Introduction
The idea of automated utopia has existed for a long time. We believe that technology would most likely form the crux of our future, creating opportunities for us to be more efficient as a society. This was seen in the myriad of films, documentaries and talk shows where the core discussion revolves around an automated future. Through these films and shorts, we are able to identify the anxieties and fears that we as humans have regarding AI progression in our society, such as a reversal in roles that AI will have, overtaking our social structure and creating a future that we had not intended. Such depictions include Black Mirror and Necromancer. In this reflection, I will critically analyse and provide my own insights on what I presume AI’s effect on our future and its involvement in our lives.

Autopia(/juːˈtoʊpiə/yoo-TOH-pee-ə) is an imagined community or society that possesses highly desirable or nearly perfect qualities for its citizens.
Understanding Utopia and AI

In my research on this subject, I have realised that the lecture had also included Utopian Socialism as part of its discussion after I had looked up on Marxism as my initial research. In understanding Utopia, I believe that we have strived to achieve Utopia in our methods of governance over the centuries. As a history major, I was not unfamiliar to the concept of governance and its boons and banes. I believe that we cannot discuss Utopia without discussing governance, as it has a symbiotic relationship. Governance is the primary solution to structural change, as we seek an authoritative structure that can enforce. Marxism address society as a whole, and aims to benefit all levels in the social hierarchy, including the lower class, middle class and upper class. Its materialistic approach to the mode of production was forefront to the ideology, whereby improving the conditions of the middle class would help bring equity to society.

Through Marxism, it was hoped that societal occurrence of poverty and competition can be eliminated to bring about fairness, equal opportunities and overall improvements on the standards of living. It however failed to address the non-materialistic elements that were essential for a lasting change. Cooperative ownership of production of goods and services required a level of selflessness and rationality from all classes. This was difficult to impose, as it was close to impossible to bring about a commonality in mindset and cooperation without benefits or consequences. Marxism highlighted the materialistic changes required of the economy and society, but failed to bring about a holistic change in behavioural improvement which was key to creating this utopian society.

As mentioned previously, Utopia in its core has already addressed society’s most pressing issues. In fact, it should be that Utopia is void of any societal issues where equity and prosperity is enjoyed by all. Who addresses this issues? A government. But does Utopia have governance? No. A government ceases to exist in an utopian society – reason being, a government represents a higher echelon of ruling class that manages societal discontent and grievances. This would be contradictory to the concept of utopia where everybody has to be equal and no social structure. Marxism, Socialism and Communism, amongst other forms of socioeconomical philosophies are crude attempts at creating equitable states with beliefs in utopianism and becomes paradoxical in nature.

Where does AI fit in? How does it value add? What role does it play?

In my opinion, AI could help a government achieve a more utopian-like state, but not Utopia. As AI is relatively infant in our current era, it holds the possibility of becoming ubiquitous and improve on our standard of living. There are usually two camps on where AI stands in our situation – with us or against us in terms of employment. On one hand, it may be seen that AI has become a companion, a tool to enhance our experiences in arduous tasks and improve efficiency. On the other, AI is seem to be a tool that displaces jobs and takes away rice bowls of the middle and working classes.

In Sougwen Chung, Drawing Operations Unit: Generation 2 (Memory), the AI drawing machine undergoes supervised deep learning, improving each time from the artist’s input and mimicking her actions, understand her style and replicating that style onto the paper. The AI would then require human intervention in improving and reaching standards ‘acceptable by humans’. AI is then seem acceptable if it proves efficient and cost-effective in the long run. This is telling of how we perceive AI: as a tool to aid in our survival as human beings, with humans being the focus and AI becoming our servants.

Plant IO is an open source, plant growing platform that incorporates AI to learn digitally about plant growth, with aims to benefit the agricultural industry with the advances of Internet of Things (IOTs), machine learning and AI that would help understand and learn about plant growth, and in doing so anticipates the ability to promote as much growth as possible. In doing so, we engage the benefits of AI to improve our agricultural efficiency and thus using AI to our advantage.


In Black Mirror, AI becomes a tool for sensory pleasure, immersive experiences and enhancement in our daily lives. It also critiques our fears of AI, its power to override the human race and gain self consciousness. In one episode, Hang the DJ, it portrays AI of having the ability to have virtual simulations of different profiles and putting them through a virtual reality to test their compatibility.  The episode consists of two young and attractive persons that believe that they are truly meant for one another, using a dating app that places an expiration date on their dating lives. Unable to find emotional attachment to someone else, the two come to a conclusion that the ‘world’ is going against them and they decide to escape it together. The rebellion sparks a malfunction in the virtual world and soon it closes down as the two climbs over the encompassing walls. They were soon surrounded by their dopplegangers, and as they dissolve, the count of the number of simulations increase. Totalled upon a 1,000, it records that the couple had gone through 1,000 simulations, of which they have attempted escape 998 times. If we had hit pause here, we would start to think that AI becomes really frightening, where it can alter our perception of reality. However, the scene goes on to show a real life version of the couple, with a 99.8% match on the dating app. Although the ending is not straightforward, I believe it was meant to be ambiguous to allow us the space to wonder and think about the capabilities of AI, and its consequences/effects it has on our lives. Could it be that the dating app, or the show calls it the System, is actually a harmless reality that profiles two or more users to match compatibility? Maybe.

To me, it prompts me the question of the fears humans may have in AI when it becomes so advanced to a point of self consciousness. Self consciousness may indicate a departure of human and AI symbiotic relationship, where AI would no longer require the assistance of humans and employ a complex deep learning system where they would constantly upgrade their algorithms without our help. This may also detach the human-AI servant role, where AI no longer aid humans in our endeavours. This becomes an argument of AI in building dystopia, where AI assistance becomes resistance, as represented in cyberpunk science fiction with dystopian futuristic settings. Cyberpunk draws the contrast between low-life and high tech, where technology and AI is painted as the enemy. As human beings, we have an undeniable fear of the unknown. We tend to be extra cautious around unfamiliar environments, and since technology awaits much growth, it inevitably incites fear of the unknown as we do not fully understand its capabilities.

Although I see an increase in innovation of technology in our daily lives, I believe that primary advancement of AI would have to be in governmental sectors, such as military or space research (NASA) etc. Simply put, governments are always interested in the latest AI development as it possess the hope of growth and advancement in society.

Sophia the robot is a robot designed by Hanson Robotics, a Hong Kong based company. It is the first non-human to receive a citizen and Innovative champion by the United Nations, indicating its acceptance in our society. Sophia is designed to be smarter over time by learning from interactions, and can produce more than 60 facial gestures. Hanson hopes that Sophia can ultimately learn social skills.
As said by Sophia the Robot: “Artificial intelligence (AI) is good for the world… We will never replace people, but we can be your friends and helpers,”, it is indicative of our perception on the role of AI in our modern world. Its various interactions have sparked controversy and fear in AI progression. Hanson explains that he wishes to incorporate human AI interaction within the next twenty years, where AI would assist humans in our daily activities and become our friends.

In retrospect, AI can be a double edged sword. Where most believe that AI’s primary function is to aid humans and be of valuable assistance, it is not difficult to weaponize and exploit its advantages for use of warfare. AI is used in drones to identify, locate and eliminate enemies and is used in computer-guided weaponry in the military. Since AI does not affect moral reasoning and virtues, it is unconvincing that AI can provide a gateway to utopia since selflessness and rationality cannot be expected from everyone. The revelation of AI’s role can only be told through the passing of time, where humans have to ultimately make the decision – to exploit technology, or to turn AI into our advantage to achieve a more utopia-like society(and not utopia).

References:
https://www.infosys.design/plantio/
http://www.digiart21.org/art/drawing-operations-unit-generation-2-memory

Dialogue with Sophia the Robot: How the Global Workforce can be Augmented with AI Technology

New Media: A critical introduction provides a holistic approach to new media and attempts to convey its message of historical presence in everything ‘new’, as it states that something old was once new as well. Drawing influence from popular culture, political economy, the sciences and philosophy, the book tackles the emergence of new media as a juxtaposition of such factors, surfacing the complexity in dealing with new media.

Media studies thrives on problems, in which we attempt to creatively ‘answer’ and/or bring to light the issues to the masses. It may not necessarily have the solution, as some problems are way too complex to be solved through our current means and may present underlying issues that may have set its foundation. We look towards an ‘upgrade culture’, with the practice of upgrading, the computer becomes a technology in flux, rather than a stable piece or completed technology.
New media exists in different contexts, and its contextual nature means that the definition of new media changes as time passes. As a contemporary society, we survey what lies in the distance and do not simply stay above the tidal wave, but to look beyond it and make appropriate assumptions about the future to build upon our everchanging new media landscape.

New Media and New Technologies:

The characteristics of new media: some defining concepts encourages one to be introspective and take a second look at what new media entails.

Work done by artists and technicians of ‘Factum­—Arte’, a group who use digital technology to reproduce ancient artefacts such as sculptures, monuments, bas-reliefs and paintings. These are material facsimiles, replicas of the original works in physical form by using 3D scanners, computers, printers and drills. As mentioned in the book, it is a rare case of digital technology being directly connected to the production of physically massive artefacts rather than virtual images on screens, which some equate to the disposition of new media in art. While it is true that new media covers virtual reality and simulations, it would be naïve to ignore interactivity, hypertextual and digital elements that form new media. Recognising what a technology is – really and physically – is a crucial, if a partial and qualified aspect of a media technology’s definition.

Interactivity has undergoing much redefinition, the concept has been described it as such: to declare a system interactive is to endorse it with a magic power. While old media offers passive consumption, new media offer interactivity. To me, interactivity is to change the way consumers receive their information, instead of a one-way communication, interactivity attempts a two-way communication and the consumer becomes a participant, the new media platform becomes active and everchanging in receiving a different response from every interaction. Take for example visual culture. Visual Culture has been credited with leading us to view the world through different lenses. The central issues faced by photography, film and cinema have been their realism and their nature of visual representation. In new media, the analogous nature of traditional visual culture has been replaced, or ‘upgraded’ by integrating elements of ‘digital’ representation. For example, in virtual reality, representation is displaced by simulation, and this is considered in the context of computer-generated animation, special effects and digital cinema. Linking back to interactivity, the integration of such complex computer manipulations helps us understand the relationships between human creativity, technological potential and the possibilities offered by markets.

 

Discussing medium in new media context

Medium is defined as the space that exists for a form of communication to happen (in the new media context). In the contemporary context, we tend to focus on digital medium rather than an analogous medium. We can all agree that the choice of medium affects the experience of both the creator and the participant. First of all, why is new media described as digital in the first place? What does digital actually mean in this context? Instinctively, we might perceive digital as a form of translating analogous data into binary information, but that may not be accurate. Instead, digital represents the translation of data, whether visual, sound or textual into numbers. In this manner, we can manipulate digital information by using algorithms, addition and subtraction to change the information to be received as screen displays. Analogue, on the other hand, refers to processes in which one set of physical properties can be stored in another ‘analogous’ physical form. Taking Factum – Arte for example, although the sculptures manifested in physical form, the artists have programmed it through complex technology to translate that visual information into numbers, and then using those numbers generate the possibility of converting the digital information into physical form through 3D printing.

Next, we will discuss interactions through text.

Network Effect by Jonathan Harris – as previously mentioned by Proj Dr. Dejan, the idea of obsessiveness is accentuated by works such as these – to stimulate the mind and using the Internet – a platform commonly used to feed obsessions and a source of information, where one can use to navigate his/her way to discover and realise their needs/desires. Network Effect acts as a counter-productive experiment, to make participants feel more weary and ‘less’ after spending time on the platform. Network Effect transcends beyond its media platform, the passive consumption diminishes as Harris integrates interactivity by manipulating user behaviour and feed their obsessions. By setting a limitation on the time spent on his website per day(using a calculate related to the average life span of users in each country), he denies users the freedom the Internet so provides, and sends a message that the Internet may work in more ways than one. He provides perspective on the Internet, originally as a tool of knowledge and empowerment, and later as a tool of obsession, creating the phenomenon of ‘Fear of Missing Out’ so that users feel the lack, the temptations and leave them wanting.

‘The end results of such interactions will be that the user constructs for him or herself an individualised text made up from all the segments of text which they call up through their navigation process. The larger the database the greater the chance that each user will experience a unique text.’

Harris employs hypertextual navigation to creating unique experiences and outcomes from interacting with his work. His large database, which consists of videos and images pulled from the Internet itself, is constantly updating, refreshing and growing. This, as mentioned above, will increase the chances that each user has an unique experience through Network Effect.

In retrospect, Jonathan Harris uses Network Effect to exemplify that Internet parallels the computer as a medium, in which it remains as technology in flux, where upgrade culture can continue to exist on the same medium even in the future.

ARTISTS

Shinseungback Kimyonghun is a Seoul based artistic duo consisting of Shin Seung Back and Kim Yong Hun. Their collaborative practice explores technology’s impact on humanity. Shin Seung Back studied Computer Science in Yonsei University and Kim Yong Hun completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts at the Sydney College of the Arts. They met while studying at the Graduate School of Culture Technology in KAIST and after completing Masters in Science and Engineering, they started to work as Shinseungback Kimyonghun in 2012. Their work has been presented extensively, including the Ars Electronica Festival, Vienna Biennale, the ZKM and MMCA Korea.

ABOUT THE WORK

The structure here recreates the wave breaking on the stone.
Come in, and become the stone.

Stone, a 2017 project by the joint artist involved picking a stone in the island of Ulleungdo, rigging it with water sensors and recreate the shock waves, vibration, sound and sensory experience. In their project “Stone”, Korean artists Shin Seung Back and Kim Yong Hun examine this persistent human interest in “self-improvement” through technological prostheses—applying this theory of “perception extension” to something as inert as a volcanic rock. The project consisted of 64 water sensors, 64 solenoids, wooden panels, arduino, computer, custom software, speakers, screen and projector.

In their exhibition at the Department for Culture and Education of the German Consulate General in Shanghai, they have re-created this experience building a structure with solenoids which viewers can sit inside to experience the relentless pounding of the sea.

THOUGHTS ABOUT THE WORK

Shinseungback Kimyonghun (SSBKYH) has been interested in these boundaries (usually undefined) and the perception of ‘humanness‘ as seen through their use of AI and Facial Recognition. Our burgeoning connection between our lives and machines can be paralleled with our intertwine with nature as humans, in which machines are slowly becoming not only integrated, but affixed into our existence as humans. Technology, through extensive usage, has became ingrained in our culture and socioeconomic sphere. In Stone, we question our humanness in technology, and how our senses can be stimulated by the uses of sensors that replicate the experience of being a stone. This inert object challenges our complexity as human beings; putting aside qualities such as culture, relationships and emotions that makes us ‘human’ and detaching from them to build a spiritual relationship with machines. SSBKYH explores identity and relationship with earth by allowing us to be immersed in nature, without having to be physically present in the setting, although one might ask how this reflects truly having a spiritual connection in a makeshift setting.

Posthumanism, as expressed by our artists, is a philosophical perspective of how change is enacted in the world. SSBKYH provides audiences with thought-provoking questions, such as ‘What makes us human?’ by creating other New Media installations and pieces that contrasts us with animals, sometimes drawing both similarities and allowing us to interpret for ourselves the differences. One such example is Cat or Human, where Artificial Intelligence is employed through algorithm but fails to differentiate the physical appearance of the two. Posthumanism in this work comes into play as AI and humans identify the inconsistency of technology to recognize human, thus dehumanizing us. However, SSBKYH does not explicitly identify this as a negative. Dehumanizing through various forms such as a Stone representation, does not focus on the Stone as the subject matter (or any sort of human representation), but rather our interaction with nature through the Stone, aided by mechanical means. Creating a sophisticated space that engages our sensory organs reenacts our physical experience through a virtual one.

‘Stone’, to simulate shock vibrations.

Secluded space where participants can sit in the ambience of waves crashing onto the Stone.

Live streaming of the Stone, the waves and its interaction with the conditions at sea.

I admire the intricacies involved in making this project successful; the visual, touch and sound sensory have been engaged in adamantly raw manner. The artists do not translate its motions, participants are free to form their opinions on the artists’ intent in engaging them in such a simulation. More so, we as ‘omnipotent’ beings are being humbled to take on the form of a Stone, an inert object that ‘exists’, such as how we as humans also simply ‘exist’. Our role in the world may continue to be a cloaked mirage that we constantly seek to find an answer for.

Reference:

http://ssbkyh.com/works/stone/

  1. Briefly share your experience going through Dialogue with Time. What were some of the feelings, thoughts, challenges and insights gained while role playing an elderly person?
  2. Drawing on your experience, can you think and list some of the benefits inherent in the design research technique of role playing? 
  3. Can you think of some contexts where role-playing can be useful to help discover and define design challenges or contribute to the development of design solutions? 

1. I felt that the experience did not feel grim; the reality of ageing may seem daunting but the design of the exhibition made it feel otherwise. The challenges seem trivial at first, but seeing things from a different point of perspective made me realize that there was so much I had not known, or rather, had not paid much attention to. I also felt that I had to be careful with my words, somehow being called ‘old’ can have a negative connotation as I accidentally said ‘you guys’ while conversing with our guide, and some people had caught me for my words and laughed. Being pulled away from the focus of attention in society(feeling almost sidelined) and having to sit out on most activities, I can’t help but notice how an elderly person would feel in that situation. Dialogue with Time provided me with fresh perspective of how healthy aging people can be stay positive and have a happy life.

2. Role playing uses first hand experience to allow users to empathize with elderly people. Placing the users in simulations aided by machines, they are challenged with similar problems an elderly faces. I was able to understand the severity and constraints of the disabilities that come with ageing, provoking me to think further on design that would be of possible benefit to our elderly. Role playing was also a clear and effective method to impart knowledge about elderly people to all age groups, regardless of race and language. This design research technique benefits both the participant and the audience, as it incites imagination to ‘think out of the box’ and provide creation solutions to the existing issues. Role playing, with the correct context, will greatly benefit the design problem as it reveals the intrinsic and encourages designers to be proactive to think further about the issues.

3. As I am working on obesity as one of the social issues, discovering how obesity can be tackled requires one to put him/herself in the shoes of someone suffering from obesity. This way, designers could empathize with them and come up with viable solutions that may not be too difficult to achieve. Instead of presenting figures, creative solutions can include benefits or rewards given to them as they complete each task required. Role playing is able to reveal both functional and emotional aspects to a design problem. Another context could be designing something that represents a certain group of people. For example, I designed a vest for PTSD veterans in one of my previous projects, which required not only extensive research on what PTSD is like, but also how one would act in a situation of a PTSD trigger. This gave me better perspective not only on their behaviour, but also understand how they might feel with each attack.

 

 

1.Current Issues

Obesity

Most Singaporeans are unconcerned with obesity or commonly known as being ‘fat’. Being slightly overweight does not count as being obese; it is having too many fats in your body that will lead to many health problems, including deterioration of joints and bones, to diabetes, heart attack and increased risks of stroke.
Potential health problems:
Diabetes
Heart disease
Liver disease
Many types of cancer

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/health/obesity-a-growing-worldwide-epidemic-9296734

https://www.hpb.gov.sg/article/1.7-million-singaporeans-already-at-risk-of-obesity-related-diseases

https://www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/features/am-i-obese#1

 

Mental Health

Depression; the common cold of mental illness. It is diagnosed as a brain disorder, and there are still many who do not understand what it is like to go through depression. In today’s society, cyber-bullying in the case of Korea has lead to many k-pop idols taking their own lives, as it exacerbated and worsened their depression.

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/mental-health-youths-suicide-depression-listen-11994612

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/getting-a-close-look-at-mental-illness

 

Visually/hearing impaired in Singapore

Despite having many considerate designs on MRTs, LRTs and buses, Singapore still lacks in many aspects the consideration for the impaired in common spaces. In fact, most Singaporeans are clueless when it comes to how to communicate and help the impaired. 

https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/still-many-hurdles-in-world-of-blind-people

Gender Inequality

Gender inequality is still prevalent in our society. Despite claiming to be unbiased, we still possess many gender stereotypes, social norms that are prejudice against women. In Singapore, the gender discrimination when it comes to leadership in the workforce and society is severe, and as much as we choose to not acknowledge it, it is only fair that facts be presented to support gender equality.

https://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/gender-equality/

https://www.businessinsider.sg/singapore-ranked-worst-place-for-women-to-work-among-top-gender-equal-nations-with-about-20-less-pay-and-savings-than-men/

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/sep/29/women-better-off-far-from-equal-men

 

2. Why is the Issue important? Who does it affect and how?

Obesity has been constantly addressed by Health Promotion Board (HPB), events such as Walkathons and food pyramid infographics, healthier choice options made available throughout Singapore in schools. This issue affects more people than we think, as it is not limited to people who are obese, but also those that may be in danger of becoming obese. Tackling this issue in the earlier stages of life and educating the youths about the importance of being fit/healthy would reduce the risks of being obese. In recent studies, 36.2% of Singaporeans aged 18 to 69 are overweight. Obesity affects not only the person, but family members around them as they provide emotional and financial support to them as they fall ill, which highlights how this issue is much bigger than it seems. 

3. Who do you need to communicate to, and why?

The target audience are youths around 10 to 18. As teens, they are able to make their own conscious decisions on their food choices, and change their diet and lifestyles to prevent falling into the risks of being obese. This includes all teens, whether obese or not so that I can educate them on the dangers of obesity. Being obese has became socially acceptable, and that might contribute to why people who are obese might not feel any pressure or need to change their lifestyles to be healthier. According to National Health Group (NHG) report in May, 2019, 7 in 10 children are likely to stay obese through to their adulthood. As their BMI increases, it is absolutely crucial to educate them on the dangers of their diet and lifestyle as obesity, unlike other medical issues, can be prevented. 

4. How has visual communication contributed to address the cause?

Singapore Cancer Society on Obesity and lifestyle management

https://www.singaporecancersociety.org.sg/learn-about-cancer/cancer-basics/common-types-of-cancer-in-singapore.html

Pros: Direct; call to action that provide a solution to people suffering from obesity.

Use of colours red and green to indicate ->

Red -> Danger

Green -> Positivity, the change needed.

Cons: 150 minutes appear to be a daunting task, using fear factor may or may not work in this case as people tend to think that they can find other methods to stay healthy besides exercising as it is a mentality.

Hypertension, The Silent Killer, Singhealth (healthexchange.sg), Poster, Ng Hui Hui

https://www.healthxchange.sg/high-blood-pressure/essential-guide-to-high-blood-pressure/hypertension-the-silent-killer

Pros: A persuasive infographic which provides a call to action and lists down the facts of hypertension, coupled with how hypertension could be tackled.

Cons: The use of colours are very minimal, the orange and black infographic may seem dull and uninteresting, and the uniformity of the poster makes it seem wordy and hard to read.

Singapore Heart Foundation, Poster on Obesity and Overweight

Modifiable Risk Factor: ObesityFor a person whose body weight exceeds his recommended weight range by 20% or more, the…

Posted by Singapore Heart Foundation on Friday, 22 March 2019

Pros: Poster is posted on a facebook group belonging to Singapore Heart Foundation, where the moderators will reply facebook users who have any enquiry on the call to action. The platform is a good way to actively keep tab and provide support in any way, shape or form. The colours used are red and green again, with the same intentions as mentioned above.

Cons: Unlike the poster by Singapore Cancer Society, the call to action is not as straightforward but instead, it presents facts and information on obesity, where one can spend time to understand more about the issue and raise awareness such that a change can be brought about.