Presenting us with cutting-edge technology and visualising a day with robots, An Algorithm Named Kevin does not shy away from humanity's inevitable future. We’ve all heard about the development of self-driving cars, and the march of artificial intelligence, but how aware are we of the issues surrounding them? Loggerheads Theatre Company has speculated on this topic in a production which is almost a documentary on technology, exploring the dark side of algorithms and how much information we should really be giving them.
As the term's used here, an algorithm is a program which sorts possibilities to give you the "best" outcome. It's best described through the likes of social media outlets such as Facebook or Instagram: as the show explains to us, Instagram has an algorithm which prioritises the posts we are "most likely to enjoy". Of course, we get no say in this, which is where some of the controversy arises. Loggerheads Theatre uses their platform to explain these issues though a number of dramatic scenarios – but that doesn’t make them any less plausible.
In one situation, a phone complaint over a wobbly table turns into an emotional counselling session. There is definitely comedy here which gained a few laughs, and whilst this scenario sounds over the top, the logic behind it is frightening. Computers will soon be able to recognise our emotions and therefore respond accordingly: in this case, if you get impatient or angry, you will be subjected to 8 seconds of calming music! The frustration that comes with technology stems from being unable to do things independently, and when an outside source determines it knows best there is bound to be conflict.
The problem with this show is that it could more polished. The piece is well-choreographed for the energy onstage, and uses the space well – but with a large cast, there is inevitably a lot happening and lots of statistics to learn. Regardless, it was still intriguing, and portrays a very relevant topic today. The information is all there, making this a show perfect for those who want to learn the details of modern technology.
An Algorithm Named Kevin is more fact-heavy than I first anticipated, but that proves to be the essence of the show where imagination is never too far-fetched. By taking the facts, it manages to create realistic depictions of future living, and could be a potential wake-up call regarding our technological advances. Whether you see our future as an impending dystopia or merely easier living, this performance reveals the possible horizons.