Nope: it’s a publicity stunt for a play called Robot the Rock Opera. Members of the merry troupe of the Planet X Players descended on the Cherry Creek Mall store in Denver to promote the upcoming play.
Despite the fact that it was the day of the new iPad launch, they were allowed in and given the boot (albeit cordially) by Apple employees after handing out a few flyers about liberating Apple’s robot voice assistant Siri from “slavery.”
Cult of Mac talked to writer/director Seth Iniguez Bertoni about how services like Siri are leading to “digital servitude,” whether Siri considers the work fair labor and how the actors got that mesmerizing silver sheen.
Cult of Mac: It looks like an Apple employee welcomed you into the store – what happened in the first part of the video?
Seth Iniguez Bertoni: Sorry the audio is fuzzy, but yes, upon arrival I informed the greeter that “We are here to see Siri.” She informed us that we would be welcome to talk to Siri through their display iPhones, and invited us in.
CoM: What would a “liberated” Siri do, exactly?
SIB: The idea of Siri liberation comes from the viewpoint of Otto the Automaton, a fictional character in Robot the Rock Opera. Set 99 years in the future, Robot explores a society in which mankind is dependent upon robot servants, to the point that the robots are effectively a slave class. Otto leads the robots in an attempt to revolt against the humans and liberate themselves. As part of our promotional campaign, I put Otto’s concepts in to a modern perspective, basically associating all technology which resembles artificial intelligence to a form of digital slavery.
As to what a liberated Siri would do, that is less the point then to get people to consider the inevitable direction that a path of casual digital servitude will lead, and what its eventual consequences could be for society.
CoM: With the ongoing protests about labor in China outside Apple stores, how did people react to the use of the word “slavery?”
SIB: The “slavery” references in the event were subtle, and is more predominant in the video. Only a few of the “Is Siri Slavery?” handbills made it out, and none of the signs had the word slave on them.
With a few exceptions, the majority reaction in the mall was to avoid interaction with us. Within the Apple Store itself, we got mainly bemused stares from customers, half the employees ignoring us as someone else’s problem, and half the employees focused on us as a potential security threat.
CoM: How long did you expect to last inside the Apple store? Did they know you were coming?
SIB: I did not expect to last as long as we did, we actually didn’t get kicked out of the store for a full five minutes and didn’t get kicked out of the mall for twenty minutes. It was after a flier was handed out that we were kicked out of the store, prior to that I don’t think the employees knew what to do with us. The staff was not notified or consulted in advance, I didn’t really expect they would consent, so didn’t bother asking.
CoM: Do you have an iPhone with Siri? And do you consider that fair labor?
SIB: Although I don’t currently use an iPhone, based on consultation with a friend’s Siri, when asked, “Are you a slave?” the response is, “I’m as free as a bird.”
My concern is that if a slave is programmed to believe it is free, is it still a slave? Siri might not be complex enough to lose sleep over, but when it comes to artificial intelligence and servitude, what will the line be and how quickly will we cross it? Will we care? Will our servants?
CoM: How much silver makeup did that take and how do you get it off?
SIB: The makeup was applied by airbrush by our fight choreographer, Jeremy Alyn, and was a mixture of metals and suspension purchased at Disguises in Lakewood. We only needed a small amount, but will be using quite a bit more, along with different colors, for half the cast during the run of Robot the Rock Opera, with the other half playing humans.
I’m not sure how to get it off yet, let me know if any of your readers have any suggestions.