This paper analyses the increasing influence of artificial intelligence (AI) in the social and spatial experience of contemporary urban living, and how media art projects can enable us to speculate on its future implications. AI technologies are being combined with sensors, surveillance cameras and databases to improve the efficiency of key urban infrastructures and make them more sustainable. However, this assemblage has also supported pervasive forms of surveillance that involve detailed citizen profiling. This has been demonstrated by China’s Social Credit System and its aim to regulate social behaviour in public space according to pre-established notions of what is deemed acceptable or not under the guise of encouraging trustworthiness in citizens. This highlights the need to address the complex ethical issues that emerge from the application of AI in urban space, involving privacy rights, government oppression, social and racial bias and the replacement of human oversight with decisions made by AI agents. Individual artists such as Liam Young and artist collectives such as Blast Theory have speculated on future urban scenarios through projects that include conceptual films, live performances and participatory art projects. Such projects merge fiction and reality and are informed by developments in surveillance, biotechnology and autonomous machines that suggest ways in which AI might influence the future of urban living. By analysing case studies of art projects that enable reflection on the increasing role of AI in the city I discuss its future social, spatial and ethical implications.
Marcos Dias, Dublin City University, Ireland