Originally published at www.theatrius.com
Through a unique comedic lens, Patricia Milton targets the growing unethical use of AI by corrupt corporations.
A ridiculous company called “Bubble”—a stand in for Google— is struggling to recover from scandals. The conniving CEO Xtopher Wolf (Mike Tuton) needs a “public face” to hide their abuses.
Wolf creates a position, Chief Ethics Officer (C-Eth-O), to provide cover, hide their disinformation, and promote an under-researched self-driving car. He claims: “Ethics is a story we tell ourselves.” Neither ethics nor trust lie in his wheelhouse of feelings. Bubble has even created an absurd wrist watch to answer all your moral questions!
Wolf surprises his ex-girlfriend, opinionated Kamiri (forceful Chelsea Bearce) who was fired from Uber as a whistleblower. By hiring her as “Ethics Officer,” Xtopher thinks he can save their reputation. And Miri, a genuine disruptor, needs a job. What better “ethical” cover to shield Bubble from scrutiny than a genuine truth-teller?
But Miri wonders aloud, and loudly, about Bubble’s AI choices—she wants to see the data. Righteous Miri rants against the disinformation of AI and the breakdown of moral agency in immoral corporations. Xtopher responds, “Democracies don’t last for more than 100 years.”
In quick, witty jabs, the former couple debate the right and wrongs of their breakup and the ups and downs of the self-driving car. Bearce and Tuton display fiery tempers, arguing about trust, as well as ethics in the bumbling Bubble.
While Director Gary Graves’ tight pacing enhances Milton’s wit and satire, he also delivers insights into Milton’s genuine critique of corporate lies.
In the self-driving auto dept under vacillating Chip Wingo (spot-on Louel Señores), Miri soon confronts the Tech Bros’ arrogance. Chip fears her snooping around his department. Señores is a delight as he shows Chip wavering between ethics and disaster.
Chip has even designed a “Knob” technology that makes life and death choices for the driver. “The Knob” represents a scary innovation that panics us all. With the Knob, the driver can choose a conscience for the car. “Off” you decide if you would swerve for a chipmunk, or a dog, or a human. If “On,” the car decides. It is taken from a concept that claims that hundreds of possible choices can be whittled down to one decision—a horror.
Miri’s affluent Mom Kay (stand-out Jan Zvaifler) uses her sharp, dry wit as a U.S. Senator on the Tech Committee. Mom requires mimosas and attends “stealth luncheons.” Zvaifler wears elegant designer clothes, deftly wielding her power as Chair to give us a taste of corruption in the Senate.
Miri chastises her mother on her ignorance of Bubble’s ethical emptiness. But the Senator quips: “Oh, like Congress?” And the Supreme Court, one might add.
Patricia Milton’s “The Engine of Our Disruption” spotlights the dangerous rise of AI. Its insidious uses include writing books, driving cars, and spreading lies about any issue humans can imagine. The mysterious engine can promote racial, cultural, and sexual prejudice, as well.
Come and see how the Bubble bursts in the fluid and well-acted “Engine” at Central Works.
Jan Zvaifler (Senator Kay Firestone) is always happy to be offered a mid-afternoon sip.
“The Engine of Our Disruption” by Patricia Milton, directed by Gary Graves, costumes designed by Tammy Berlin, at Central Works, Berkeley, California. Info: CentralWorks.org – to November 12, 2023.
Cast: Jan Zvaifler, Chelsea Bearce, Louel Señores, Mike Tuton, and Lauren Smerkanich (Voice of Bubbly).