Performance (2012). Written by August Schulenberg, directed by Heather Cohn, produced by Flux Theatre Ensemble, featuring Rachael Hip-Flores, David Ian Lee, Isaiah Tanenbaum, Nitya Vidyasagar, and Ken Glickfield. Scenic design by Will Lowry. Lighting by Kia Rogers.
DEINDE was an original play by August Schulenberg featuring the ideas and dangers possible in quantum computing (see Quantum Computers). The play premiered at the Secret Theatre in Long Island City, New York on 27 April 2012. The title refers to the play's Computer, the Dineural Entangled Intelligence Network Device, whose near-acronym also means "next" in Latin.
As part of the theme for their fifth season entitled "What Happens Now?", Flux pondered potential answers to the question of what makes us human. Schulenberg's playwright's notes in the program explained:
"Only in the realms of science fiction and Singularity are the forward borders of consciousness explored ... What if these questions moved from future imagination into real world ethics, here and now? ... But what surprised me in writing this play was how important the things we might leave behind became. Our flaws, our failures, our forgetting: these things were transmuted into something precious and essential."
The play takes place in a Near Future where a global pandemic has decimated the population (see Disaster). Using the computing power of DEINDE, quantum biologists attempt to get ahead of the virus's mutations to provide a vaccine. By "looping" directly into the quantum computer, the Scientists can enhance memory and neurological processing speed in the hopes of outwitting the virus. Only three of the five researchers choose to link with the computer, they do so at (ultimately) great cost to themselves.
There are rules governing the use of the computer which two of the researchers, Jenny Long (Rachael Hip-Flores) and Max Silverthorn (Isaiah Tanenbaum), gradually ignore as they become obsessed with eradicating the virus. The results of bypassing the fail-safes are nearly god-like abilities and a shared consciousness: these become a potential threat to humanity.
With the assistance of the lead scientist, Nabanita "Nita" Ghosh (Nitya Vidyasagar), and Malcolm Forner (Ken Glickfield), a trap is laid to shut down DEINDE and the researchers who have permanently looped into it. Malcolm sacrifices himself as the human delivery system for the computer virus, killing himself and Max. Of the remaining two scientists of the three, Cooper Sands (David Ian Lee), Nita's lover, suffers severe, debilitating brain damage, while Jenny is left in a coma.
The play bears some ideological resemblance to E M Forster's "The Machine Stops" "The Machine Stops" (November 1909 The Oxford and Cambridge Review) and Fredric Brown's "Answer" (in Angels and Spaceships, coll 1954) while not being directly influenced by these works.
Throughout the play, working with the new computing technology is referred to as a frontier where one must return to an infantile state to relearn how to think and how to use new Technology as an extension of the mind and body. Between scenes simple nursery rhymes are played and the final scene features the characters singing "Itsy Bitsy Spider" to the comatose Jenny, looking for a response. Eventually, through hubris the scientists are reduced to a literal child-like state where complex thought is no longer possible and even simple words are a struggle. The play questions both the prudence of human decisions and what it is to be human in the face of extremely advanced technology. [JGu]
see also: Theatre.
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