Imitation Games: Actors, Robots, and the Art of Seeming Human


LAC Burkhardt




For residence at the Department of Theater and Performance Studies at Stanford University during academic year 2019-2020


“Imitation Games” tells the conjoined cultural history of two experiments in the art of seeming human: realist acting and artificial intelligence. Since the late nineteenth century, realist actors have understood their own bodies as complex, responsive machines. Since the mid-twentieth century, roboticists and theorists of artificial intelligence have seen machines as actors playing at humanity. “Imitation Games” shows how intertwined these two histories are. Through new readings of classic texts in acting theory; through close study of plays, films, and TV dramas on technological themes; and through a performance-minded analysis of technological culture from the telegraph machine to the intelligent social robot, this book shows how people have fashioned “humanity”—onstage, onscreen, and in the engineer’s lab.