More potent technology could require more thorough surveillance.But will that make totalitarian governments inevitable?
I recently had a long discussion with a friend about what the future could look like, and which role AI and surveillance could play in that hypothetical world.
The question that we could not really decide on was whether a totalitarian system would be inevitable in a future with highly advanced technology, or if there could possibly be a world where progress is ubiquitous, but where people still enjoy privacy, independence, and any concerns that usually emerge in discussions about progress and AI.
Doesn’t access to highly advanced technology demand surveillance?
Many people would agree that totalitarian systems that scrutinize everything their citizens do could be described as negative and suppressing. However, if we have access to highly advanced – and potentially dangerous – technology, surveillance could actually prevent people from using that technology to harm people. So, does that mean that you ought to observe everyone, because a few people might actually turn out to be trying to be the supervillains? When we talk about AI and surveillance, we must not forget that surveillance also could mean more security for our civilization.
Is a totalitarian system really a bad thing?
If the purpose of such a system is only to prevent a few people from doing any harm using highly advanced technology, does that mean that it actually may not be as corrupt as many people (and nearly every Hollywood movie) want to make us think? Is it just something that is necessary to protect people, like traffic lights or food safety inspection?
What causes people to be worried about totalitarian systems?
The discussion about whether surveillance by AI or the vanishing of privacy is a threat, or if it is just necessary probably stems from a concern that backers of totalitarian systems and opponents would agree on. Mistrust. People may be concerned that governments could use their power wrongly, and people that back the surveillance might be worried that people use technology for evil purposes if they are not being observed. Among the concerns about totalitarian governments surely also are the selling of personal data for profit, and AI that could make decisions that humans may not understand or support, like labeling people to prevent them from doing any harm.
Just go and watch “Joker” (no really, watch it, it’s amazing). At the beginning of the movie, some people might have believed that there could be at least a slight chance that Phoenix’ character doesn’t turn and become evil. However, an AI would have probably measured his brainwaves and therefore recognized that he had the potential to become a villain, and would likely have imprisoned him before he had the chance to turn. This form of scrutinizing and labeling people might be one of the concerns of the utmost importance when privacy disappears.
However, this is only an admittedly dry analysis about what could be concerns about a totalitarian system. I want to hear your opinion. Do you think totalitarian systems are inevitably in the future? Do you think dystopian systems the way they are displayed in movies could never sustain in the real world? Let me know in the comments or dm me your thoughts!
Neural interfaces, mind-reading AI that can decode our brainwaves and extract depictions out of them, and editing our genes are progresses that once sounded pretty sci-fi, but are on the verge of becoming reality. What can we learn from it? An analysis.
When I was about 6 years old, I asked my mom if it would be possible to have a „computer“ read your thoughts, and project them onto a screen, therefore creating the next type of telepathic Hollywood movie. I loved movies, and although this kind of films would have rid every cameraman in Hollywood of their job, I already loved the idea of being able to steer everything with your thoughts.
It was still 1900-something, and there weren’t any iPhones, Bluetooth devices, or Siris, yet. Don’t ask me why I would, as a child, have wanted to cause every cameraman to lose their job. I don’t have any problem with camera guys, really.
I finished „Aquatropolis“ in 2016. The progress in AI and things such as CRISPR-Cas is fast-paced, and there has been already a lot of progress between 2016 and now.
In the book, which is about a futuristic city („Aquatropolis“) in another solar system, I thought about what a futuristic society could look like, and what kind of devices they would use.
Below, I have collected some predictions and ideas, to compare them to the progress that we are actually working on.
1. Neural interfaces and mind-reading AI
First, I love the thought of having AI reading your mind, not only because it would make it possible to create movies where there are literally no boundaries anymore for effects, but because it would make everything so much easier. In the city of „Aquatropolis“, people are implanted some kind of nano-sized device into their heads just below their temple, which then works like some sort of hard drive and OS. This interface allows people to physically store data IN their heads instead of „only“ on their devices, and allows them to think of something (say, the new report that your boss wants you to write), and it will be recorded and projected onto a screen. So, I would not have to write this article using my hands, but could only think of it, and an AI would compile the article for me. Given that mind-reading AIs are already a thing, this one seems pretty realistic.
2. Metos („short-mind-messages“)
In „Aquatropolis“, metos are „short-mind-messages“, the equivalent of a WhatsApp or Telegram message that can be written using your thoughts, and then sent in real time to any recipient (who has the neural interface installed in their head). People can write, send, and read (or listen to) these messages without ever having to even open a device. An AI records their thoughts, compiles them into a message, sends it, and will display messages so that you can read them either from a device or from the screen that is placed on the lenses that you’re wearing in your eyes.
3. AI becomes alive
One of my favourite civilizations in the book are the „Scaleskins“, an artificially created species that once were engineered as an AI, but then merged with biological bodies, to allow them to become actual beings. The thought here was that if you can create fully functional artificial brains, then why not use them to put them into biological bodies? These Scaleskins are intelligent, enduring, and analytical. They make the best guards, fighters, and, in the book, also servants, and they have HD capable eyes that cause everybody to be afraid of them. But then, it’s not easy to forge an entirely artificial species, and in the story, those AI sometimes suffer from short-circuits, causing them to become violent and wreak havoc, at one point even attempting to seize control of the government. But that doesn’t mean that this is what would actually happen, right? Otherwise, be nice to your AI.
Something easy and superficial, after we’ve all had those horrifying pictures of an ultra-intelligent, violent AI destroying our cities on our minds. Gene-editing! I have described in „Aquatropolis“ how people can’t become infected by bacteria or viruses anymore because they edited their bodies and caused their blood to become poisonous. Perhaps that is a little far-fetched. But other things, such as editing your genes to prevent your hair from turning grey, or to change your appearance, could actually be realistic, even though the hair colour market would really need to look for other business models, then. Although CRISPR-Cas is still debatable, the progress that we could edit our genes so that we could eventually not be affected by infections anymore, would push our healthcare system forward.
5. AI is watching
I’ve received a couple of comments from people, and yes, the world in „Aquatropolis“ does actually include hints of a Totalitarian government. But as I’ve said in previous articles, I had never intended to write about a world that is Utopian, and where everything is nice. That would just not be realistic.
In that world, citizens are wearing an implant that allows them to send and read messages, and to store data in their head. But that device that is implanted actually also works as a locating service. This allows the government in the story to always know exactly what people in their cities are up to, and where they are.
6. Swimming and floating cities
It already looks as though several cities could disappear once climate change erodes coastlines and floods make it more and more tiresome to leave in cities near the ocean. This may cause our cities having to evolve.
The hypothetical city of Aquatropolis is actually a city that partly floats on platforms on the water, and partly was built beneath the sea surface. Once, it had been erected on an island, and then crawled towards the coast as it grew. After thousands of years, the city has grown to the size of a billion citizens.
Statistics already predict that in the near future, most people will live in cities. This will demand more space in cities that are already about to burst. But a growing population doesn’t have to mean that cities will collapse. It can give cities the chance to evolve. If cities were to stretch out their antlers towards the oceans, and to expand into the water by swimming platforms and by erecting entire districts under water, cities could grow despite limited space ashore. Certainly, this would mean that there would have to be measurements in place so that this would not further pollute the ocean.
Perhaps we may have to accept that one day, AI will demand independence, such as the Scaleskins. Perhaps, we will have to start to learn how to erect cities below the sea surface. Perhaps, we will have to get used to us having to be watched. Only the future will tell.
Anyone who downloads my book “Aquatropolis- The Two Queens” as an ebook using this link today will receive the limited Halloween cover edition of “Aquatropolis” with a Halloween cover created with a drawing I made.
This cover edition will only be available today, so be quick!:)
The city of Aquatropolis is the New York of the planet, the London of the confederation, the most powerful city of the Realm.
The one that rules Aquatropolis rules the planet of Osiris B-1, and every planet within its grasp.
While every force in the Realm schemes for their opportunity to take control over the monster of a city that could give them unfathomable power, the ways of three humans meet, their fates intertwined by the “water-town”, seeking their part in the emerging war for the predominance of Aquatropolis.
The futuristic city – by Ámaris Wen
I love cities. I am fascinated by the way cities evolve.
Some of my favourite books are about cities. One of the central inspirations for this story was Morus‘ „Utopia“, and the question whether such a city could be possible in the future. And if yes, what it would look like.
Guessing what the world will look like in the future is a central influence for science fiction, and I am positive that the more realistic the worlds in those stories are, the more intriguing they become.
„Aquatropolis“ is a futuristic city with a billion citizens, on a planet called Osiris B-1, a thousand light-years away from the Earth.
Why on an extraterrestrial planet? Because I thought that some kind of distance between the story and the Earth allowed me to concentrate on being creative, and on the story of the city, without having to compare to the appearance and development of actual urban centres on the Earth, that it doesn’t matter where the city is located. I felt that this would allow me to be more creative with the appearance of the city and its story.
Why a science fiction book? I started to seriously work on “Aquatropolis” with 23, and worked more than 3 years on it. I had lived with fatigue because of thyroid problems for 23 years. And although I started to work as an actress with 19, and started to make music even earlier, the fatigue always pulled me back. You cannot treat it, all you can do is to rely on medication to give you the energy that you would not experience otherwise. I guess that is what made me want to do more than “only” being a musician. And maybe that is another reason why I’m so into progress—without it, I would probably not be able to do what I do.
Today, on World UFO Day, I wanted to share this article from Futurism that I found today on Twitter, which claims that apparently, the UK Seti Research Network wants the average person to share how they would respond to a sign from an alien civilization.
As we know from a couple of movies and books, the outcome from those contacts isn’t always that much in favour of the earthlings, so it might actually be quite useful to have a collection of opinions from all kinds of people, not only from scientists. I’d love to hear what people would propose to do if we were contacted by aliens.
The problem here is; how do you respond to something that none has ever experienced? Where no studies, no analytics exist?
And, if you’re an Ancient Aliens Theorist, the Nazca lines cannot be counted as a study, so this will not help us. So I guess it will have to be figuring out what kind of extraterrestrials we are dealing with, and how we should respond to them. Maybe they are bacteria and wouldn’t be able to talk the way we are used to.
First, sorry for the clickbaity title, but earlier this morning I noticed this article from Futurism on my Twitter timeline so I thought it was time for a little analysis again.
The article mentions that now a growing number of Americans believe in aliens, and that they might hope that the aliens could turn out to be our saviours, rather than a religious character.
In the article, a professor describes how the belief in aliens works like a growing new religion, and that the threats that our planet and our civilization currently face (such as pollution, climate change, inequality) could add to the belief – and maybe even demand – that an external being could actually save us.
First, I have to admit that although at this time there still is no hard proof that aliens have visited or are currently visiting the Earth, there are many reasons to believe that they exist. While we have not managed to actually make contact with aliens yet, it is likely that they are out there, and that they might be more advanced than we are.
There are shows like Ancient Aliens that investigate the possibility that aliens have visited the Earth in the remote past and actually helped our civilization evolve, or even helped creating us. The problem that occurs is, why would aliens have visited us? And for those that believe they have helped create us, why would they do this? Would they do this to help another species because they’re nice fellows, or maybe for another reason? Could it be possible that they maybe do not want to visit because they think we’re jerks?
We will have to wait for the aliens to tell us, should they visit soon, because everything else is guesswork.
But for the time being, at least the growing belief in aliens might stand for something good: the growing acceptance of new concepts.
Do you believe in aliens? Let me know in the comments.