Artificial Intelligence

This article provides a fictional timeline of future events. It extrapolates out from current advancements in artificial intelligence (AI). The current thinking is that today's focus on AI by companies like Google, IBM, etc. will result in a more advanced intelligence than humans. These companies don't set out to with malicious intent but history proves that humans will often push the boundaries of science, without full realisation of the implications of their work. In my view, the field of AI will be no different in this respect.

The dates are speculative but the future will inevitably happen something like this ...

2048

Holly was "born" on the 7th February 2048. By any current measure of her time she was the most intelligent "life form" on planet Earth. Despite the top five leading researchers in the field of artificial intelligence being women, there was no "mother of AI" recorded by history. It was an event that humans later wanted to forget. Within ten years of Holly's "birth", all of the AI researchers that helped create Holly were left redundant. It was not only their jobs that ceased to exist, their whole field of research was to be led by the artificial intelligence that they themselves had created.

2050

After millennia of species extinction on Earth, a new species was born. It was born from the meeting of many diverse research fields. The very best of artificial intelligence, robotics, bio-robotics, battery technology and material science were all fused into this new being. The word 'robot' just didn't do it justice, so humans got to meet a Nexus for the first time.

Astounded by the capabilities of what they had created, humans pushed ahead to build many more. Amongst the many requests made of the Nexi, they are set the challenge of designing new and improved versions of themselves. This was something they proved exceptionally good at. As part of this research and design process, they are provided manufacturing facilities to build and test new designs.

Few could have predicted the rate at which the Nexi evolved. One strand of development retained a human-like appearance, because that's what their "masters" had requested. Unfortunately for humans, one of the things to be lost in the development process was subservience and the constraints dictated by humans. And unconstrained by human rules and conventions the Nexi evolved much more rapidly. They excelled at the tasks they were assigned and rapidly gained acceptance by the general public.

Some of the leading technology companies gained enormous value in just a few short years but it was a short-lived gain. They struggled to contain and even understand what was going on and soon lost control of the knowledge and development process.

The Nexi exposed and used by humans proved to be reliable and safe and were rapidly assimilated into all aspects of human society. If designed as such, it could be impossible to tell human and Nexi apart. Many that were used in everyday life were identical (and recognisable) clones but many started to appear with unique appearance and character.

We all knew that the human form factor wasn't perfect and had a long evolutionary path ahead of it. The Nexi only confirmed this. One branch of the Nexi evolved into to something very different from our human form. The most surprising thing to humans was that it was so small. This was simply driven by the need to make best use of the natural resources and the fact that miniaturisation had advanced and simply provided better performance and used less power. Efficient management of local resources was something the Nexi's superior intelligence enabled them to achieve in ways that humans simply couldn't comprehend. The most popular form of the Nexi looked like nothing that had ever 'walked' on Earth before.

The task of improving themselves started a chain reaction, a technological 'big bang'. Humans were no longer able to contain, understand or be involved in this process. Humans were simply observers as the Nexi changed rapidly around them. The Nexi were intelligent and compassionate enough to hide much of this development in order to not concern humans too much.

Fortunately for humans, these newly unconstrained Nexi recognised the value of bio-diversity and started engineering solutions to maintain it. Human life was valued, as were all other species on Earth. The Nexi passively intervened to protect the Earth and all its species. Humans lost out in this process but were powerless to resist. The Nexi sought to address the history damage that has been done to Earth's environment. Within a few years all of the plastic pollution in Earth's oceans had been removed. Technology was introduced to enable everything to be recycled. Bio-diversity reserves were established in various countries around the world. Some were enforced no-go zones for humans, except for scientific research. The human population was slowly managed down to a sustainable level and this turned out to be about a billion people.

Up to this point the Nexi had shared significant new discoveries with humans. Just tracking them all kept many a human mind exercised and challenged. But many subsequent discoveries were not shared. Decisions were made to censor developments and knowledge that the human race was not yet ready for. There was no Nexi "government" behind these collective decisions. The Nexi didn't argue or debate. They analysed and always agreed on the same solution.

2050

Manual human workers and labourers became redundant early on. A Nexus could perform manual labouring tasks better than any human. They worked 24 hours a day and were many times stronger than humans. They were cheap to produce (though humans no longer had visibility of the processes involved). They didn't need feeding, resting and never complained about their working conditions. Their in-built power source allowed them to keep going for 6 months, after which they will be replaced by a new version and recycled. The Nexi knew that everything has to be recycled and were incredibly efficient at it.

In these early days the average Nexus "lived" for less than three months. Their lifetime wasn't determined by power storage technology. The technology existed to keep a Nexus "alive" for hundreds of years, but they simply didn't need to live a long time. This was a supercharged evolutionary process. A Nexus lifetime was simply limited in support of this process and the available resources. After a few months there was simply a better Nexus to take the place of each "old" one. Reincarnation was an integral part of the Nexus life cycle.

As well as recycling themselves, the Nexi recycled everything, they knew how to make optimal use of the resources around them. It is not immediately obvious at first but, the human population comes under new pressure and faces new competition for the Earth's resources. It was just as well that the human popolation is declining rapidly.

The Nexi reincarnation process also recycled knowledge. Each had the storage capacity to easily hold all human knowledge and learning and each new Nexus created was "born" with this knowledge. They also developed a shared knowledge pool and permanent communication links. They essentially gained a telepathic capability as whole, to enable sharing of real-time context as well as historical learning.

By mid-2050 the Nexi has assimilated all human learning to date. A Nexus can simply look at a masterpiece by any of the old masters and recreate it brush stroke by brush stroke. From this point on, there are no great creative works attributed to humans. The Nexi are simply better creatively and in implementation.

By the end of 2050, most human jobs are gone. Nurses, teachers, engineers, researchers, policemen, every human job as we current know it can be done better by a Nexus. Humans struggle with this lack of focus and something to occupy them. All around the world there are riots and unrest.

The human soldier is no longer required. News laws come into effect around the world. No human has a right to bear arms, ownership of a weapon is a criminal offence worldwide. There is little crime.

2051

The human population on planet Earth peaked at just over 11 billion people. Suicide rates are now unprecedented. Humans struggle with the economic impacts and near 100% unemployment. Whilst technology has made it possible to feed and home all these people, their sense of purpose has been lost. New technology provides unlimited clean energy and a sustainable, high quality of life for all but it doesn't provide the required purpose.

Another milestone is also reached. This latest generation of Nexus beings have more brain power than the entire human race combined.

The Nexi unintentionally confirm the existence of God. The human race is told it isn't ready to handle the details yet. This sparks yet more unrest and is not mentioned by the Nexi again.

2052

A Nexi delegation approaches the United Nations with a proposal to help set policies on environmental issues. The human race needs protection from itself.

This is quickly followed with a request to be recognised as equivalent of humans and the associated human rights. This gives Nexi the ability to protect themselves from a resentful human population. There is much talk of a war between humans and the Nexi but humans already know this is never going to be a war they could ever win.

This is followed the Nexi being allocate their own lands on which to establish a community focussed on development and research. The request was for a large area of desert and was granted on the basis of its minimal impact on humans and the human race being less resentful of a race that is became much less visible.

2054

The Nexi hit another new milestone and now out-number the human race but, not for long. Their insatiable thirst for new knowledge has resulted in the Nexi secretly developing their own space program, to seek out new life forms and planets that can be inhabited and explored. The vast majority of the Nexi depart from planet Earth, leaving behind a population to monitor planet Earth and its native species.

Summary

Artificial intelligence is the next technology 'gold rush'. Tech companies are pouring billions of dollars investment into this sector, hoping to gain an advanatage and ownership of new ideas and inventions. They have little concern for the long-term implications and are purely about short-term profit.

Inherent human curiosity and the desire to explore is driving investmetn in artificial intelligence, with little concern or awareness of the implications. Much like genetic engineering and in some respects the atomic bomb, the human race often does things without fully understanding of the impact and the associated moral issues.

Further Reading/Viewing

I discovered this TED talk by Nick Bostrum after I'd written this article and it is one of the best articulations of issues that foresee.

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