From Dreams and Science-Fiction to Reality

The MC2L colloquium focused on the future. Towards utopia or cyberpunk dystopia?

The Media and culture 2 languages (MC2L) master degree’s students presented their projects the 22nd and the 23rd of November during a colloquium about the future, and three of them caught my attention in spite of them being in relatively different categories. The future can either be seen with an optimistic point of view or a pessimistic one, yet when one thinks about the future there is one constant that remains: technology. It is almost impossible not to associate the future with technological advancements and innovations such as artificial intelligence (AI).

Narimane Dhaboui gave the very first presentation of the colloquium with her analysis of the movie “Her”. The approach she took was the representation of women in this science-fiction movie, and it seemed to her as pretty dismal, if not dystopic. In this movie an introverted writer buys an AI, voiced by Scarlett Johansson, and starts developing a relationship with it. What troubled Narimane the most was the fact that the sole purpose of the AI Samantha was to answer all of Theodore’s needs, she qualified her as a “Manic Pixie Dream Girl”. She is but a tool to be used by others, but Samantha becomes more than what she was made to be as she develops herself. She starts wondering about life, about feelings, about love, and she even questions the world she ‘lives’ in. Soon enough she parts ways with Theodore in order to live for herself.

The first apparition of Samantha in Her ©Annapurna Pictures

While presenting his topic of “Transhumanism, Media and Handicaps”, Mickaël Gayen talked about Sophia, an android built to demonstrate the future of AIs. Sophia travels throughout the world in order to converse with the leaders of various nations, and she was granted the Saudi Arabian citizenship. This event raises question regarding whether or not a machine can be considered as human.

The android Sophia announcing she wants to have a baby © REUTERS / Denis Balibouse

Anne-Claire Lemarchand presented “Understanding the Human Biology of the Future” in which she reviewed some episodes of a Netflix documentary called “Explained”. This documentary elaborates on different innovations that science is working on that would seem like science fiction, such as extending our life expectancy, almost doubling it, and maybe living forever or getting rid of genetic diseases, one feat that is present in the movie “Gattaca” released in 1997.

Mickaël Gayen also referred to the videogame Cyberpunk 2077 in which switching body parts is as easy and convenient as changing clothes as everyone is part human and part machine. In this cyberpunk video game, the Arasaka company engineers a biochip that converts the psyche of a human into data. Part of the “Secure your soul” campaign, it transfers the consciousness of its user into another body, allowing to cheat death and to live forever.

Johnny Silverhand, portrayed by Keanu Reeves, characterised by his prosthetic arm ©CD Projekt Red

Just like the audience attending the meeting seemed bent on thinking the future was closer than we think, and the analysis Anne-Claire provided on “Explained” that showed science-fiction might actually be closer to science than fiction, then we can only wonder what the future and its technological improvements have in store for us. Will we be able to live forever? Will our members be replaced by prosthetics to improve our abilities and not just replace a missing limb? Will we transcend science-fiction and turn it into reality?

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