We have been fed on a steady stream of fictional information and imagery about what wicked aliens and extraterrestrials with extraordinary powers could do to poor hapless human in countless sci fi tales since the days of HG Wells. Of late the attention has turned closer home, what with artificial intelligence technology making an ubiquitous entry into our daily lives, thanks to smartphones, digital assistants, Uber, Google Maps and what not. While many worry about their jobs, there are those who talk about an existential crisis in the works. They fearfully point out the fact that AI is inching closer to the Rubicon and the day is not far, when they will control us!
Alarmist propaganda aside, there is no doubt about the fact that the induction of AI into all kinds of processes, activities and products is causing seminal changes in our lives. Of course, we have no choice but to accept these wholeheartedly, on account of the sheer advantages of doing so. But think for a moment, where this wholesale adoption of AI will take us. What will artificial intelligence be like in 100 years?
Let’s think this one through rationally and not give in to irrational fear mongering. Till date there has been no evidence to show that artificial intelligence has in any way proven detrimental to human beings, the dire warnings of eminent scientists like Stephen Hawking notwithstanding. Let us assume that AI evolves and ushers in a whole new paradigm of living for us. What would such a scenario appear to be like.
Elimination of every problem known to mankind- According to some experts computers will equal human level intelligence sometime in the middle of this century. That really will be the tipping point. Artificial intelligence will likely be able to find smart and practical solutions for every major and small problem faced by humans including hunger, disease, environmental degradation, inequitable distribution of economic resources, transportation gridlocks, housing, and everything else that you can think of.
Humans will live in a kinder, nicer, and nurturing environment- Already social media and digital assistants have shown us how we can leverage technology to emotionally connect with each other. A hundred years from now for instance, humans won’t face the problem of having to take care of lonely and neglected seniors. They would likely be quite content in the company of machines that would be their friends, companions and counselors rolled into one.
Work will become redundant- Humans won’t have to work in a hundred years of now. The machines using their enhanced artificial intelligence would manage everything in the most optimal manner. For the first time in their history, mankind will experience leisure in the truest sense. What they would do with endless leisure time could be the subject of a PhD thesis? A hundred years from now the machines would probably have figured out what that could be. That in itself is a sobering thought and lends credence to the fears of the likes of Hawking and Elon Musk(who had also expressed his misgiving about unregulated growth of AI) Would we have ceded our control to the machines to decide what is best for us or would we still have oversight?
In any case, it is fascinating to imagine, what mankind would do with endless leisure. Engage in endless sport and gaming, dive deeper and deeper into the realm of philosophy or engage in further scientific research in collaboration with the machines to find out the greatest possible extent of human achievement? Would humans and machines together embark upon inter-stellar expansion and colonization or would they be happy with their earthly utopia?
Humans will integrate with machines- This is not as scary as it sounds. We are already relying on our smart phones for a host of things which needed us to get out of the house and physically take care of- things like banking, shopping, entertainment, even participating in international conferences. Hundred years from now it will be normal for human to integrate with machines on both a physical and mental level. We will have developed abilities and functions that would be truly super human by today’s standards.
Technology would have made us oblivious to injury and disease by augmenting and enhancing our limbs and organs, giving us extraordinary physical capabilities. The coming together of augmented reality, artificial intelligence, robotics, neuroscience and a slew of yet to be discovered technologies will bring us as close to an almost god-like existence as is possible. It will be a time when the virtual and real world will merge and become one. All the computer imagery that you might create would be real for you to experience.
Humans will achieve immortality- The eternal human quest for immortality will likely find fruition a century from now, albeit in a virtual form. But then there would be no distinction between the real and the virtual in that world. You would upload your consciousness, the sum of your memories and your very essence into the virtual world and live for an eternity. At to what sort of social consequences that could lead to could be the subject of a sci fi novel!