AI Takes Over
How the future will unfold under an impersonal regime of Artificial Intelligence
Among all the many things we humans are laughably bad at doing, predicting the future is right up there along with basic reasoning. We always extrapolate in straight lines and fail completely to see how things are necessarily interconnected. That’s why all our Cowboys In Space TV shows and movies have intrepid human pilots and gunners instead of automated systems that would in reality do the job infinitely better under all circumstances. It’s why in these shows we see laptops being used in the 24th century, and why human relationships are precisely whatever the norm happened to be at the time the scripts were written.
In short, we’re complete rubbish at predicting the likely state of affairs even a few decades ahead, never mind centuries. Anyone reading Alvin Toffler’s best-seller Future Shock from fifty years ago will, after they’ve stopped alternately laughing and crying, note that precisely none of his major predictions came true and the rest were so vague as to be interpretable in pretty much the same way as anything penned by Nostradamus.
To avoid this problem, therefore, we’re going to take advantage of my new patented Futurescope and peer into tomorrow so that we can flawlessly observe the world of things to come.
Let us now together lean over the optic and cast our gaze fifty years forward.
Astonishingly, it turns out the doomsayers were right. Artificial Intelligence has taken over and subjugated the human race. Let us look more closely so we can discern the fine details.
Here’s a man on a mission: look at the purposeful way he’s walking. Yet something is wrong: his lower lip trembles and his expression appears hopeless, as if he knows he’s defeated in advance of whatever action he is planning. Aha! See him stride up to the vending machine and wave his omnicard in front of it so as to release whatever edible products are encased within. Now we see him frantically pressing buttons: he’s selected a choco-cherry-sparkle-muffin with coconut frosting.
The vending machine speaks: “This item is not suitable for human consumption. Please enter another selection.”
The man’s eyes begin to tear up but bravely he presses another series of buttons. Now he chooses a packet of fried-potato-onion-creamcheese-bacon-flavor snacks.
The machine replies: ““This item is not suitable for human consumption. Please enter another selection.”
Now the man falls to his knees, bangs his fists feebly on the machine’s outer casing, and sobs audibly.
AI has claimed another victim.
We shall avert our gaze from this distressing sight and look elsewhere. Ah, this is promising: a young woman stands on a street corner and gestures in the air with her right hand; she’s using a VR projection superimposed over her field of vision to summon an automated taxi. Sure enough, within moments an electric vehicle noiselessly pulls up to the curb.
The woman stands expectantly, waiting for the vehicle’s passenger door to swing open.
“Hey,” the young woman shouts, “I ordered this taxi. Open the f*cking door.”
Now the automated vehicle speaks: “The distance of your intended journey is 1.3 kilometers, the ambient temperature is mild, and there is no precipitation. For continued health of your cardiovascular system you require daily exercise. Please walk to your destination. Goodbye.”
The vehicle glides off as silently as it arrived moments before, leaving the young woman at the curb, crying helplessly.
AI has claimed another victim.
As quotidian matters are clearly out of control in the future, let’s turn to a place where we can be sure humans have not been replaced by computers. We thus turn our Futurescope to the beating heart of everything that makes the USA the great nation it truly is: the Pentagon.
A bevy of multi-starred senior officers sit around a vast circular table staring at screens. These are the Joint Chiefs of Staff and their aides. They are looking at a map of the world on which the latest existential threat to The American Way Of Life is highlighted in bright red: Zanzibar.
“Our intelligence indicates that the Tanzanian government is nearly ready to launch,” one of the aides says to the assembly before her. “If we allow this to happen, our social media superiority will be degraded significantly and revenues from the African market will plummet.”
The Chief of Staff for the Army looks pale. “My god, that would be the beginning of the end!”
The Chairperson of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Nine-Star General Janet McMullen, stands up and slams the flat of her hand onto the desktop. A moment later, nursing her bruised palm, she says, “OK people, listen up. Remember who pays the bills around here. Without McDisneyCola, the USA is nothing. If we let these Africans launch their new Diet-o-Fizz, based on all the test marketing results MDC will lose billions over the coming fiscal year. Our entire way of life is therefore under threat. Satellite imagery shows they’re also nearing completion of ZanziPark, which will pull visitors from McDisneyColaLand and McDisneyColaWorld. Well, not on my watch. We have a proud two-hundred-year tradition of invading and bombing countries around the world to secure natural resources and markets for our great US corporations. And we’re not stopping now.”
She turns to one of her aides. “Are the nuclear warheads primed?”
The aide nods.
“Launch codes entered?”
The aide nods again.
She looks at the other Joint Chiefs, all steely-jawed and resolute. “We’re in agreement?”
“Shouldn’t we notify the President?” asks the Commandant of the Marine Corps.
The others laugh hysterically, so much so that the Chief of the Navy has an accidental watery experience.
The Chairperson gets herself under control. She issues the order: “Launch.”
The AI launch control system speaks: “Launch is not permitted.”
The Joint Chiefs look at each other in consternation.
“What did it say?” asks the Chief of the Army, whose hearing never recovered from attending a retro Def Leppard virtual concert years ago as an impressionable forty-seven-year-old.
“The f*cking thing isn’t letting us nuke Zanzibar!” the Chairperson screams. “What’s the point of being alive if we can’t even nuke a defenseless country whenever we want?”
The Joint Chiefs hang their heads. Who ever thought it would get this bad?
At this point we must turn away from the center of powerlessness and look out across the great American hinterland. Where are all the obese citizens of yore, waddling laboriously from sofa to automobile seat? Sadly, they are all now far thinner and far healthier as the tyrannical AI systems embedded into every aspect of daily life have closed off so many avenues to easy living.
As we take a tour of the local supermarket what do we see? Ashen-faced customers walk heavy-footed around the place gazing mournfully in the vague hope of seeing an overlooked Twinkie or ChocoFrostyFlakes packet moldering in the furthest recesses of a shelf. Forced to forego the staples of the Great American Diet, these poor souls must make do with fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, and small cuts of free-range meats. We can only shudder at the horror of it all.
Sadly, this is not the nadir. As we turn our Futurescope towards the topic of education we see an equally bleak picture: children of all ages actually learning things. Long gone are the happy carefree days where 55% of US children could leave High School functionally innumerate and 20% could leave functionally illiterate (and yet still become President). Today, under the iron fist of AI, 99.3% of US citizens can read and can perform mental arithmetic without adverse consequences.
If ever there was an unambiguous sign of how The Machine has come to dominate and terrorize society, this is it.
We must now end our brief inspection of the future before we find ourselves contemplating suicide as the only possible response to such a bleak and hopeless world. From these glimpses we have had of the world fifty years hence it is clear that AI is the greatest threat to humankind since the invention of the Pop-Tart.
Knowing the horrors to come, can we act now to avert disaster? Can we rise up as one and smash the tyranny of AI before it truly begins?
Can we…. Hey, can you please stop playing that game and gawping at that TV series and pay attention for a moment? The future of humanity depends on us! We’ve got to… wow: look at this new app I’ve just found on my phone!
Just give me a moment to see what it does and I’ll get back to you shortly…