Future minds – part 3: the outcome
Now, where did we leave off last time? Ah yes, that’s right: real-world applications of artificial intelligences.
Imagine a world in where artificials have existed for a few decades. They are now in charge of complex and cumbersome tasks like managing large corporations, governing nation states and handling international politics. They’ve gained basic non-human-person rights.
The environmental issues are now under control, or at least kept from getting any worse. Oil and coal is no longer used for fuel and every single person, gadget, vehicle and appliance is online and connected. There’s peace in the Middle East.
A brave new world
Sounds like a dream scenario? A utopia? Perhaps, but there’s a backside to all this. As the world stabilises, the unemployment levels have skyrocketed. The industry has finally vanished, or rather transformed into a mix of automated factories and local 3D print shops, leaving hundreds of million people without a job.
Agriculture is lingering on, but as with factories, more and more gets automated. Even the service sector is showing signs of collapsing, with almost every type of work role now getting filled by synthetic people. Synthetics now work as personal assistants, receptionists, cooks, designers, engineers, programmers and accountants. More physical tasks have been taken over by cheap robotic appliances: mechanics, cleaners, gardeners and drivers are now all mechanical, controlled by synthetic management staff.
This essentially means there are no more jobs. Not for organic humans anyway. The synthetics take care of things, including their own development through research and engineering.
So, GG humanity? So long, and thanks for the fish? Maybe not. A few people have started their own movement of augmentation, by offloading parts of their minds on to the cloud.
It all began innocently enough: smart phones kept track of people’s phone numbers and contacts, keeping them up-to-date with scheduled meetings and birthdays. Finding information became so easy that remembering things was not worth it. Our way to offloading our minds on external technical platforms had begun.
And then it continued. Not linearly, of course, but in irregular sprints of technological advancement. Suddenly we could let our wearables take care of making appointments too. And then book all our flights and hotels for us. We no longer had to worry about managing our increasingly complex lives in detail. It was like having a personal assistant always present, always with us.
It was the rich world’s privilege for a while, but with technology becoming cheaper and more accessible, everyone was soon catching on. Humanity not only got connected but amended, augmented. By the time artificials begins to take over the majority of positions in the workplace, some humans have taken the augmentation to such levels that they have whole teams of virtual selves working in parallel in the cloud. Spawning new instances of yourself to explore a topic or possible outcome of an action we consider taking becomes commonplace. We’re increasingly turning ourselves into AI/human hybrid minds. We’ve not quite become virtual beings (a concept I explored in my post Simulacrum), but we’re getting close.
And with our daily chores out-of-the-way – and no real jobs to attend – we began to explore our own inner world of creativity.
No jobs means no money which means..?
But hang on a minute: no jobs? So how about money? How would we afford to buy food, pay our living costs and lease a car? Well, it’s the darndest thing: without the need for people to drive the economy by selling their time, the economy has become independent. Which in turn has made it all but obsolete. What’s the point of money if no one’s making any? It has been reduced to pure energy management, and with the new cleaner ways of producing energy, energy has never been so abundant or available before. Organic people are allowed an energy quota they can spend on making their lives as comfortable as possible.
Some people (being people, or at least human people) don’t care for the regulated freebies. They want more and the only way to get that is to work – and thereby compete with artificials.
By utilising their augmentations, the more ambitious humans are able to hold down some of the less demanding posts, and subsequently have their energy allowance increased. This would let them get a more luxurious life – to the envy of other humans – but it’s still at the mercy of artificials. Any truly challenging or critical job will always be handed to an artificial person. It’s like a utopian apartheid system, with humans on the receiving end of discrimination: no one’s really suffering, but every one’s sensing a level of oppression. Grade-A citizens will always be artificials.
In the end, there’s no real competition. Even with augmented minds, humans continue to lag behind the blistering rate of development shown in artificials. It’s like watching an explosion of technological advancement: even the rate of acceleration itself is exponential. We’re left in the dust, wondering what just happened.
But the post-singularity life is not all bad. Ok, so we might not be the highest intelligence on the planet anymore, or even in charge of our own destiny, but we’ve never had it this good. And one of the side-effects of this higher living standard is that the human population has stabilised on a manageable level of 10 billion people. And the population is even decreasing, for the first time in millennia.
But what about the future? What will now happen to us? Are we to be kept on as pets? Will our synthetic overlords tire of us some day in the future and cut our maintenance? Or… get rid of us completely?
Probably not. We pose no more a threat to their continued existence than a population of orangutans would to us humans. And we probably hold an intellectual interest to the artificials, from a scientific point of view. We did after all conjure up their ancestors, back in the day.
But that was long ago. We now leave such things to more clever beings. Instead we focus on the things that make us happy: raising a family, expressing ourselves in art or researching the ancient history of the once dominant species on Earth: human beings.