Magazine article American Theatre

Artificial Intelligence

Magazine article American Theatre

Artificial Intelligence

Article excerpt

PLAYWRIGHT JORDAN HARRISON ISN'T SCARED OF the rise of technology--in fact, he's embracing it. His latest play, Marjorie Prime, which runs Sept. 10-Oct. 19 at Center Theatre Group's Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, posits a futuristic world in which an intelligent computer, called a "prime," can serve as a human surrogate after a person dies. "There's something about computers that are a monument to people," Harrison says. "They will remember our humanity after we're gone."

Inspired by Harrison's grandmother, the play's title character is in end-of-life care, and to maintain her memory, she speaks to a "prime" of her late husband. Marjorie's daughter, Tess, fears her mother's dependence on this technology, though she's more scared of how losing her mother will affect her own life.

It was after he read Brian Christian's book The Most Human Human--about the Turing test, an exercise in which the same question is posed to a human and a computer, and a third party decides which answer came from the machine--that Harrison took a stab at writing a two-hander between himself and a computer chat program, though he quickly learned technology isn't quite that sophisticated. …

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