Decision problem, computing drama
John Rogers. Photo: Ionia Ní Chróinín
By Charlie Mcbride
In the beginning there was the command line. From the Manhattan Project that created the atom bomb came a technology even more powerful and pervasive – the digital computer. Writer and performer John Rogers charts the birth, rise, and possible future of computers in his fascinating new play, Decision Problem. Combining his experience and knowledge of both theatre and software engineering, Rogers takes the audience on a journey that reveals the wonder of the digital universe and questions what the future has in store for humanity.
“Decision Problem came out of two avenues of interest for me,” Rogers tells me over an afternoon phone call. “One was that I’ve never done a one-man show before and I’m very interested in devising and performing a piece by myself. And even though I’m no longer a software engineer I’m still a geek and remain interested in computers. Earlier this year my fiancee’s dad lent me a book called Turing’s Cathedral which really caught my attention. It’s by George Dyson and charts the origin of digital computers. One of the things that fascinated me was that computers came out of the same project that built the atomic bomb. That raises the question as to how the best and the brightest scientists of the 1940s let that happen, could they have chosen not to proceed with the bomb?”
“Neither the book nor play are about the bomb per se but you can’t get away from the shadow of it nevertheless,” Rogers continues. “For me, Dyson never satisfactorily answers that question and that got me thinking about when does technological progress stop being progressive and starts to become a threat. The book also talks about where computers might be going and the problems that might be in store for us. My play came out of the question of is there ever a point when you can stop a technological trend, even just to pause and ask ourselves are we going in the right direction.”
If computers share their origins with the atom bomb, these days they are more synonymous with the internet and that also features prominently in Decision Problem. “You can’t have this play without the internet,” Rogers declares. “During the show I’ll be surfing the net live online and whatever’s out there in terms of Youtube clips or live streams I’ll be sharing with the audience on the night.”
It promises to be an intriguing evening of theatre and Decision Problem runs at the Town Hall Studio from Wednesday, October 31 to Saturday, November 2, at 8.30pm nightly.
Tickets are available from the Town Hall on 091 - 569777 and www.tht.ie