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The Fantasy of Companionship by Dr Susan Lim

9th April 2021 in Alumni

Alumna Dr Susan Lim (G85) has co-created a work of classical music exploring the possibility of inanimate-human companionship, as Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems become embedded in society. The Lim Fantasy of Companionship for Piano & Orchestra, composed by Manu Martin and featuring acclaimed pianist Tedd Joselson, alongside the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Arthur Fagenby, is released on 23 April by Signum Records.

Dr Lim graduated in medicine from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, and obtained her Fellowship in Surgery from the Royal College of Surgeons (Edinburgh) with a Gold Medal for being the most outstanding candidate in 1984. She came to Churchill in 1985, with a research scholarship from the Gulbenkian Foundation, to undertake a PhD in transplant immunology, in the relatively new research area of organ transplantation. On completing her PhD in 1988, she went on to perform the first successful cadaveric liver transplant in Asia and Singapore in 1990. Susan and her husband Deepak Sharma support the Dr Susan Lim Bursary Fund at Churchill students in STEM subjects. Susan co-created this maiden orchestral work with her daughter, Christina Teenz MD, a neuroscience researcher at Stanford University. The Fantasy is part of a larger performance entitled ALAN the musical.

Susan explained her inspiration behind ALAN the musical, and The Lim Fantasy of Companionship:

“I have been concerned that the artificially intelligent, embodied robots and other companions that will take their place alongside humans are currently perceived by many in society, as a threat, and with some degree of fear and hostility. On the other hand, one of the biggest challenges facing us in society today, longevity coupled with loneliness, has presented an urgent need for these artificially intelligent inanimates, such as robot nursing assistants, and robot companions as examples.

This, and the fast growing pace of disruptive technology has inspired me to create a fictional story about a future companionship between a human and an inanimate, that is positive, thought-provoking and portrays this future with optimism.

I have also derived inspiration from my first hand experience of partnering a robot, first the Zeus (Computer Motion Industries), and then the da Vinci (Intuitive Surgical) in my surgeries. I firmly believe that the partnership of man and machine performs a task better than either can do alone.”

Susan told us that recording at Abbey Road Studios a birthday wish, which her husband Deepak surprised her with; it was a dream come true! The work was recorded with the 78-member London Symphony Orchestra, a piano, as well as pop instruments, the electric guitar, bass and drums, together with a choral ensemble of London Voices, and a solo voice as the climax.

It unfolds the fictional story of a companionship between a human and an inanimate, and the journey of a soul, twice teleported, from animate to inanimate, and to human. Susan wishes to:

“Let it inspire a discussion about what is life and what is non-life, a topic which no longer just belongs to the confines of medicine, but needs and invites the participation of artists, musicians, psychologists , sociologists, philosophers, physicists, engineers, politicians, and more.”

We are featuring a longer version of an interview with Dr Lim (from which some of these quotes are taken) in our forthcoming Newsletter. Do keep an eye out for it soon.

Watch a trailer for the work on YouTube

Pre-order the CD at Signum Records

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