The Answering Machine

Prof. Dr. Jonas Kuhn, Dr. Gunter Lösel, Prof. Dr. Susanne Marschall, Dr. Stefan Scherbaum, Simone Beckmann Escandón, Dr. Ulrike Senftleben, Jun Zhang, Mirko Fichtner

Social bots, machines that interact as social partners for us, are increasingly present in our everyday lives. How does this influence us as interaction partners? And how will our social interactions evolve with the machines? THE ANSWERING MACHINE uses the theatre stage as a quasi-experimental artistic-scientific laboratory to address these questions from the perspective of “applied anthropomorphism”. The stage allows to compensate for specific current deficits of artificial intelligence in order to get an idea of what the future of co-existence of humans and “intelligent” machines holds in store. On the stage, the four collaborating disciplines – psychology, computational linguistics, theatre studies, and media studies – will come together to test specific questions and develop their concepts. In a four-year series of experiments and performances, actors will interact with social bots. We will vary parameters derived from psychology, media studies, and improvisational theatre, to identify emotional, behavioral, and cognitive patterns to understand the conditions of anthropomorphization in detail, to use them in psychological trainings, to reflect on the media theoretical implications as well as to create simulations for a general human-machine co-evolution and to bring them into a public discourse.