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Automated Utopia – IM 2 Guest Lecture

In this guest lecture, hosted by Bin Ong Kian Peng, we look at the relevant and changing topic of our relationship with Artificial Intelligence, something that has played such a huge role in our lives. We see how we are able to approach this relationship and future possibilities critically: How do we work and live alongside each other, and will it be complementary or adverse? In other words, would it be a utopian or dystopian future?

According to a large number of sci-fi movies involving AI, as well as current fast evolving technological advancements in the making and production of AI, we generally believe that AI will continue playing a bigger role in society in the future. I think we are all threading a very fine line between that future being in the utopian fantasy to it dropping into a dystopian reality.

For me, while I do agree that AI has the potential to elevate human services and our lives tremendously, from healthcare advancements, possibility of reducing world hunger and improve climate change issues, we cannot fail to be complacent. The biggest challenge in my opinion, is not to do with our AI emulating human intelligence or emotional challenges, but the way people who have the means to own/buy/make these systems might use this new advancement to capitalise it to their advantage.

For one show that comes to mind when the words ‘AI’ and ‘dystopian’ are mentioned together is the show Black Mirror, famously known for its depiction of dystopian futures that do not quite seem so far off, where humans and AI or evolving technology co-exist, but leads to the ultimate demise of humanity or the downfall of the human characters, most time due to their own (human) doing. In this case, I’ll be referencing to one of my favourite episodes from it: Be Right Back.


In this series, a woman loses her partner and in her grief, she receives ads that recommend a technology that could stimulate her partner based on his online social media profile. So she ends up talking to the technology and purchasing a real life AI of him. But soon finds out that no matter how much it tries, it could never replace her partner.

I feel like one of the worse case scenarios of AI companies capitalising on their technology by taking advantage of people’s grief. Where they continually build on her grief and attempt to get her to spend more money on their technology to the point where she does not even have enough money left on her credit. She spends a lot of money indulging in almost anything that could release her from her grief and she was purposefully targeted with ads on that.

This is just one of the examples on how I think we as humans might severely and badly misuse the power of AI should that power be placed in our hands where we get to decide who gets access to it and how we much we will charge others for access to the same thing.