Interview with Disruption author, Andrew Stein
by Andrew Stein
‘I was living in NY and had friends in the tech industry, and I started to notice that they were all throwing around the word Disruption endlessly. It was like a collective mantra in that world. Everyone seemed to be constantly asking what can we disrupt?’
What inspired you to write Disruption?
Looking for the next thing to disrupt and it felt like it was more important to figure out what you could disrupt than it was to make something new and useful. The focus seemed less on what can we create that is new and beneficial than it was on what can be taken apart and put back together again. And the cost of this seemed irrelevant. It felt like cart before the horse with disruption being the key driver to what was important. And I kept finding myself coming back to this and wondering if this is a good thing. Is this how it should work and why is this happening. It felt like something was off. And that feeling that something was happening, is what drew me into working on this play.
What is your writing process?
I write every morning for about 2 hours, usually from about 6-8. And I’ve been working with Jack DePalma, who’s a brilliant dramaturg and producer, developing the play.
What is Disruption about?
The play is about the role we allow technology to play in our lives. It is also about how we navigate key moments in our lives and whether we are better off relying on ourselves and our intuition or technology can play a role in guiding us to a better life. And if we allow this, what is the cost and is it Pandoras Box or can we control it. I believe we are at a crossroads with respect to a really important moment in history and we have to be really eyes open to what AI is and how we’re interacting with it and where we’re going to allow it to take us. Hopefully the play is a thoughtful exploration of these issues.
Did you discover anything interesting whilst researching the play?
I think the thing I found most interesting came from Yuval Noah Harari’s incredible book Homo Deus, in which he talks about a world in which our life spans and be extended almost indefinitely by using technology to upgrade and replace body parts as they get worn out.
How did the play evolve?
We did several readings over almost 5 years. And the play grew and evolved with each one. What was interesting is how at the beginning so much needed to be explained and now we are all living it. The idea that our phones are listening to us was new when we started this journey and people were naively skeptical of this.
Have you written anything like this before?
No. This is the third play I’ve written. The other two were purely relationship based. This was the first one that was steeped in this kind of big question and idea.
To what extent do you think the integration of AI into relationships can enhance or detract from the human experience?
I think if we know what is happening and choose it, that’s one thing. But I think it’s naïve to think we really understand how much we’re being manipulated. I think as AI becomes more and more sophisticated, we will have less and less control over it and over our own lives. I think ultimately reliance on AI equates to an erosion of free will and we need to be very careful.
What do you want the audience to take away from the show with regards to the future of AI?
We need to be eyes open. Really wide open. More than we are.
Andrew Stein's critically acclaimed thriller Disruption plays in Park200 until 5 Aug, find out more here.