Mimicking Technologies

This scenario concerns technologies that mimic people. In the year 2025, such technologies are becoming commonplace. With an ageing population, European governments are finding it increasingly challenging to provide social services and assisted living facilities to all those in need. The situation is becoming harder for those whose partner dies. The following scenario has been designed around this vignette.

Alfred’s wife of 45 years died in 2024. He missed her greatly and doctors were worried about his mental health until a government agency told him that he could have a hologram of his dear wife Lucy who could interact with him. The hologram knows about their lives together. Thanks to artificial intelligence, the hologram technology has synthesised all of Lucy’s data from her social media and is able to reproduce her voice, her appearance, her mannerisms, even the way she used to laugh with him. Data from their electronic home assistants, Siri and Alexa, were really useful too. The new Lucy reminded Alfred to take his daily medication and to go for a walk because he needed the exercise. Although the research is still preliminary, sociologists and physicians are in general agreement that senior citizens who engage with holograms or personalised avatars are likely to live healthily longer. A public consultation in 2024 showed that a majority of respondents favoured the deployment of holographic support services from 2025 onwards.

Their deployment remains, however, controversial. Some government agencies insist on taking partial control of Lucy and her peers. This is for Alfred’s safety and well-being to make sure Lucy functions properly and caters for him, for example, to prompt Alfred to take his medicines and encourage him to do some physical exercise or converse with her instead of watching TV all day long. But activists are suspicious of some lines of the hologram’s questioning, for example, why Lucy quizzes Alfred about whether he is working part-time or has any other sources of income, suggesting that governments have an ulterior motivation to reduce his benefits. Privacy advocates have repeatedly expressed concerns that the holograms, avatars or care robots are actually sophisticated surveillance agents as they could pass on the information they collect about their owners to the big tech companies and government agencies. There have also been concerns about whether holograms, like Lucy, can make medical diagnoses. Studies have shown that holographic people are more often right in their diagnoses in 2025 than real doctors. Public opinion is divided.