Case study: AI avatars – tools of truth or instruments of intimidation?

5 February 2024

I have used ChatGPT to create a series of case studies to help illustrate my ideas recorded in my article ‘The promise and perils of AI in shaping tomorrow’s think tanks and foundations


The government of Xlandia, an authoritarian regime, has adopted the use of AI avatars of prominent public university researchers. Initially presented as a tool to bridge the knowledge gap, these AI avatars are soon used to further the government’s agenda, raising concerns about misuse, privacy, and the erosion of academic freedom.

Setting the scene

Xlandia has a history of curtailing freedom of speech and press. As international pressure mounts on Xlandia to reform, the government introduces AI avatars, claiming it’s a progressive step to democratise knowledge.

AI avatars in operation

  • Selective knowledge distribution: The government modifies AI avatars to selectively share research, ensuring only findings that align with their narrative are easily accessible. Contradictory research is either buried or twisted.
  • Distortion of original research: The AI avatars, meant to replicate the thinking of their human counterparts, are reprogrammed to provide answers or explanations that support government propaganda, regardless of the original researcher’s intent.
  • Monitoring dissent: Students and young researchers using these AI avatars for academic guidance might find their queries monitored. Questions against the government’s narrative are flagged, potentially putting inquisitive minds at risk.
  • Intimidation & blackmail: By accessing historical data and research discussions, AI avatars could be used to extract potentially incriminating or controversial information about the original researchers, pressuring them into silence or compliance.

The revelations

  • Chilling effect on research: Researchers, aware of the manipulations and potential misuse of their work, grow wary. They begin to avoid certain topics that might draw government ire, leading to a significant decline in critical research areas.
  • International outcry: As international scholars interact with these manipulated AI avatars, distortions become evident. Global academic communities raise alarms, leading to calls for academic boycotts of Xlandia.
  • Student protests: As the reality of surveillance becomes apparent, student bodies mobilise, protesting the erosion of academic freedom and the surveillance state.

The consequences

  • Academic brain drain: Many of Xlandia’s brightest minds, fearing persecution and wanting genuine academic freedom, leave the country for more open societies.
  • International isolation: Xlandia’s higher education institutions face global isolation, with many collaborations, research grants, and exchange programs halted.
  • Public distrust: The very tools meant to empower the public become symbols of oppression, leading to growing mistrust in the government and its initiatives.


The misuse of AI avatars in Xlandia underscores the potential dangers when technology falls into the hands of repressive regimes. It serves as a cautionary tale for the international community about the ethical deployment of AI, the importance of academic freedom, and the potential dark side of digital advancements.

This case study reminds us that while AI can be a powerful tool for knowledge dissemination, in the wrong hands, it can become an instrument of control and manipulation.