Annie Dorsen | How to Act Like a Human

It is already conventional to note that recent advances in AI are changing our narratives around creativity, free will, individuality…and throwing distinctions between truth and falsehood into a fresh chaos. But it's nonetheless true that with new classes of machine learning algorithms we seem finally to approach an era, long predicted, in which technology poses a genuine threat to the primacy of human cognition. My current research is about the implications of machine learning on acting, and the representations of the human that we engage in theatre. If, for example, the acting technique of Stanislavski reflects a Freudian conception of human nature, characterized by desires (and repressions, fetishes, and sublimations)… then what kind of acting technique might correspond to the vision of the human suggested by surveillance capitalism? What new methods might we invent to reflect a theory of human behaviour in which the notion of hidden inner desire has been replaced by that of quantifiable observable behaviour, and the logic of the super-objective by that of pattern recognition… As Chris Anderson once wrote in Wired magazine, “Who knows why people do what they do? The point is they do it, and we can track and measure it with unprecedented fidelity. With enough data, the numbers speak for themselves.” So to put it very simply, what might a statistical theory of acting look like?

ANNIE DORSEN is a director and writer whose works explore the intersection of algorithms and live performance. Her most recent project, INFINITE SUN, is an algorithmic sound installation commissioned by the Sharjah Biennial 14. Previous performance projects, including THE GREAT OUTDOORS (2017), YESTERDAY TOMORROW (2015), A PIECE OF WORK (2013) and HELLO HI THERE (2010), have been widely presented in the US and internationally. She is the co-creator of the 2008 Broadway musical PASSING STRANGE which she also directed. Dorsen has received several awards, among them a 2018 Guggenheim Fellowship, a 2014 Herb Alpert Award for the Arts in Theatre, and a 2019 MacArthur Fellowship.