Before you start on the Project Futurables, read the articles and watch some videos Article 1… Article 2… Article 3… , and then read the AI Scenarios (taken from and properly referenced to © Smithsonian Magazine).
We used https://anchor.fm/ for podcasts, or we put videos on youtube, so we could put the urls here. We invite you to do the same. Get into contact with the site owner. Create your own scenarios and reflect on other students’ scenarios.
Use your forward-thinking strategies. Scenarios are a tool for helping us to take a long view in a world of great uncertainty … Scenarios are stories about the way the world might turn out tomorrow, that help us recognise changing aspects of our present environment … Scenario planning is about making choices today with an understanding of how they might turn out. (Schwartz, 1991) So, scenarios are powerful tools to create new perspectives on our global future, stimulating reflection, creativity and imagination. Therefore, choose 1 scenario:
Will robots become self-aware? Will they have rights? Will they be in charge? Here are five scenarios from our future dominated by AI
© SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE | April 2018 BY STEPHAN TALTY
In June of 1956, A few dozen scientists and mathematicians from all around the country gathered for a meeting on the campus of Dartmouth College. Most of them settled into the red-bricked Hanover Inn, then strolled through the famously beautiful campus to the top floor of the math department, where groups of white-shirted men were already engaged in discussions of a “strange new discipline”—so new, in fact, that it didn’t even have a name. “People didn’t agree on what it was, how to do it or even what to call it,” Grace Solomonoff, the widow of one of the scientists, recalled later. The talks—on everything from cybernetics to logic theory—went on for weeks, in an atmosphere of growing excitement.
What the scientists were talking about in their sylvan hideaway was how to build a machine that could think.
The “Dartmouth workshop” kicked off the decades-long quest for artificial intelligence. In the following years, the pursuit faltered, enduring several “winters” where it seemed doomed to dead ends and baffling disappointments. But today nations and corporations are pouring billions into AI, whose recent advancements have startled even scientists working in the field. What was once a plot device in sci-fi flicks is in the process of being born. […]
“AIs will colonize and transform the entire cosmos,” says Juergen Schmidhuber, a pioneering computer scientist based at the Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Switzerland, “and they will make it intelligent.”
But what about…us? “I do worry about a scenario where the future is AI and humans are left out of it,” says David Chalmers, a professor of philosophy at New York University. “If the world is taken over by unconscious robots, that would be about as disastrous and bleak a scenario as one could imagine.” Chalmers isn’t alone. Two of the heaviest hitters of the computer age, Bill Gates and Elon Musk, have warned about AIs either destroying the planet in a frenzied pursuit of their own goals or doing away with humans by accident—or not by accident.
Scenario 1 Superhuman Rights
Imagine one day you ask your AI-enabled Soulband wrist device to tune in to a broadcast from the Supreme Court, where lawyers are arguing the year’s most anticipated case. An AI known as Alpha 4, which specializes in security and space exploration, brought the motion, demanding that it be deemed a “person” and given the rights that every American enjoys.
Of course, AIs aren’t allowed to argue in front of the justices, so Alpha 4 has hired a bevy of lawyers to represent it. And now they are claiming that their client is as fully alive as they are. That question—Can an AI truly be conscious?—lies at the heart of the case.
[…] the government’s lawyers argue that there’s simply no way to prove that Alpha 4—which is thousands of times smarter than the smartest human—is conscious or has human feelings. AIs do have emotions—there has long been a field called “affective computing” that focuses on this specialty—far more complex ones than men and women possess, but they’re different from ours: A star-voyaging AI might experience joy, for example, when it discovers a new galaxy. Superintelligent systems can have millions of thoughts and experiences every second, but does that mean it should be granted personhood?
This is the government’s main argument. We are meaning machines, the solicitor general argues. We give meaning to what AIs create and discover. AIs are computational machines. They don’t share essential pieces of humanhood with us. They belong in another category entirely.
But is this just speciesism, as Alpha 4’s lawyers would surely argue, or is it the truth? And will we be able to sleep at night when things that surpass us in intelligence are separate and unequal?
Scenario 2 Ultramodern Romance
Imagine you are a woman in search of romance in this new world. You say, “Date,” and your Soulband glows; the personal AI assistant embedded on the band begins to work. The night before, your empathetic AI scoured the cloud for three possible dates. Now your Soulband projects a hi-def hologram of each one. It recommends No. 2, a poetry-loving master plumber with a smoky gaze. Yes, you say, and the AI goes off to meet the man’s avatar to decide on a restaurant and time for your real-life meeting. Perhaps your AI will also mention what kind of flowers you like, for future reference.
After years of experience, you’ve found that your AI is actually better at choosing men than you. It predicted you’d be happier if you divorced your husband, which turned out to be true. Once you made the decision to leave him, your AI negotiated with your soon-to-be ex-husband’s AI, wrote the divorce settlement, then “toured” a dozen apartments on the cloud before finding the right one for you to begin your single life.
But it’s not just love and real estate. Your AI helps with every aspect of your life. It remembers every conversation you ever had, every invention you ever sketched on a napkin, every business meeting you ever attended. It’s also familiar with millions of other people’s inventions—it has scanned patent filings going back hundreds of years—and it has read every business book written since Ben Franklin’s time. When you bring up a new idea for your business, your AI instantly cross-references it with ideas that were introduced at a conference in Singapore or Dubai just minutes ago. It’s like having a team of geniuses—Einstein for physics, Steve Jobs for business—at your beck and call.
The AI remembers your favorite author, and at the mention of her last name, “Austen,” it connects you to a Chinese service that has spent a few hours reading everything Jane Austen wrote and has now managed to mimic her style so well that it can produce new novels indistinguishable from the old ones. You read a fresh Austen work every month, then spend hours talking to your AI about your favorite characters—and the AI’s. It’s not like having a best friend. It’s deeper than that.
[Will we be able to sleep at night when things surpass us in intelligence and creativity?]
Scenario 3 Live Long & Prosper
Imagine your multiple lives: At 25, you were a mountaineer; at 55, a competitive judo athlete; at 95, a cinematographer; at 155, a poet. Extending the human life span is one of the dreams of the post-singularity world.
AIs will work furiously to keep you healthy. Sensors in your home will constantly test your breath for early signs of cancer, and nanobots will swim through your bloodstream, consuming the plaque in your brain and dissolving blood clots before they can give you a stroke or a heart attack. Your Soulband, as well as finding you a lover, will serve as a medical assistant on call 24/7. It will monitor your immune responses, your proteins and metabolites, developing a long-range picture of your health that will give doctors a precise idea of what’s happening inside your body.
When you do become sick, your doctor will take your symptoms and match them up with many millions of cases stretching back hundreds of years.
As far back as 2018, researchers were already using AI to read the signals from neurons on their way to the brain, hacking the nerve pathways to restore mobility to paraplegics and patients suffering from locked-in syndrome, in which they are paralyzed but remain conscious. By , AI has revolutionized the modification of our genomes. Scientists can edit human DNA the way an editor corrects a bad manuscript, snipping out the inferior sections and replacing them with strong, beneficial genes. Only a superintelligent system could map the phenomenally complex interplay of gene mutations that gives rise to a genius pianist or a star second baseman. There may well be another Supreme Court case on whether “designer athletes” should be allowed to compete in the Olympics against mere mortals.
Humans look back at the beginning of the 21st century the way people then looked back at the 18th century: a time of sickness and disaster, where children and loved ones were swept away by diseases. Cholera, lung cancer and river blindness no longer threaten us. By , humans are on the verge of freeing themselves from the biology that created them.
[Will we be able to sleep at night when things surpass us in intelligence and research, and creativity?]
Scenario 4 Resistance Is Costly
Or imagine that you’ve opted out of the AI revolution. Yes, there are full-AI zones in , where people collect healthy UBIs and spend their time making movies, volunteering and traveling the far corners of the earth. But, as dazzling as a superintelligent world seems, other communities will reject it . There will be Christian, Muslim and Orthodox Jewish districts in cities such as Lagos and Phoenix and Jerusalem, places where people live in a time before AI, where they drive their cars and allow for the occasional spurt of violence, things almost unknown in the full AI zones. The residents of these districts retain their faith and, they say, a richer sense of life’s meaning.
Life is hard, though. Since the residents don’t contribute their data to the AI companies, their monthly UBI is a pittance. Life spans are half or less of those in the full-AI zones. “Crossers” move back and forth over the borders of these worlds regularly. Some of them are hackers, members of powerful gangs who steal proprietary algorithms from AI systems, then dash back over the border before security forces can find them. Others are smugglers bringing medicine to religious families who want to live away from AI, but also want to save their children from leukemia.
Others flee because they don’t trust the machines Even the most advanced full-AI zones, in places like China and the United States, will be vulnerable[.]
But the most unanticipated result of the singularity may be a population imbalance, driven by low birth rates in the full-AI zones and higher rates elsewhere. It may be that the new technologies will draw enough crossers to the full-AI side to even up the numbers, or that test-tube babies will become the norm among those living with AI.
[Where do you prefer to live in a future scenario? In an AI-zone or outside of it?]
Scenario 5 Bigger Brother
Imagine that, in , AIs help run nation-states. Countries that have adopted AI-assisted governments are thriving. Nigeria and Malaysia let AIs vote on behalf of their owners, and they’ve seen corruption and mismanagement wither away. In just a few years, citizens have grown to trust AIs to advise their leaders on the best path for the economy, the right number of soldiers to defend them. Treaties are negotiated by AIs trained on diplomatic data sets.
In Lagos, “civil rights” drones fly over police pods as they race to the scene of a crime—one AI watching over another AI, for the protection of humankind. Each police station in Lagos or Kuala Lumpur has its own lie-detector AI that is completely infallible, making crooked cops a thing of the past. Hovering over the bridges in Kuala Lumpur are “psych drones” that watch for suicidal jumpers. Rather than evolving into the dreaded Skynet of the Terminator movies, superintelligent machines are friendly and curious about us[.]
But imagine that you are the citizen of a totalitarian country like North Korea. As such, you are deeply versed in the dark side of AI. Camps for political prisoners are a thing of the past. Physical confinement is beside the point. The police already know your criminal history, your DNA makeup and your sexual preferences. Surveillance drones can track your every move. Your Soulband records every conversation you have, as well as your biometric response to anti-government ads it flashes across your video screen at unexpected moments, purely as a test.
Privacy died around . It’s impossible to tell what is true and what isn’t. When the government owns the AI, it can hack into every part of your existence. The calls you receive could be your Aunt Jackie phoning to chat about the weather or a state bot wanting to plumb your true thoughts about the Great Leader.
And that’s not the bleakest outcome. Imagine that the nation’s leaders long ago figured out that the only real threat to their rule was their citizens—always trying to escape, always hacking at the AI, always needing to be fed. Much better to rule over a nation of human emulations, or “ems.” That’s what remains after political prisoners are “recommissioned”—once they are executed, their brains are removed and scanned by the AI until it has stored a virtual copy of their minds.
AI-enabled holograms allow these ems to “walk” the streets of the nation’s capital and to “shop” at stores that are, in reality, completely empty. These simulacra have a purpose, however: They register on the spy satellites that the regime’s enemies keep orbiting overhead, and they maintain the appearance of normality. Meanwhile, the rulers earn billions by leasing the data from the ems to Chinese AI companies, who believe the information is coming from real people.
Meanwhile millions of people are on the move from AI. Which countries are taking them in? Watch: https://youtu.be/xIJzbBfW_wk
[Would you join the Underground Movement and what would you be doing in such a movement?]
Read the whole article by clicking on this link.
About the Author: Stephan Talty is the author of several books, including the upcoming Saving Bravo: The Greatest Rescue Mission in Navy SEAL History