How do people feel about talking to machines? As always, people have mixed feelings about dialogues with a machine. On the one hand people like to talk to Siri instead of typing long texts, on the other hand we are still not comfortable with close relationships between machines and humans. If a relationship is defined by two entities having an emotional bonding to each other, there even is no such thing as a relationship between humans and machines. A machine cannot feel – a machine can only think in an algorithmic and computable way. Maybe this is the reason why communication with machines is that ambivalent.
Since humans are able to think emotionally and self-consciously, people ask for the meaning of life. And because we have not been able to answer this question for thousands of years, we like to ask other entities. In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams there are two computers being asked this question: Deep Thought and planet Earth. Deep Thought’s answer was “42,” but the question was needed. So the Earth was built – it was destroyed, before the simulation was finished, though. So it is time for a new machine. A machine which is corrupted and weird, which does not even try to answer this question properly. Martha Stuart is a performance for one human and one machine. The human asks, the machine answers.  There is no need for a universal meaning of life because there is none – nevertheless, people always strive for it. This new machine convinces them nonsense is the only answer that can be given. Advertising and capitalism wants us to belive that buying is the mechanism that keeps the earth spinning. So the machine answers with commercials. This machine is not supposed to enlighten the human and the audience, it is supposed to confuse and intrude their minds. It wants to sell, but to be weird and funny at the same time. It has also no unique voice, but this mix of different speakers: A machines does not have a character, since it has no emotions. There is some output, some data, but no personality.

 

The Performance Novel
Gast-Prof. Laetitia Sonami
Hochschule für Künste Bremen
2016