“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.
As I delved into the subject of AI over the past year, I started to freak out over the range of possibilities. It looked as if these machines were on their way to making the world either unbelievably cool and good or gut-wrenchingly awful. Or ending the human race altogether. As a novelist, I wanted to plot out what the AI future might actually look like, using interviews with more than a dozen futurists, philosophers, scientists, cultural psychiatrists and tech innovators. Here are my five scenarios (footnoted with commentary from the experts and me; click the blue highlighted text to read them) for the year 2065, ten years after the singularity arrives.
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.