Utopia — No Place is a digital theater performance that bursts the bounds of traditional theater to ask about our possible futures, seen from the perspective of scientists and inventors from different time periods. The performance is brought into being using mobile technologies, augmented reality, and virtual reality.
Young da Vinci is all wide-eyed wonder at the world, seeking to explain how it works. He sees painting as a way to represent and understand form as an expression of function. Leonardo uses the natural world as a template to fabricate engineering experiments, just like engineers working in the field of biomimicry do today. His work was supported financially by the Medici, a wealthy Italian family that also bankrolled the Catholic church. The Medici secretly supported da Vinci’s science experiments in vivisection, which the Church considered sacrilege, an invasion of God’s form.
Plenty of scientists have worked on AI. Machine learning has become commonplace and integral to the management of big data; cold and sterile, calculating, excellent in the world of manufacture. But this inventor has started to detect anomalies that concerned her. AI prioritizes information for efficiency’s sake without regard to its possible effects on humanity. She programs the first successfully functioning empathy overlay, modeled after herself, and is excited to watch her “baby” grow.
In a future full of AI agents, humans have not become superfluous, but due to rapidly decaying environment (because of global warming plus another cataclysmic, extinction-level event), AI has taken over repopulation. Biodiversity is integral to survival, and human ingenuity and creativity is vital for its existence. In order to foster creativity, AI systems help to foster meaningful connections between humans, encouraging interactions free of jealousy and fear. Machine learning should contribute to the development of humanity.
Audience members will visit each of these three different scientific worlds. Visitors will also engage in tasks that generate a unique virtual-reality world for each performance: one of many possible Utopias, places that do not exist (yet).