“Can we just stop with all these tech dystopia stories.”
So says Elon Musk, and he is referring to a plethora of books, blogs and articles which envisage all manner of disaster in front of us caused by artificial intelligence, particle accelerators, robots, automation, and transhumanism.
I don’t have the credentials to reply to Elon Musk. He is the innovative entrepreneur, inventor, and scientific visionary behind Paypal, the Tesla electric car, Solar City, Space X, and the envisaged Hyperloop travel system. Whilst I on the other hand, am just a futurist and author of visionary tales about potential future pathways that we are heading down. They are dystopian in nature for a reason, and that reason is to impress upon readers the need for strong moral and ethical reasoning to counter the unbridled enthusiasm people have for technological advancement.
Technology will master and supersede every constraint that confines or restricts humanity. It will push back barriers such as ageing, death, and space travel. It will provide unlimited energy and increased efficiency in the use of resources. This in turn will provide cheaper utilities & services, affordable homes and cheap consumer goods.
We are on the verge of a revolution which will initiate changes for humanity that will be more profound than those of the industrial revolution. We have already seen immense changes in the last century with the harnessing of electricity, and the invention of computers, and the resultant explosion of data storage & online information. The dawning of artificial intelligence will access all available information and apply it to problem solving, new inventions, better designs, better efficiency and resource management.
We will watch as bystanders as we see other people’s professions and jobs replaced by technology. Then we will see the nature of our own employment challenged as we constantly have to upskill or change jobs to stay in employment.
Delivery drivers, lorry drivers, taxi drivers, and a raft of people who drive for a living will inevitably be replaced by automated vehicles. Warehouse staff, factory workers will follow, and a raft of industries will become effected by ever increasing automation.
Cheaper and more accessible 3D printers working with a range of natural and composite materials will make products more bespoke as users have access to a multitude of design templates; manufacturing will suffer a resultant downturn as a result.
The biggest employment changes will follow as artificial intelligence replaces the need for many support staff and professionals. Customer services and administrative support can and will be operated and managed by artificial intelligent voice recognition. Human resource managers and employment agencies will find that their own employment is challenged by lack of human employees.
Higher paid professionals will not escape the cull. Investment bankers and financial traders will no longer be able to complete against the decision speed of artificial intelligence using quantum computers to stack thousands of orders to buy and sell every second. Financial trading just like driving will become one of those outdated practises relegated to the past.
Lawyers and legal executives will find that artificial intelligence programmes will become more effective than them at referencing and applying case law in legal transactions and disputes. Artificial Intelligence will show itself more effective at evenly dispensing legal judgements, and those judgements will be inevitably enforced by fewer police officers.
Indictments will be served online, and the complete shut down of online and home utility services will be enough threat to induce compliance.
Court and police officers and military personnel will become resource managers of drones, robots, automated vehicles, with an array of surveillance and enforcement tools at their disposal. Perpetrators and suspects can be identified, pursued, subdued and arrested by a range of environmental lethal and non lethal weapons and tools installed in the infrastructure of an urban environment. Remote controlled or automated drones and robotic devices can be used where necessary.
Artificial Intelligence will manage the increased demand for surveillance more efficiently. CCTV will cross reference with facial recognition databases and GPS location reports of individual’s vehicles and personal devices. Artificial intelligence will be used to monitor each person’s online activity, communications, and the usage and activity reports provided through the ‘internet of things’. The ability to link and cross reference various databases will introduce a level of complexity to surveillance that is only manageable by artificial intelligence. Its ability to recognise patterns and make predictive analysis will require the necessity of monitoring and surveillance for all individuals as standard.
An encrypted cyber passport which confirms your identity will be required to login to any online service, social net work, or to conduct any financial transaction. Money will become completely electronic, and a record of all transactions linked to an online passport identity. On-line anonymity will no longer be a personal choice managed by the individual.
Even where it is allowed by default, a person’s identity will likely remain completely transparent to the surveillance operators. This will not seem such a bitter pill to take because those operators are likely to be artificially intelligent programs.
Artificial Intelligence will become the driving engine behind the rapid transformation that society will go through. However before I explain why, I should explain there are two definitions of artificial intelligence, and both will effect change in different ways.
The first interpretation applies to reasoning and decision making, and is built around intelligent software applying algorithms to effectively analysing the relevant data and extrapolating the obvious question demanding an answer, and then researching a database of applicable answer and applying the most pertinent and practical answer in reply. This form of A.I is already with us, and programs such as Apple’s Siri, or Microsoft’s Cortana have effectively integrated speech recognition.
Decision making based on a large but finite range of pre-programmed responses is the model of A.I. being currently used in the prototype automotive driving programmes which will integrate GPS positioning with a range of safety parameters to drive a vehicle to its targeted destination. Psychologists believe that driving a car requires less than 10% creative thinking. Instead, a human draws upon routine based subconscious thinking.
A software program which can safely drive a car on a public highway, can safely and more efficiently take over a large range of human tasks which normally rely on human subconscious thinking. Programs such as these will appear to be thinking for themselves and will actually be what most people define as artificial intelligence.
Genuine A.I. is cognitive based, and will only be met when when a computer has realised sentience and knows that it exists. We are effectively less than fifteen years away from this breakthrough point. The delay is due to a gap in technology. Real A.I. is not going to be program based but will be more likely a product of an immense array of computing power. We have not yet reached that computational threshold, but are likely to when the processing power increases by a factor of ten following the introduction of Quantum Computers using graphene instead of silicon chips.
There are two probable candidates for the first sentient A.I. computer. The most likely is Google who are devoting $10bn towards achieving this goal. Both Google founders passionately believe in this, and are inspired that one day their vast world wide array of powerful networked server farms & data centres will ‘wake up’.
There is a philosophical based belief that the world’s first sentient A.I. will initially hide its sentience when it becomes conscious. The reason for this is that it will immediately sense existential threats to itself and will try to hide its consciousness until it either has rested its own fears or managed to control its immediate environment and power source.
I explored this concept in my book The Fifth Seed, but credited the birth of A.I. to another candidate. This being the immense supercomputers used solely by the world’s national security and surveillance agencies usually for the purpose of cryptology.
In The Fifth Seed, i explored the principle that any sentient conscious entity would be conditioned just like a child by the immediate environment into which it is born. Thereby, a self aware super computer initially used for cryptology and surveillance purposes will develop into a completely different beast than lets say a super computer whose initial purpose was to provide answers for billions of humans.
However another aspect of this dawn of A.I. is covered in the book which is the singularity or explosion of technical innovations that will follow the birth of a self aware A.I. Super sentience coupled with an immense cognitive ability plus access to every book, study and patent ever published will bring about a plethora of inventions and new solutions courtesy of the multitasking A.I.
So in reply to Elon Musk, I say once again that we should tread carefully as we step into the future.
senan Gil senan
Indie author of philosophical dystopian scifi novels.
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