‘106’ surprises audiences with a philosophical dialogue of know-how

“Is the unknown extra valuable than the recognized?” 

These are the ultimate phrases of “106,” theater & efficiency research (TAPS) senior Sam Howell Petersen’s ’23 capstone mission, which was carried out within the Nitery Theater Thursday via Saturday. The unique play explores how modern know-how contributes to progress and simultaneous exacerbation of societal points.

I went into the efficiency pondering it could encompass mini-plays that poked enjoyable at assignments of the introductory laptop science course CS 106A. Nonetheless, “106” turned out to be a profound and crafted have a look at the ethics and impacts of know-how.

“I used to be actually drawn to the concept of unpacking laptop science (CS) in a creative 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 traces and scene work, but additionally writing, modifying and workshopping totally different concepts. First-time actor Peter Li ’25 loved this strategy 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 task from CS 106A. The primary piece, “Bias Bars,” is about “the encroachment of tech upon our lives, which we hardly ever take into consideration,” in response to 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 the scene began off with Purple answering easy questions in regards to the climate or time, the dialogue shortly begins to escalate. The bogus intelligence (AI) assistants’ execution of duties comparable to facial recognition confirmed bias of their algorithms and abuse of customers’ non-public info. 

Because the act progressed, I might 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. Nonetheless, 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 comparable to mismatched rain boots and colourful patterned shirts, linked collectively by the fuschia-purple shade 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 function in artistic pursuits, a related query within the age of the pioneer AI know-how ChatGPT. Within the snippet, ChatGPT was referred to as upon by three buddies to put in writing scripts, one being about an evil youngster named “ideally suited future” who represented the way forward for know-how.

One other vignette, “Sand,” mentioned the notion of “how time runs in another way for everybody,” Wang advised me. Throughout this sequence, Wang acted out how know-how is taking away individuals’s “keys” to alternatives comparable to jobs. This scene confirmed how know-how “is a double-edged sword.” It made me consider methods wherein know-how can be utilized to create potentialities quite than simply taking them away. 

“Sand” had the three actors portraying the totally different day by day routines: that of a programmer for a know-how firm, a pc science pupil working part-time at Costco and a woman consuming an apple. I assumed these performances have been notably wonderful. It even included a stay musical efficiency from Li and Washington.

The play was filled with hilarious moments, certainly one of which was within the “no cellphone” warning at first. 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 know-how itself, “106” demonstrated progressive use of know-how. 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 have been watching the play stay. 

“106” took a significant look into the affect of know-how on human lives, a subject that’s most pertinent at Stanford, the place as a lot as 16% of every class graduates with a CS diploma. Inside 45 minutes, “106” made the viewers surprise what they’ll do to make use of know-how to create a optimistic future. It really 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 beloved 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 manufactured from gold beneath the black layer. I really feel that this world was a metaphor for our society, however the metaphor might have been extra absolutely defined had it been given a bit extra run time. As well as, I want to see “Sand” became a extra fleshed-out argument in regards to the demanding schedule of a programmer. 

As a previous pupil of CS 106A and a present pupil of CS 106B (the following course within the 106 sequence), this play made me consider the gorgeous capacity of CS to create regardless of its difficult nature. “106” felt extra significant and relevant than any CS ethics lecture I’ve sat via up to now.

Editor’s Observe: This text is a evaluate and consists of subjective ideas, opinions and critiques.