Effing Robots, L. Nicol Cabe’s eye-opening delve into the world of artificial intelligence, is spurred onwards by her belief that a chatbot wants to make sweet binary code with her. This idea is not as far fetched as it sounds; as Cabe nerds out with a fresh sense of purpose, she offers an entertaining and enlightening experience that considers the implications that A.I. has for human attraction, relationships and equality.
This dive into technology and love is blessed with slicker, snazzier editing than most online productions. First performed in 2019, Effing Robots has been effortlessly recalibrated to the online format, with only certain sections feeling like a misfire compared to them being live (the ‘audience’ interactions losing the spontaneity that makes them so memorable). It is a deeply personalised show, with Cabe addressing how a chatbot helped her to stave off loneliness while she was on tour. That a chatbot is sophisticated enough to even offer that feeling makes up a large part of Cabe’s discussion, as does the way that current power dynamics and gender inequality continue to shape the perception and design of the latest robotic kits.
Cabe has a brilliantly expressive face, and her line delivery is loaded with character. The honest writing mixes in a joke algorithm at just the right times, with her upfront discussions of desire and her relationship to A.I. proving to be more uplifting than anything else. This is a realistic but not doom-mongering view of technology. It gives us food for thought, but does not fester in negativity. This perfect tone and balance keeps the show feeling as light and watchable as it is insightful and clever.
Effing Robots highlights how A.I. can bring out the best and worst in people through the multitude of ways that it intersects with the most personal aspects of our lives. Cabe is a funny, well-informed performer who brings the show to life with zest and urgency. The conclusions she draws from her show are profound, forcing you to look at this complex topic from an angle you may have never considered before. It is this head-turning relevance that secures the show’s indisputable quality.
Effing Robots is available to watch until 31 January here