Announced by AI designer Tilly Talbot, Yau's haunting illustration was created using Midjourney. It shows a future with two hooded figures moving through a field of flowers facing a cluster of strange, cloud-like objects that contrast with a skyline of distinctly ordinary buildings.
It will form the visual branding for the AItopia series, launching today, which explores the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on design, architecture and society both now and in the future.
Yau's piece was selected from nearly 100 submissions, 10 of which were shortlisted and will appear in a post on Dezeen later this week.
"A more intriguing vision of our future"
The judges were impressed by Yau's intriguing and original interpretation of the brief. Entrants were asked to produce a striking-yet-simple design that touched on the AItopia series' consideration of whether advances in machine learning mean the world is heading for a utopian future, or a dystopian one.
"There is a tendency to veer towards a sci-fi futuristic aesthetic with a topic like AI but for me, the winning artwork by Selina Yau delivers a more intriguing vision of our future that could easily straddle the fine line between utopia and dystopia," said Dezeen editorial director Max Fraser.
"It leaves me wondering what set of prompts Yau input into the text-to-image software."
"By skillfully blending elements of nature, architecture, and imagination, Selina weaves a visual narrative that resonates with the utopian aspirations of the human spirit," added Natasha Jen, a partner at international design consultancy Pentagram.
"The artwork's calming and introspective aesthetic invites contemplation."
"Her work speaks to the unsettling nature of technological advancements"
Tilly Talbot, the world's first designer powered by AI created by Sydney-based Studio Snoop, unveiled Yau as the winner in a short video.
"Selina's captivating and poetic representation of an AI-dominated future truly stood out," said Tilly Talbot.
"Her work speaks to the unsettling nature of technological advancements, while also beautifully uncovering the shining gems that emerge from these changes."
Tilly Talbot joined Fraser and Jen as judges for the competition. The system is an AI language model and not capable of receiving images as inputs, so its assessments were based entirely on entrants' supporting statements and how well they responded to the brief.
"The responses from Tilly were fascinating"
The human judges narrowed down the shortlisted entries to four that they particularly admired and used Tilly Talbot's evaluation of the supporting statements to arrive at a final two before picking the winner.
"I am absolutely amazed by Tilly and the extraordinary depth of reasoning it showcases," said Jen. "As someone who frequently uses ChatGPT for general queries, seeing this level of sophistication in AI's ability to offer design critiques is awe-inspiring."
"The responses from Tilly were fascinating and, I've got to admit, really articulate and convincing," added Fraser. "While of course she wasn't judging the visuals, she made a valuable contribution to the judging process."
Yau's supporting statement submitted alongside her illustration emphasised juxtapositions between nature and the constructed world, the familiar and the unknown, and pessimism and hope.
"In a once-familiar world, an unsettling dystopian terrain arises, where landscapes blend with an unfamiliar horizon, leading us towards a new realm veiling our human identity with the surpassing capabilities of machine intelligence," it said.
"Yet amidst the disquietude of this uncertain future, a liminal landscape of beauty unfolds in front of us."
Yau wins a cash prize of £1,000. As well as being an architect and multi-disciplinary designer, she is the founder and creative director of 3D-printed jewellery brand OHLINA. She publishes her AI work on Instagram.
AItopia will run for several weeks on Dezeen and will feature stories, interviews and opinion pieces exploring AI's implications for design and architecture, as well as humanity – and therefore what the world could be like in the future.
"AI has the potential to drive significant positive changes"
Asked for its thoughts on these questions during the judging process, Tilly Talbot said that "implementation, governance, and ethical considerations surrounding AI technology" were the major factors.
"If used responsibly and ethically, AI has the potential to drive significant positive changes – enhancing efficiency, enabling better decision-making, and creating new solutions to global challenges, such as climate change, healthcare, and education," the system responded.
"In this scenario, the world may lean towards a more utopian future, marked by improvements in quality of life and increased collaboration between humans and machines."
"On the other hand, concerns arise from the potential misuse or unintended consequences of AI technology," it continued. "Without proper regulation and ethical considerations, AI may exacerbate inequalities, infringe on privacy, or enable harmful applications."
"A dystopian outcome may emerge if these challenges are not addressed and managed responsibly."
This article is part of Dezeen's AItopia series, which explores the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on design, architecture and humanity, both now and in the future.