AI and The World of Tomorrow?

A row of cars wait, orderly and patient, as we reach the school driveway. I head for our family Auto, distinguishable by the customized chromo-flex decal on the hood, currently set to cycle through red and black arrows pointing toward the front. It’s supposed to look dramatic, tough, and it might if dad didn’t keep setting the chromo-flex body skin to cycle through a pattern of pale purple and blue.

The two side doors open outward from a centre seam as I come within range of the RFID scanner and flip my hand up, palm facing the door.
Dad’s colours change to an electric blue tech pattern as the Auto says, “Hello, sir, how are you today?” The deep, soothing voice is an immediate comfort after the crazy day.

Will and I reprogrammed the vehicle’s AI for an alternative behaviour pattern when there are no adults about. For one thing, it mimics the Artificial Intelligence that was Manifold’s partner in The Destiny Justice Force, a movie series Will and I were obsessed with a few years ago. For another, mom and dad’s AI is a nanny-bot.

“Fine, Jacob. How are you?” I answer, climbing into the spacious interior and taking a place on the circular sofa.

“As well as always, sir. Master Will, Mistress Annie, will you be joining us today?”

“Sure will Jacob.”

“Yes, thank you.”

Will and Annie climb in, spreading out to get comfortable. Our teachers and parents regularly try to impress upon us what it was like before Autos— autodrive cars— had revolutionalized personal transportation, but it’s just unimaginable. Apparently, there was a lot less room inside the car and parents had to pick their kids up from school— assuming they didn’t take the bus. However, most of the normal population has Autos now, except those in small, rural communities.

“Would sir like the usual visual feeds for the drive home?”

“I won’t be going home just yet, Jacob. Override destination alpha-seven-niner-delta-four. Voice code ‘singularity’ ”. Of course, I couldn’t reprogram the AI without giving myself a backdoor.

“Very good, sir. Your parents have been notified that you and Master Will will be meeting at the library. Where would you like to go?”

“Seventy-three Newton Place. There’s a flash tournament I want in on. Oh, and would you pipe my usual training feeds, please.”

“Very good, sir. Arrival will be in thirteen minutes, twenty seven seconds from the time of departure. Will that be all, sir?”

“You have any snacks, Jacob?” Will asks as I feel the car pull away from the school lot.

The circle of screens surrounding the interior light-up, displaying live streams from the top gaming sites, as well as recordings from the global Regional Championships.

“I have recently been fitted with a prototype organic printer. It makes a mean batch of chocolate chip cookies. They will take five minutes to print. Would you like some?”

“Of course! Bring ’em on.”

The above excerpt is (c) 2019 Edwin H Rydberg

The preceding is an excerpt from a work-in-progress of mine, a near-future world where AI is one all-pervasive technology that is just accepted as common-place. This is, of course, AI as we currently experience it, not self-aware or ‘General’ AI (the development of the latter AI drives some of the above story).

In previous posts (7 areas that could see massive benefits from artificial intelligence, AI – Wonder tool or human replacement?, Fake News is about to get real (prevalent), AI – Boon or Bane?) I’ve written about various developments with AI, so how might they all come together? What might the future be with artificial intelligence?

The Good

As you can see in the excerpt, I suggest humans are adaptable and I believe most humans will adapt to the convenience of pervasive artificial intelligence even at the cost of privacy and security.

As a side note, artificial intelligence is not synonymous with a loss of privacy or security. Those only follow it in our world because of the big companies (and governments) that are behind the development of it. In theory, one could develop their own AI that wouldn’t have such flaws.

AI Assistants

‘Assistant’ AI (advanced versions of Alexa, Siri, or Google@home) will be accessible from every room in a house (except ‘privacy rooms’), in the auto-drive cars, and will eventually enter the workplace by the time today’s toddlers reach adulthood. Combining this with ever-improving speech-to-text algorithms will mean all jobs will experience dramatic change as individuals become one-person departments.

AI for Research

But such simplistic AI barely touches on the true power of the technology. Google’s Deep Mind project has grown in leaps and bounds over the last few years tackling everything from strategy games with incomplete information, to the vast complexity of protein folding, to helping manage medical services. Projects I’d love to see them take on (with unbiased training sets) are climate change, global food and water management, government management, space vehicle propulsion, and the use of gravitational ‘highways’ for interplanetary transportation.

The Human Connection

However, back on Earth, once we get over the initial response of ‘massive job loss, computers can do everything better, and the future is no longer human’ we come to realize that it is still humans who act with purpose and direction and this technology will actually allow us to do far more than we ever could without it. After all, the universe is an incredibly complex place and it’s possible our brains are simply not capable of processing that complexity without assistance. The downside is, of course, that we have entered a period in our history where we no longer understand how our own technology works.

The Bad

Pervasive artificial intelligence will, without a doubt, continue the trend toward increasing human laziness and an ever-growing disconnect with both nature and our own past as we move further from both.

Changing Job Market

However, even before that we will see massive changes in the job market. With individuals being able to do more and technologies like auto-drive cars dramatically impacting the transport of goods and people the job market at all levels will change. Professionals like doctors and lawyers won’t be safe either as both of their jobs have a large database retrieval component to them which, at best, would mean a reorientation toward the human-centred part of the job rather than the diagnostic portion. By this time we’ll be long past the point were ‘learn to code’ will be useful advice.

Somewhat ironically perhaps, a consideration of AIs limitations would suggest that jobs in traditional trades (although upscaled for dealing with the installation of new tech) will be the safest and will be among the last replaced.

Fake News

Also, fake news, which is always being discussed these days, will continue increasing in amount and believability as new technologies come online. Not only will AI be able to write amazingly realistic fake news stories, but it will even be able to generate videos of famous people that appear authentic. Bots are already being used to generate fake static facial images for social media, but video is not far behind.

Increasing Vulnerability

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t address an ever-present concern in the increasingly connected world. Specifically that of malicious hackers. Being so dependent on a connected world and the Internet of Things (IoT) necessarily leaves us increasingly open to cyberbullying, cyber-attack, and having our devices used for malicious purposes. Let’s hope the developers consider their builds well, and that our governments don’t try and force them to put in backdoors.

The Strange

All of the above doesn’t even touch on up-and-coming technologies like Elon Musk’s NeuraLink, which intends to build a direct interface between the human brain and technology and could be the beginning steps toward a cybernetic future. That, combined with his global internet called StarLink, of which the early stages are currently being placed in orbit would mean hands-free technology access anywhere on the planet. Something that would forever alter humanity.

And just imagine how AI could aid the new business space-race and the space tourism industry about to take off.

In Conclusion

I, for one, am cautiously optimistic about the future with artificial intelligence and excited about the possible advancement we can make with it — at least until it becomes self-aware. Perhaps I am fortunate to be entering my 50s as the wave of AI comes online, however, it means somehow preparing the children for what’s coming even when we can’t see it clearly ourselves.

We are truly at the event horizon of the technological singularity. As usual, we’ve predicted the existence of something without having any idea of what it actually means. But humans are explorers so let’s travel to this undiscovered country.

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