Meta Middlesbrough – A Century Forward by Andrew Glazebrook

Exploring Middlesbrough’s Future: AI Midjourney’s Vision of Utopia and Dystopia

In a world increasingly shaped by technology, art continues to evolve in unexpected ways. One such extraordinary fusion of technology and creativity was showcased at the recent exhibition ‘Make it More Middlesbrough’ in The Masham Art Space run by Navigator North. This event featured the work of local artists, among them, yours truly, as I employed AI Midjourney to generate images of a futuristic Middlesbrough, both utopian and dystopian, a century from now.

The premise of the AI task was simple yet profound: to envision a future for this town, which has long been a symbol of resilience and transformation. The utilization of the AI app Midjourney, an advanced artificial intelligence model, allowed me to create a visual journey into the unknown. The results were astonishing, sparking curiosity, wonder, and a few unsettling emotions.

Utopian Middlesbrough: A Vision of Hope

I began the artistic journey by crafting images of a Utopian Middlesbrough. Gleaming skyscrapers, connected by vibrant green spaces. Clean energy sources powered the city, and intelligent infrastructure fostered seamless transportation. Nature and technology coexisted harmoniously, making the city more sustainable and livable. The Utopian Middlesbrough the AI portrayed was a beacon of hope, demonstrating the potential of human innovation to create a better world.

Dystopian Middlesbrough: A Cautionary Tale

On the flip side, I delved into a Dystopian Middlesbrough. In this vision, the once-thriving town was overshadowed by colossal, oppressive structures, casting ominous shadows over the inhabitants. Pollution and overpopulation had led to a decline in the quality of life. Social inequality had deepened, and surveillance technology loomed over every corner. The Dystopian Middlesbrough served as a stark reminder of the consequences of unchecked technological advancement and the importance of ethical considerations in AI and urban development.

Surprisingly, the reactions to the AI work were intriguing. While there was certainly a positive response to the Utopian images, the majority of visitors appeared to be drawn to the Dystopian side of the exhibition. It raised several questions and stirred conversations about the direction of technology, urban planning, and the role of AI in shaping our future.

Many attendees expressed a keen interest in understanding how AI, like Midjourney, could produce such evocative and provocative images. For some, this exhibition was their first introduction to the world of artificial intelligence and its potential in the creative field. The exhibition served as an educational platform, fostering discussions about the implications of AI in art, society, and urban planning.

Conversations about the ethical use of AI, data privacy, and the need for responsible innovation were sparked by the Dystopian Middlesbrough images. Some visitors had no prior knowledge of AI and were fascinated by its capabilities and limitations. They left with a newfound awareness of the power of AI as both a tool for creation and a source of concern.

The AI part of ‘Make it More Middlesbrough’ was a testament to the capacity of art and technology to ignite conversations and push the boundaries of our imagination. It served as a compelling reminder that while we can dream of Utopian futures, we must remain vigilant in safeguarding against dystopian scenarios. AI Midjourney’s work not only expanded our artistic horizons but also encouraged us to contemplate the potential futures that await our cities and society as a whole.

In the end, this portion of the exhibition was a celebration of human creativity and the possibilities presented by technology. It urged us to harness the power of AI for good and to ensure that our vision of the future is one we would want to live in. Middlesbrough, like the rest of the world, stands at a crossroads, and it is up to us to shape the path it takes in the next century.

All images above produced by Andrew Glazebrook using AI Midjourney and prompts by visitors to the exhibition. Image below from exhibition at The Masham and taken by photographer Rachel Deakin

This project was supported by Historic England and National Lottery Heritage Fund with Know Your Neighbourhood funding as part of Navigator North’s ‘Make It More Middlesbrough’ programme.