Well, well, Bill Gates has joined in the warnings over AI. Just like in my novel, “The Eighth Day.”
This eerie development parallels the fears of the fictitious group I created in that novel called, The Sabot Society. At the time, I made them out to be a bunch of nuts, albeit dangerous nuts with bombs, that were warning about machines taking over, but today their previously fictional ranting of a “dig-topian” future enjoys highly esteemed company in the likes of Bill Gates, Stephen Hawkins and Elon Musk.
What are they seeing that you don’t when you look at your iPhone for a text message or video? Only the eventual enslavement of the human race by machines. In one scenario proffered by a professor at some lofty college, we are doomed. In her vision of the future, we inefficient humans face eventual eradication by artificially intelligent machines “who” will deem us as messy, unorganized, illogical wastes of energy consumption.
Before it gets to that though, I think it will come down to socio-economic “conversion.” This proposition will be proffered by a new class that rises out of the beneficiaries of automation; the “Technosapian Elite.” They will be those last few humans who will wrongly believe that the machines are our friends and only looking out for the betterment of mankind. They will offer a “Sacrifice of Abraham” style of choice. They will enforce a societal norm that will be positioned as a choice; you can have a computer or a child, but not both. They will justify this ungodly option with facts, namely, that there will be no place in the work force for your offspring in a world of computers, they won’t be able to support themselves.
A leading economist has calculated that today there are only enough jobs on Earth to support a global population of 3 billion. However, the United States Census Bureau estimates that the world population exceeded 7 billion on March 12, 2012. The rise of A.I. will inexorably lead to machines designing better machines. As these new super machines take over more and more human tasks the number of current jobs in the world could be cut by one third… in the next decade!
If you doubt that, remember why Steve Jobs told President Obama that an iPhone could never be made here in America. He said that if he needed a million more iPhones, he could just call China and they’d work day and night through the weekend and make them. He pointed out that you can’t do that in the U.S.
Please take dire note: Foxcon the main Chinese manufacturer of iPhones is falling apart. Its “workers” are committing suicide rather than work like slaves. There are 40,000 guards “protecting” 20,000 workers at one plant. Now Apple, the company that just posted the largest earnings in HISTORY, is being forced to consider robots to replace the “slaves” in China.
How long before bottom line profits due to affluent consumerism drive millions of the working class from gainful employment?
Here’s a chilling piece of fiction right out of my “Sabot Society’s” manifesto: Unless we start to limit the advancement of machines and the subsequent taking over of human endeavor by them, eventually they will perform so many tasks that only the rich will be able to survive. What of the rest of humanity? Those with no position in the workforce will be deemed non-essential.
My fear is that a new digital form of Fabian Socialism will ensue, driven by the new reality: with machines you don’t need that many people. It won’t be long until someone gets the idea that the “nonproductive class” should not be allowed to procreate. This sanitizing will be done for the betterment of the world and its limited economy and resources. (If you doubt this, see Roosevelt, Teddy. Sanger, Margaret. Shaw, Bernard, from the last century) Before it comes to that (as it has many times in history, see the National Socialist Party; Germany, Mao Zedong; China, Joseph Stalin; Russia, for recent examples) We should draw clear lines of what we will and will not allow machines to do so that human relevance, at all levels of society, remains intact and sustainable.
Of course the above is just one possible progression of the diminution of mankind in the name of progress.
If you doubt these trends, I submit to you the large lobbies of older buildings in our biggest cities. Designed to handle the crush of hundreds of employees, from typing pools, accounting, secretarial and administrators. Today you see a trickle of workers at rush hour. Thousands of jobs have been eliminated. Jobs where people made salaries, paid taxes and fed the economy, themselves and their families. Word processing, spreadsheets, project management programs and other labor saving devices that don’t ask for raises, take time to eat or call in sick, have replaced all these workers. They also don’t spend money or pay taxes.
In late 19th century Holland, when machines threatened the jobs of workers they fought back by throwing their wooden shoes into the gear work of the machines to destroy them and preserve their jobs. The shoes were called sabots and the word “sabotage” was born. Also the shoes were called Clogs and thus “clog up the works” also became part of the lexicon.
Today we would all be hard pressed to know where to throw the shoe. At an ATM? At your Smartphone, iPad or PC? Your office server? The assembly line robots? More troubling is that not one of us would do that. We would never sacrifice our comfort, life style or convenience for the sake of humanity’s future. Remember, It’s only fiction `til it happens… and it’s starting to happen now!