#869 VR for Good: Using AR to Explore Moral Dilemmas of Anthropomorphized Virtual Beings with Asad J. Malik’s ‘Jester’s Tale’

Asad J. Malik is an augmented reality A
artist and director who created Terminal 3, which premiered at Tribeca 2018, and Jester’s Tale, which premiered at Sundance 2019.

Malik’s AR works typically play with the boundaries between reality and augmented reality, and there’s also usually some sort of provacative twist at the end. These experiences typically have a film festival run, and then they may potentially be translated into mobile AR apps at some point in the future when the production pipeline makes it easier to Port and distribute the experience.

With that said, the rest of this post and my interview with Malik at Sundance 2019 on Jester’s Tale is packed with spoilers

Malik wanted an opportunity to unpack some of the moral dilemmas he’s exploring in his work, but because it’s not always immediately clear what the deeper intention or meaning is, then it helped me a lot to unpack his artistic intentions and allowed me to have an even deeper appreciation for the deeper message he’s exploring.

In a nutshell, AI agents and virtual beings a re already starting to have embodied anthropomorphized representations, but what happens when these AI agents start to hijack our social body language cues to start to manipulate and control us to do things that are not in our interest.

Specifically in Jester’s Tale, you’re asked to sacrifice your own body and life to be subjected to a lab experiment rather than the virtual hologram character featured in the piece, but who also happens to be an actual child actor in a hidden cage embedded that’s embedded in the wall. The larger point being that as AI continues to move towards photorealism & move beyond the uncanny valley of realistic interactions, then will we project a false sense of agency onto these virtual beings who will be hijacking our loop holes of social engineering in order to serve the marketing or persuasion motives of a wide range of potential bad actors.

It’s a provacative conceit that reveals some profoundly important discussions about the benefits and limitations of anthropomorphized representations of virtual characters.


This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

More from this show


Episode 870