Follow your dreams, kids. You want to be an expert on Canada? There’s a minor for that. Part your hair on the left side for a change? Crazier things have happened (though not many). And there’s nothing like the overwhelming indeterministic sense of opportunity that comes with senior year to motivate you into some real raucous risk taking. You are a human. We have so much time. What else is there to do but try?

Myself, I dreamed of reliving nightmare freshman audition sequences but with alternate outcomes, ending with my name on a cast list instead of being dismissed from the room mid-sentence. And this semester the stars and tides aligned, and I was cast in the Duke Players show Comic Potential, at long last my first acting role in which I have more than three lines (looking at you, eighth grade Peter Pan).

Not to spoil anything, the play revolves around a future scenario in which television soaps are performed by robot androids who are programmed to act and recite the scripts written for them. One of the robots, Jacie Triplethree, begins to inexplicably find things funny of her own accord, and her humor and “personality” attract the attention of a writer who falls in love with her. In one of my favorite parts of the show, my character explains to the show’s director why this is technically and ethically problematic—“Love is a totally illogical process. Every neurological circuit in her head will be in conflict. She’ll probably self-destruct.”

Gee whiz, does that make sense to most of us who have felt such squishy feelings at some point in our lives. The questions raised by this story by Alan Ayckman are not just about what human qualities the robots are capable of emulating, but whether the humans are truly acting human as well. And in between memorizing lines, this robot business has given me a lot to think about. Certain qualities in people are critiqued as robotic—an absence of emotion, overdependence on routine, failure to adapt. But what did they call these characteristics before Will Smith started putting out freaky future movies? “Thy lack of emotions maketh thee seemeth akin to a machinal property”? As humans invent new technologies, impressions of ourselves are recognizable in these objects, which bounce back to become impressions of technology recognizable in ourselves.

Even though certain characters in the play are designated as living beings or not, much confusion and discussion emerged among Comic Potential’s cast and crew over how of our characters cross anthropological lines. In addition to the laughing android, some of the humans exhibit android-like tendencies. My character is a human robot programmer with a highly technical and logical mind, but her human starts showing as she becomes increasingly sentimental and soft-hearted as the robot romance unfolds before her. Others are prolonging their life with the use of technology, constantly reverting to old tendencies or, of course, falling in love with a mechanical object. Human and robot identities blur. It’s all very confusing and nebulous and the one thing that’s certain is that none of us is a turtle.

For this uncertainty I am grateful, since never had I participated before in an extracurricular whereupon leaving the rehearsal site daily would I meditate, “Whoa. Am I a robot?” And this absurd pondering has brought some unexpected understanding of self. Am I robot? Maybe. In real life, I am part battery-powered. Since I was five I’ve had hearing aids and am perpetually at the mercy of the longevity of Tic Tac-sized batteries, receding into the perils of one-way communication should one of them run out midday. Lots of nodding and laughing and hoping somebody isn’t asking a question. Without them, I am instantly more fallible and prone to mistakes. The tiny tech elevates me to more than my own human capabilities can provide.

Other internal parts of me are similarly mechanical—suppressing emotions during finals week; automatically restarting Vampire Weekend CDs as soon as they end; reflexively declining invitations to events starting before 10 a.m. And, like Jacie Triplethree, if someone cute comes up to talk to me after class, I’ll probably self-destruct. And yet other parts are assuredly not—feeling brand new whenever fall comes around in Durham; forgetting and then remembering the thrill of perfect black coffee; trying out for plays despite prior evidence pointing to “no.”

In Wes Anderson’s immaculate film “Moonrise Kingdom,” while backstage at a play the boy protagonist asks the costumed girl of his affections, “What kind of bird are you?” It’s an oddly dramatic moment of unassuming significance that instantly ties their minds together in a room full of feathered onlookers. It’s not just about her costume; it’s what kind of bird she is, what qualities make her a raven over a peafowl, where she dreams of flying to. Being in a play about robots provokes a similar investigation of identity, but with slightly different phrasing—“What kind of machine are you?”

Georgia Parke is a Trinity senior and Recess Editor.