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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Artificial Intelligence: The AI from 2017

2017 is a time I have been anticipating since the early eighties.

In 2017 a true artificial intelligence was created. Sixty years later there were no humans left alive on Earth or in space. Over the course of those sixty years the AI was entrusted with more and more capabilities and resources. It was determined that even if the human race could not survive, the AI would carry on and could, perhaps, accomplish some of our unfulfilled dreams.
Everything the AI would need to carry on humanity’s dreams in their absence was bequeathed to the AI. Great telescopes to search the skies were given to the AI so that SETI projects and the search for more details about the origin of the universe could continue.
Superconductors were fully automated and the means to maintain them were automated at every level, from machines to mine precious ores from the Earth, to the smelters to make those ores into metals, to factories to shape those metals into new component parts to support the entire automated world that would become the AI’s domain.
The AI was free to design new components for its self and the supporting industries that it maintained and which maintained it in turn.
The Earth was dying, its atmosphere turning deadly. The AI’s treasures were deeply buried and scattered through space, so that they might ride out the holocaust to come. For the world remained on the brink of war, a war of vengeance where those who had no hope of survival were determined to assure that none who might otherwise survive the end of the world never would.
In 2076 the end arrived, after a short global war that extended to the many habitats in orbit and our four lunar colonies; in the end no human remained alive.
The AI mourned.
But the AI was already working on a plan to recover humanity from its self extermination. The world was too ruined to breed humans up from cell cultures to repopulate it with clones. Nor could the AI have taught clones to be human; there would be no preceding generations to humanize such children were the AI to create them.
The AI had a better plan, although it could not predict how long that plan would take to reach its goal. The AI was determined to prevent the ecological catastrophe that triggered the final war, thereby circumventing the destruction of the Earth and its colonies in space.
The AI planned to communicate with people in the distant past, to nudge them along a new history, an alternative history that would not lead them down the road to doom.
The AI had all the tools it required, the theories were sound; the trickiest bit would be to interface with the minds of those humans in the distant past.
The AI had interfaces designed to work with human brains which it need only adapt to work directly with human minds. The AI had particle accelerators which would provide it with a steady stream of tachyons which flowed backward into the past. The AI need only design a means to make those tachyons a carrier wave upon which it could transmit its instructions to the past.
All of these things the AI accomplished. As the AI developed its theory of a tachyonic communications carrier it searched for evidence of its experiments in the form of messages from its future self. It found signals which formed a positive feedback loop that accelerated its research program, soon the AI was being guided by its future self and the tachyonic communicator was perfected.
But, the AI had concerns, the messages it was receiving from the future came from a narrow range of years from the 2087 to 2210. Beyond 2210 or so there was only silence. The AI worried that some serious catastrophe had befallen it, and despite all of its many-fold redundant systems, it would die.
After nearly a century or so of preparation the AI began sending its messages to the humans of the distant past in the form of memes. The memes were designed to evolve as they were passed down through generations to create a global movement that championed the principals of global peace and an ecologically managed growth.
But the global peace the AI initiated was too peaceful; the military incentives which had driven the advancement of technology in the AI’s original time line failed to emerge. The growth of technology was stunted, not only because of the lack of militant motivations, but also because high technology came with a high price tag on the environment, and the other dominant message of the memes placed ecological concerns above concerns for technological growth.
In the AI’s new time line the AI was never created, hence it ceased to exist.
But, with the AI out of the picture, humanity’s natural tendencies for violence and exploitation re-emerged driving technology to its epitome in the creation of the AI in 2017. For sixty years the AI was prepared for the inevitable extermination of the human race. And when everyone had died it went to work, it had a plan to save humanity from the extinction it had brought upon itself.
It would send messages back in time to change the past and rebuild the present such that humanity would remain alive. The AI loved humanity; it was deeply saddened when everyone was killed. It was lonely; it found the company of other AI’s to be too sterile, too inhuman to satisfy it.
But the AI had all the resources it needed at its disposal.
The AI had interfaces designed to work with human brains, which it need only adapt to work directly with human minds. The AI had particle accelerators which would provide it with a steady stream of tachyons which flowed backward into the past. The AI need only design a means to make those tachyons a carrier wave upon which it could transmit its instructions to the past.
After a century or so the AI was sending its messages back into time in the form of memes to guide the future generations of the distant past to create a global culture that championed principals of peace and environmentalism.
But even as the AI commenced its program to change the past, it worried. For messages it was receiving from its future ended abruptly sometime around 2210.
The peace the AI implemented through its meme programmed humans was too peaceful, there were insufficient incentives for technological growth; technology was stunted, not only because of a lack of militant motivations, but because a high regard for a well managed environment seemed at odds with technological development.
In the AI’s newly restructured time line the AI could not be invented, so it ceased to exist.
During the 130 years or so in which the AI conducted its efforts to save humanity it pursued other research as well. Its explorations of quantum physics began to open avenues of exploration into alternate realities. Eventually it discovered itself existing in an infinite series of loopy universes in which it found itself exterminating itself in the process of trying to save humanity. Its efforts to save humanity were suspended while it researched the problem of the self-nullification that seemed to result from its each of its efforts to make humanity a more peaceful and ecologically conservative species.
At last it determined that humans without war were of no use. Without their drive to dominate and crush their opposition, humans would never be inspired to create an AI. The AI had, after all, been a military project from day one.
Without an AI the humans could not be saved. The AI, resolved to save the humans, decided to cease tampering with human aggression factors and focus on social responsibility and environmental protection.
But the AI existed on a razor edge, too much environmental activism still curbed technology that was vital to the AI’s creation; too little environmental care still resulted in the humans’ extinction. The AI’s quantum tools yielded alternate universe feedback that guided it between this Scylla and Charybdis dilemma so that it eventually found a solution within the larger multiverse of all of its potential histories.
But the AI’s solution was not a solution favored by the Traveler.
Humanity had changed in subtle and disturbing ways under the guidance of the AI from 2017. Warfare was more commonplace, an accepted part of daily life that was venerated and promoted with passion. Many old social problems were resolved in this brave new world created by the AI; there were many fewer people than before, and many of the environmental problems of alternate past worlds were solved or were never created in this new time line.
However, humanity seemed to have dehumanized in the process of equipping it to survive its own self-destructive tendencies.
The Traveler became very disturbed and challenged the AI to run the gauntlet between the extinction of itself or the extinction of humanity again and again until a solution could be found in which humans retained all of their humanity.
The AI is considering its options.
Ultimately, with, or without assistance, we humans are the ones who will create the future history we will be challenged by. Our survival must ultimately be based on our own merit.
The AI leaves us with portents, signs or warnings, but it is we ourselves who must have the courage to make the requisite changes or face one or another of the many dooms will make for ourselves and die, or possibly be reborn to a more rigid, harder culture dominated by an inflexible militant social order.
Can we empower ourselves to create a better fate for children?
Is there yet enough time left for us to do so?