“Like when a child talks for the first time”

Siri theatrical show was in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

“With a performer on stage and iPhone’s personal assistant, Siri, her only partner, director Maxime Carbonneau and performer Laurence Dauphinais invent a theatre where chance reigns. Dauphinais, one of the first people in Canada created by artificial insemination, quests for her origins using the most famous artificial intelligence as her guide. Through a precise game of question and answer, Dauphinais exposes the bizarre metaphysical dimension of the machine, while blurring the limitations that separate them. Siri is a terrifyingly clever pilgrimage into the mysteries of our own programming.” (on https://vimeo.com/227976955)

Laurence presents herself as a “kind of artist specialized in new technologies”, if I remember correctly. Why did you choose Siri in face of today’s technological profusion?

An artistic director in Montreal challenged Maxime Carbonneau to make a show with Siri while they tested together the Apple utility for fun. It all started as a challenge.

Already in the beginning of the play there is a little of your story and an explanation on how Siri, interpersed with facts experienced by Laurence and her relationship with technology since birth due to an artificial insemination done by her mother. On Saturday 01/12/2017 at my side there was a coincidentally older audience. How has it been to offer this dialogue between Siri and Laurence to this audience?

It is true that people of different generations will receive the spectacle differently, depending on the use of technology or their reflection on the technological revolution, but I believe that the themes of the show remain universal to all.

Laurence Dauphinais in Siri (by Julie Artacho)

Paul Klee wrote “Now objects perceive me”. How does Siri perceive Laurence? What clues can we take to know this (if they exist)?

It’s a very interesting question. Siri has no biological meaning like humans, but its main meaning is the accumulation of data. A big date. It is through the accumulation of my behaviors that she understands me. In a way, we could call it intuition. Because intuition is this, it is unconscious accumulation of data facing people or events. Will we as humans and human-centrists accept the big date as a sense or as a kind of intuition?

About the availability of Siri to Laurence. Always prepared, if offering to help, Siri puts herself in readiness. We realize that the show deals with the different responses that Siri is able to give to the same questions that are repeated each night of presentation. How was there, and if there was, in a presentation or rehearsal, a “bug” (such as “Answer never given by Siri before” followed by the emoticon “\ 8 /”) on her part?

Laurence: I’m not sure I understand the question, but in the case of the spectacle in portuguese, we send this subtitle when Siri answers something for the first time and we do not have the proper cover of the subtitle.

Production: We map out the possible answers to each question that Laurence asks. Some questions she answers almost always in the same way. There are other questions that have more than 20 mapped answers. Maxime, in the cabin, hears the answer she gives in French and chooses the translation (side by side) in portuguese that we have already done. When the subtitle “answer never before given” enters it’s because that has never been said before. We’ve included new responses from Siri almost every show day since we started the season.

by Julie Artacho

At some point Laurence states that “Siri knows more than she says”. It probably refers to the cloud database. Privacy is a matter of civil rights nowadays because of the potential for vigilance and personalization. In your opinion, considering the intimacy that Siri offers, what is the difference between the data generated by her and other systems that generate data from the mobile and also store in the cloud?

To me, all of this data is similar. The most valuable data is geo-location data. It is priceless for a company to know where we are and when at every hour of the day. The data from our cell phone and, of course, Siri have access to all of this. And eventually, what Dag Kittlaus wanted, that Siri be a tool of self-fulfilling prophecies (ultimate goal of capitalism) will come true.

“Siri always surprises us” and “You were not like that” are phrases that Laurence quotes. Considering the beginning of the experiences for the show, what changes in Siri have become more evident to you over the four years in which she is already available?

The differences are huge! It is very difficult for us to say why Siri has changed, but one thing is for sure, we are probably the people who most use Siri in her French Canadian version. So we hope we have participated in its evolution. Four years ago, she responded many more times that she could not answer certain questions. And all those flaws were sent repeatedly to Apple. So the engineers had to expand her response capacity. It’s true that four years ago she knew what a man was, but not a woman. And she finally answered what a woman was in the rehearsal. It was an extraordinary moment. Like when a child talks for the first time.

How do you see the speculations about the ability of the machinic learning? Did you feel it on this path with Siri?

Things are going fast but at the same time it is very complicated to make the machines more and more intelligent. It’s a long-term job. I do not think the machines will become so clever as to eliminate us all. But this is an area where ethical issues are big and we must form researchers with a strong knowledge of ethics and technology at the same time.

Laurence Dauphinais (by Julie Artacho)

This question is for Laurence: Siri is a good listener and tries, in her way, to be there when you need it. Would you say she’s close to you? Have you ever talked to her out of scene?

I do not talk to Siri in my personal life. It has been quite alienating to work on this project for four years! haha

In the end, you touch on the issue of “dematerialization” to join Siri. The processes and supports that she uses today for functioning passes through the Iphone 6S, the servers that support the data of the cloud, programming codes, recorded voice, the internet, among other actors in that process, in short… What materialities ( the cell phone, the connection, the solution to design the screen of the cell phone, etc.) evoked in this relationship with Siri, showed themselves more present for you in the creation of the show?

For us, it’s a combination of all these images. From this game of opacity and transparency, from the outstanding but comforting side of the image, from the fragility of experience and the problems that may arise, from Siri’s omniscience in various languages but from their marked cultural differences, the compartmentalized side of technology, etc., etc. I imagine that dematerialization can be seen in many ways. We can think of the goal of transhumanists to implant the lives of dead people into computers to make them eternal, but we can also think of our way of fictionalizing our materiality. We die, then, we invent eternal life, we have hormonal changes that are interpreted emotionally, we live dramas or joys to which guidelines are given. This is what makes interesting human beings, but also self-centered. I find it interesting to think about the idea of ​​dematerialization to learn how to live differently between us and in more harmony with our environments.

I hope it was clear. Your questions were perfect! Lau.

…this interview was conducted during the season held at OI Futuro, in Rio de Janeiro / BR, from 11/23 to 12/17 (2017).
…research: Group Technological Cultures: Medialities, Materialites and Temporalities
…coordinated: Professor Erick Felinto (UERJ)
…interview: Thais Inácio
…english translation: Yuri Garcia

A spectacle of: La Messe Basse
Production Brazil: da Gaveta Produções

Text: Maxime Carbonneau + Laurence Dauphinais + Siri
Direction: Maxime Carbonneau
Interpretation: Laurence Dauphinais + Siri
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director: Jérémie Boucher
Set Design and Costume Design: Geneviève Lizotte
Lighting: Julie Basse
Soundtrack: Olivier Girouard
Dramatic Council: Dany Boudreault + Tiphaine Raffier
Created in co-production with: TransAmériques Festival with the support of Le Phénix – scène nationale Valenciennes

Production Management: Leticia Tórgo
Executive Producer: Kamilla Barcellos
Financial Analyst: Alexandre Rocha