A Head for the Future

In 1961 Kurt Vonnegut imagined a world in which the government uses technology to enforce equality among the masses. The title character of his short story Harrison Bergeron possesses immense intellectual, physical, and artistic ability but is made to wear debilitating weights, electronic goggles, and headphones so he’s no better than anyone else. He eventually casts off his shackles and is immediately executed. The story exemplifies the ever-present fear for where technology might take us. But thanks in part to another fear — that of big government — we seem to be going in the opposite direction of Vonnegut’s vision. With technological advances outpacing our ability to adapt and the free market leading the way, some say that machines will soon cause us overstep our boundaries as mortals. Wirehead takes up this potentiality. Two men working in the financial sector who are at the top of their game are outdone by a colleague with less experience and intelligence. The colleague has a trust fund and can afford to get “the wire,” a computer implant that advances intelligence. So he wins. But does he? Director Susi Damilano says this question drives the story. If we’re given superhuman power, there will also be a powerful temptation to believe and act as if we’re gods. The storyline was partially inspired by the work of Raymond Kurzweil, who believes that soon there will be no distinction between human and machine. It’s part of a theory called technological singularity, and Damilano says discussions led by experts on the topic follow several performances. She says we might soon be able to ask ourselves the same questions posed in Wirehead: How far will you go to get it? How far will you go to stop it?
Tuesdays-Saturdays. Starts: March 23. Continues through April 23, 2011

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