What Kind of AI Society Are We Heading Towards: The Star Trek, Mad Max, or Elysium type?

Dr. Santanu Bhattacharya
4 min readApr 27, 2023

As a data scientist, I often get asked about my personal thoughts on the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on future societies. Since AI has caught the public’s imagination in a major way after the release of ChatGPT, I figured this would be a good time to answer this question.

To predict its versions in the future, there’s no better way to do that than to use movie analogies: especially to cult classic sci-fi movies. Let’s focus on three major ones — Star Trek, Mad Max, and Elysium. Each one portrays different probabilities of the future existence of human civilization.

The Star Trek Future

The Star Trek society exists in a post-scarcity world. AI is ubiquitous and highly advanced. From the ship’s computer to the Lieutenant Commander Data, AI is an integral part of daily life. AI is used to make self-aware systems or ‘synthetic life’.


Just like the Star Trek society, AI will help in creating highly efficient systems and processes to carry out complex tasks quickly and accurately. For example, the ship’s computer can quickly analyze data and make recommendations, saving crew time and effort.


AI-powered sensors and mapping technology will allow people to explore new worlds and look beyond this planet. We can get answers to widely sought-after questions like the possibilities of extraterrestrial life forms out there. Significant scientific advancements in AI help expand human knowledge and enhance our understanding of the universe.


In the Star Trek universe, AI is programmed with ethical guidelines that ensure it operates in a morally responsible way. In this version of the future, we will see elaborate codes of conduct for AI that will steer its expanse so that it is beneficial for society in the long run.

Photo: The Post-Scarcity World of Star Trek Where AI is Highly Advanced. Source: Wired

The Mad Max Future

Mad Max is set in a post-apocalyptic future, totally opposite to the Star Trek society. Ravages caused by human beings towards themselves will prove to be huge lessons that will force the inhabitants to learn from their past mistakes or create more pandemonium. AI is less common and less advanced than in the Star Trek universe, however, it’s not absent.

Military Applications

AI-powered weapons will give certain factions a significant advantage over others, leading to increased violence and instability.

Resource Management

AI will be used to optimize the utilization of the meager resources that are still available in this post-apocalyptic world. However, there will be significant demarcation of the availability of these technologies that would likely only be available to the wealthy or powerful, exacerbating existing inequalities.

Surveillance and Controls

AI-powered surveillance systems will be used to monitor citizens and prevent crime. However, this could also lead to increased government control and the erosion of civil liberties and individual privacy.

Post Apocalyptic World in ‘Mad Max’ Where AI Creates As Well As Destroys
Photo: Post-Apocalyptic World in ‘Mad Max’ Where AI Creates As Well As Destroys. Source: The Female Gaze

The Elysium Future

In the Elysium universe, AI is highly advanced but is used to reinforce social inequality.

Targeted Healthcare

In the future, Earth may not be a highly habitable place to be in. To protect themselves, AI-powered health tech will come into being but will be limited to the wealthy inhabitants. It will be made inaccessible as it shall be located in a distant space station reinforcing the social and economic divide between this advanced realm and Earth.

Selective Safety

AI will be used to maintain a high level of safety and control in Elysium. However, this system is also used to keep out unauthorized individuals, reinforcing the power of the wealthy and limiting the agency of the poor.

Dangerous Labor

Many manual labor jobs on Earth will be carried out by robots and other AI-powered machines, leading to high levels of unemployment and poverty that will make this social divide even worse. Even for some of the most dangerous jobs, such as the ones that involved handling nuclear materials, there will be long lines of humans willing to do it, just to survive.

Highly Advanced World of Elysium
Photo: Highly Advanced World of Elysium Where AI has Created a Huge Social Divide. Source: Micah Redding in Medium

Where is Human Society heading in the next 50 Years?

The impact of AI on society is complex and multifaceted. While AI has the potential to improve our lives in many ways, it also has the potential to exacerbate existing inequalities and reinforce power structures.

In the next 2–3 years, with the rapid growth in LLMs (Large Language Models), GPT, and eventually AGI (Augmented Generalized Intelligence) coupled with the potential lack of privacy policy and regulations, we will set up the foundations for future human societies.

Homo sapiens — humans have become the predominant species on the planet by a series of favored evolutions, (accidental) quirks of history, and most recently, a prudent set of decisions that have guided the growth and prosperity of the species. The lack of prudence, coupled with hypergrowth may soon become our undoing — only time will tell.

Previous Story: Where Did the Name Bluetooth Come From?

Next Story: AI Predictions 2023: The Year AI Stole Every Household’s Imagination



Dr. Santanu Bhattacharya

Chief Technologist at NatWest, Prof/Scholar at IISc & MIT, worked for NASA, Facebook & Airtel, built start-ups, and future settler for Mars & Tatooine