What Kind of AI Society Are We Heading Towards: The Star Trek, Mad Max, or Elysium type?
As a data scientist, I often get asked about my personal thoughts on the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on future societies. Since AI has caught the public’s imagination in a major way after the release of ChatGPT, I figured this would be a good time to answer this question.
To predict its versions in the future, there’s no better way to do that than to use movie analogies: especially to cult classic sci-fi movies. Let’s focus on three major ones — Star Trek, Mad Max, and Elysium. Each one portrays different probabilities of the future existence of human civilization.
The Star Trek Future
The Star Trek society exists in a post-scarcity world. AI is ubiquitous and highly advanced. From the ship’s computer to the Lieutenant Commander Data, AI is an integral part of daily life. AI is used to make self-aware systems or ‘synthetic life’.
Just like the Star Trek society, AI will help in creating highly efficient systems and processes to carry out complex tasks quickly and accurately. For example, the ship’s computer can quickly analyze data and make recommendations, saving crew time and effort.
AI-powered sensors and mapping technology will allow people to explore new worlds and look beyond this planet. We can get answers to widely sought-after questions like the possibilities of extraterrestrial life forms out there. Significant scientific advancements in AI help expand human knowledge and enhance our understanding of the universe.
In the Star Trek universe, AI is programmed with ethical guidelines that ensure it operates in a morally responsible way. In this version of the future, we will see elaborate codes of conduct for AI that will steer its expanse so that it is beneficial for society in the long run.
The Mad Max Future
Mad Max is set in a post-apocalyptic future, totally opposite to the Star Trek society. Ravages caused by human beings towards themselves will prove to be huge lessons that will force the inhabitants to learn from their past mistakes or create more pandemonium. AI is less common and less advanced than in the Star Trek universe, however, it’s not absent.
AI-powered weapons will give certain factions a significant advantage over others, leading to increased violence and instability.
AI will be used to optimize the utilization of the meager resources that are still available in this post-apocalyptic world. However, there will be significant demarcation of the availability of these technologies that would likely only be available to the wealthy or powerful, exacerbating existing inequalities.
Surveillance and Controls
AI-powered surveillance systems will be used to monitor citizens and prevent crime. However, this could also lead to increased government control and the erosion of civil liberties and individual privacy.
The Elysium Future
In the Elysium universe, AI is highly advanced but is used to reinforce social inequality.
In the future, Earth may not be a highly habitable place to be in. To protect themselves, AI-powered health tech will come into being but will be limited to the wealthy inhabitants. It will be made inaccessible as it shall be located in a distant space station reinforcing the social and economic divide between this advanced realm and Earth.
AI will be used to maintain a high level of safety and control in Elysium. However, this system is also used to keep out unauthorized individuals, reinforcing the power of the wealthy and limiting the agency of the poor.
Many manual labor jobs on Earth will be carried out by robots and other AI-powered machines, leading to high levels of unemployment and poverty that will make this social divide even worse. Even for some of the most dangerous jobs, such as the ones that involved handling nuclear materials, there will be long lines of humans willing to do it, just to survive.
Where is Human Society heading in the next 50 Years?
The impact of AI on society is complex and multifaceted. While AI has the potential to improve our lives in many ways, it also has the potential to exacerbate existing inequalities and reinforce power structures.
Homo sapiens — humans have become the predominant species on the planet by a series of favored evolutions, (accidental) quirks of history, and most recently, a prudent set of decisions that have guided the growth and prosperity of the species. The lack of prudence, coupled with hypergrowth may soon become our undoing — only time will tell.
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