell telephones and benefit from the present. Whereas I initially thought it was a real recording of Tessier-Lavigne, I slowly realized that the video was creatively fabricated. This bit elicited uproarious laughter from the viewers.
Being about expertise itself, “106” demonstrated progressive use of expertise. Throughout “Babynames,” the TV display used the C++ programming language to show the script ChatGPT created. It was surreal to see the code scroll on the display as we had been watching the play stay.
“106” took a significant look into the impression of expertise on human lives, a subject that’s most pertinent at Stanford, the place as a lot as 16% of every class graduate with a CS diploma. Inside 45 minutes, “106” made the viewers surprise what they’ll do to make use of expertise to create a optimistic future. It actually completed Petersen’s purpose of “leaving audiences with questions, not solutions.”
Whereas 45 minutes could also be sufficient to intrigue the viewers, I might have cherished to see an extended manufacturing that might discover and develop extra concepts. One such thought was launched within the final vignette, “Quilt,” which imagined a world that was a black field however had partitions fabricated from gold beneath the black layer. I really feel that this world was a metaphor for our society, however the metaphor may have been extra totally defined had it been given a little bit extra run time. As well as, I wish to see “Sand” changed into a extra fleshed-out argument in regards to the demanding schedule of a programmer.
As a previous scholar of CS 106A and a present scholar of CS 106B (the subsequent course within the 106 sequence), this play made me consider the attractive capability of CS to create regardless of its difficult nature. “106” felt extra significant and relevant than any CS ethics lecture I’ve sat by means of so far.
Editor’s Observe: This text is a overview and contains subjective ideas, opinions and critiques.