The Audience gets Bristolians talking with algorithms

‘Really clever concept, good fun and I really liked the way the science is woven in!’ –¬†Audience member

‘I feel grotty’ – Another Audience member

ALIC at the Bristol Improv Theatre
ALIX meets her latest data input devi- sorry, latest colleagues. | Image: Nick Moylan

After a busy 2016, Rising Ape squeezed one more event in before the end of the year. A freezing, foggy 1st of December saw a small, boisterous crowd weathering extreme elements, limited visibility and the Conan Doyle-ish Capital D dread of it all to make it down to the Bristol Improv Theatre. There, together they became the audience for, well, The Audience.

Guided by courtroom algorithm ALIX, the Audience became shaped into a cohesive unit, passing judgement on the sentence for a dramatic court case, and getting a glimpse into what justice in the future might be like. The immersive experience aimed to get people thinking about the consequences of trusting machines with our thoughts and biases. And all through the brandishing of LED lights and making friends with a slightly sarcastic A.I.

The Audience discussion theatre bristol
“I, for one, welcome our new AI overlords” proclaims controversial, yet out of shot, audience member, to everyone’s amusement. | Image: Nick Moylan

After the interval, the energised group began a passionate discussion with a panel consisting of:

  • Dr Sabine Hauert, Lecturer in Robotics at the Bristol Robotic Laboratory
  • Andrew Charlesworth, Reader in IT & Law at the University of Bristol
  • Dr Rosie Clark, Research Associate in Experimental Psychology at the University of Bristol
  • Antony Poveda, Producer for Rising Ape Collective and member of the cast.

Together the experts and audience discussed¬†how far we are willing to trust algorithms with important decisions, personal experiences of the effectiveness of juries, and how little society is aware of the companies behind the¬†technology we give data to. The engaging and highly productive session was filmed and we’ll be publishing the full video later in the New Year.

This production of The Audience was also incredibly valuable from our viewpoint. Learning from the performance at Green Man, we took the opportunity to tighten the script, take advantage of the new venue to really up the atmosphere (the mist certainly helped a bit there), choreograph new immersive moments, and, best of all, discover how well the performance works as a stimulus to get an audience talking with experts about these timely issues.

Want to experience The Audience for yourself? Follow us using the button below and look out for news of performances in 2017, as well as the film of the panel discussion, coming soon.

The Audience is in session – 1st December, Bristol Improv Theatre

AudiencePromo1.png
Your voice is ‘important’ to us.

MSG FROM: Ministry of Justice PLC
SUBJECT: Have you RSVP’d?

MSG BEGINS: Dear Citizen. Fresh from being the most packed, “disturbing”, and ethically confusing interactive show of the Green Man Festival Einstein’s Garden tent, The Audience is hitting Bristol with a heady mix of mob rule, computer smart-arsery and LED lights.

In the latest immersive show from Rising Ape Collective you’ll meet ALIX, the friendly courtroom AI, and get to have your say on what society thinks is morally right and wrong.

The show will be followed by a Q&A with the writers and a panel of local researchers ready to discuss your questions on the future of AI, our legal system, and whether robots will take all our jobs.

Attendance is voluntary, yet strongly advised. Please respond to your video invite, ALIX can’t wait to meet you.

Vote Justice. MSG ENDS.

More details, and RSVP on the event page.
Tickets available at  improvthreatre.co.uk

 

What went down in Life on Mars: The Gameshow at Einstein’s Garden, Green Man Festival 2015

Einstein's banner - Green Man

***TRANSMISSION BEGINS***

We made it back. Thanks to the Rising Ape Space Agency  we have returned from Mars and finished our thorough debrief with the professional medical staff here at RASA Mission Control in Bristol. But the memories of our time with you Martian colonists will stay with us, at least until the same time next year.

In total eight teams signed up to compete in the first ever gameshow held on Mars, including Superstars, Team Uranus, Space Oddity, and Team Placenta. The prize? A luxury hamper containing precious bonus rations of ice-cream (freeze dried), a foil blanket for the cold Martian night, and an extra regulation RASA crew t-shirt. The be-tophatted host, James Riley, introduced his two android helpers, A-TON and E-STEL, and the serenest super computer this side of Orion, DAVIDBOT 3000, and then the games were afoot.

Host James

Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, Ash, our engineer, and a veteran of a simulated Mars mission who helped us devise the rounds was unable to attend the festival at the last moment. Understandably, these sorts of things can happen in space missions, and it gave us an opportunity to practice an important skill for all astronauts to have: improvisation.

Into the breach stepped Zoe of the National Space Centre, who with minimal (read: no) rehearsal delivered three motivating speeches throughout the show on the importance of Teamwork, Communication and Psychological Understanding to a successful space mission. You colonists made our guest very welcome and there were loud cheers for her inspiring words.

Aton and James

Round 1 was all about¬†Teamwork. It saw two teams race against the clock to navigate a giant exposed wire that formed part of the hab’s airlock system. A steady hand and excellent coordination between team members was required to succeed. Amazingly, both teams completed the challenge in the time allowed, but due to touching less exposed wires, Team Uranus made it through to the final.

Charades Round

In the second round, Communication, two teams engaged in a Charades-off based around various space-related titles in pop culture. Incredibly this proved even¬†more difficult than on a Christmas evening after too many sherries when your nan has to act out¬†Shawshank Redemption. Perhaps the pressure of the crowd, or the weight of the potential prize was weighing on the colonist’s minds, but in the end Space Oddity qualified despite only getting two film titles correct! Special mention must be made for their rivals, Team Placenta, who managed to describe Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus for their only correct answer. using only frantic pointing. The colony administration salutes your dedication!

DAVIDBOT 3000

For the third qualification round, the teams had to guess the most popular answers to the Colony-wide survey that was distributed shortly before the weekend. The Colony Administration would like to thank all who volunteered their personal psychological data, and to let those who¬†selected ‘Lighthouse Family – Lost in Space’ know that they are being closely monitored.

In an extremely tense round, the young whippersnappers of Superstars came from behind to steal the win from Team Uranus,¬†after¬†correctly deciding that most Colonists would want to call their parents for their annual phonecall (aww, you softies). Full results of the survey will be available soon¬†for those who really want to know what the Colony’s favourite ice-cream (freeze dried) flavour is. Hint: it’s not ‘Chorizo’.

Alex on Mars

And so the final round was upon us. At this point the downpour was really trying to make sure everyone believed there was liquid H20 on Mars which will have come as welcome news to those early 21st Century rovers that we saw gathering dust out on the plains. The three qualified teams remained resolute and threw themselves into the final challenge. Tasked with carrying multiple radioactive pellets all the way around¬†Einstein’s Garden, using only a custom made hand-held safety transporter, which only looked a bit like a big spoon covered in foil and hazard tape, before throwing them into the Colony furnace from a safe distance to save the habitat’s rapidly shutting down life-support system…. Well, let’s just say they nailed it.

In the end, Team Uranus¬†emerged victorious, out throwing the others by some margin, and claiming the extra rations as their prize. Like true Colony comrades they immediately shared the spoils with the remaining teams, in a scene which nearly, nearly brought a virtual tear to DAVIDBOT 3000’s stoic pixels.¬†As if in awe of what it had just witnessed, at this point the rain finally stopped.

RASA off stage

We’d like to thank Maddy for letting¬†us on the Solar Stage for this escapade, Jen and the crew of Einstein’s Garden for solving our problems and making us feel so welcome, Ash and Zoe for their contributions to the show and, most of all, the eight teams of brave colonists who stuck it out through the deluge and competed with such admirable gusto. The future of Martian colonies looks safe in your hands.

And so, as the lights of¬†the vast domed Green Man festival habitat went down, we tidied away the set and DAVIDBOT 3000,¬†before¬†celebrating the success of the first ever gameshow on Mars by dancing around to some very fine musical acts. Circulating rumours of the white suited RASA team being repeatedly mistaken for the band Super Furry Animals and engaging in 5am sing-alongs with Charlotte Church can be neither confirmed, nor denied….

***TRANSMISSION ENDS***

Xmas Special: Existential Risk and the Molecular Sex Robots

The Centre for the Study of Existential Risk studies existential risk … in a centre. In this bumper Christmas edition, find out what you should be terrified of this¬†festive season (and every other season for that matter). Rising Ape: turning festive cheer into festive fear.