Unconscious in the Sistine Chapel: not conscious of science

Brilliant use of technology to create the Sistine Chapel in the play. http://www.ace-net.ca/event/big-data-sistine-chapel/ You go to s...

Brilliant use of technology to create
the Sistine Chapel in the play.
You go to see a play, and you really enjoy it, until you stop to think about how weak the science in it was.

I hate it when that happens.

Unconscious in the Sistine Chapel is a very entertaining play that I saw in June 2016 at the Paul O’Regan Hall (Halifax Central Library). It tells the story of a hypothetical meeting between Minna Bernays and Nora Barnacle at the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

Who? you say.

Minna and Nora were the (alleged in Minna's case) significant others of Sigmund Freud and James Joyce. And while the men were in their own ways deeply involved with studying the human mind, I think the story is mostly about the women - which made the play much more interesting. They provided an external contemporary view of those famous men, rather than just focusing on the tired old problems that Joyce and Freud had. Minna and Nora were in many ways shaped by their SO’s, but also were integral in shaping them too. True examples of closed loop systems, they were.

On top of this plot, however, is laid another, parallel plot involving a Silicon Valley genius who is on the verge of a breakthrough in AI, and a cutthroat entrepreneur looking for the Next Big Thing. Together, these two argue about the nature of history and how it informs - indeed, creates - the present.

There’s quite a delightful twist at the end - that I won’t spoil here - that makes one question everything one saw, but in a good way. Which of course just provides a vivid example of the staggering fluidity and vagueness of history that the AI sub-plot was on about. Another closed loop.

Altogether, it was a really enjoyable play, and I would recommend it highly.

But there were two things that bothered me about it.

Thing One. While the action of the play closes out nicely, there’s so very much about its themes that are left unexplored. I can’t get into it without spoiling the ending, but the play poses many questions that it rather just pitches out there like kibble for a well-behaved dog. It’s one thing to leave matters open-ended, things that each audience member is expected to ponder on their own; it’s quite another to lob philosophical grenades into one’s mind and not have the good grace to at least give one a proper heads-up. Basically, in this regard, the play left me with intellectual blue balls. Just when things were getting good, the curtain goes down.

Thing two. And this is a big, big thing. A thing I’ve written about before, and that I’m sure I’ll write about it again: the science was oh-so weak! This play hinges on certain facts and theories about consciousness and cognition. Unfortunately, there is so much more cognitive science out there that could have contributed meaningfully to the structure and plot of the play; I’m just a mechanical engineer, and even I know this! As technology becomes ever more ubiquitous as the means by which we experience reality and push the bounds of our understanding, so too does science and technology become ever more deeply rooted as a vehicle for playwrights and other artists to create their works. It seems, however, that only writers of science fiction have a true grasp of what it takes to embed science and technology properly into a work of art. I see more than a half-dozen plays a year, and not one - not a single one! - has done an adequate job of using science and technology correctly.

This is a huge problem for me because (a) while science and technology are absolutely fundamental to our continued wellbeing, progress, and success as a global society, (b) many theatre-goers are leaving shows with an absolutely mistaken notion of what the societal issues really are that emerge from science and technology. Their misunderstanding is subtle, but it will show up when they’re polled, and when they vote. And, eventually, it will lead to more serious problems for society.

And what really burns my toast is that while science fiction has done its damnedest to represent science and technology as accurately as possible for at least a century, these playwrights seem to dismiss all that accumulated story-telling knowledge entirely.

So yes, by all means, go see Unconscious in the Sistine Chapel. You’ll enjoy it. But then go read some books about real cognitive science and vaccinate yourself against the scientific naivety of the play.



academia activism adaptation admin aesthetics affect ageing AI analogy android anthropology anticipation app architecture art arts Asia assistive technology automobile balance biology biomimetics book branding building built environment business CAD Canada care case cfp change revision children codesign cognition collaboration colonization commercialization commonplacing communication design competition complexity computation computer science computing concept map conference constructivism conversational analysis craft creative arts creativity CSCW culture cybernetics degrowth dementia design design thinking digital digital media digital reproduction digital scholarship disability dissertation drawing economics education effectiveness efficiency emotion engineering environment ergonomics ethics ethnography Evernote evolution exhibition exoskeleton experience experimental studies fail fashion featured film food function modeling futurism gender studies Germany globalization grantsmanship graphic design Greece HCI health heritage history housing human factors humanism identity image inclusivity industrial design informatics information innovation interaction interdisciplinarity interior design internet of things intervention iphone journal journalism language law library life life cycle lifehack literature review logistics luxury making management manufacturing material culture materials mechanics media method migration mobile motion design movie nature new product development Nexus 6 olfaction online open design organization packaging paper participatory design PBL pengate performance PhD philosophy planning policy politics practice predatory preservation prison proceedings productivity project management public space publishing reading Remember The Milk reproduction research resource-limited design reuse review Samsung scholarship science science fiction semiotics senses service design simplicity society sociology software space strategic design student sustainability systems tactile tangibility technology textile theatre theory Toodledo Toronto tourism traffic transhumanism transnationalism transportation tv uncertainty universal design urban usa usability user experience visualization wearable well-being women workshop writing
The Trouble with Normal...: Unconscious in the Sistine Chapel: not conscious of science
Unconscious in the Sistine Chapel: not conscious of science
The Trouble with Normal...
Not found any posts VIEW ALL Readmore Reply Cancel reply Delete By Home PAGES POSTS View All RECOMMENDED FOR YOU LABEL ARCHIVE SEARCH ALL POSTS Not found any post match with your request Back Home Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat January February March April May June July August September October November December Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec just now 1 minute ago $$1$$ minutes ago 1 hour ago $$1$$ hours ago Yesterday $$1$$ days ago $$1$$ weeks ago more than 5 weeks ago Followers Follow THIS CONTENT IS PREMIUM Please share to unlock Copy All Code Select All Code All codes were copied to your clipboard Can not copy the codes / texts, please press [CTRL]+[C] (or CMD+C with Mac) to copy