Those Who Are Left Behind
Intentionally being “left behind” by technology in the year 2060
Justin B. Christensen
It is the year 2060. Much has changed over the last four decades. At the brink of the 21st century, society thought that life couldn’t get much better than it had with all the technological advancement all over the globe. Little did they know how much was still in store for them during that century. So many wonderful discoveries and inventions have made life so much easier for the world. Yet, there are some who would argue that while these technological “advances” are impressive, our humanity itself is being stripped by it. These individuals therefore choose to be “left behind” while technology continues to advance in order to save their humanity.
It all started in the year 2020. TVs and computers had been fairly mainstream for a while, and smartphones have been in many people’s pockets for quite a few years. At the time it was new and exciting technology, but it certainly brought up a lot of questions as to whether people had too much “screen time” and if technology and screens were becoming an addiction or not. In 2020, an established piece of technology started to become more available to the public in the form of affordable AR glasses. In a few short years, they became as ubiquitous as smartphones. This was a big deal because now that boundary between the digital and physical worlds wasn’t confined to a screen but was unveiled before everyone’s eyes. It was time for the digital and physical worlds to intertwine.
At first, people didn’t want too much information to be blocking out their view of the physical world, so only simple things like the time and weather were displayed in the corners of the glasses. Notifications from phones would appear momentarily but would quickly dissipate. However, with the capability of seeing anything that could be seen on a screen before right in front of you without having to do anything to make it appear, the boundaries of the physical and digital worlds seemed to dissolve along with that sense of humanity that comes from being in the natural world.
People began to feel like they couldn’t take off their glasses and would have mental withdrawals without them on. They would go see therapists, make progress, then some new feature would be implemented into the glasses that the individual would justify that the pros of the new feature outweighed the cons of the added exposure to the glasses. AR contact lenses were created that didn’t even need to be removed at night. It became more of a pain to physically remove the lenses than to just leave them in and turn off notifications and the display momentarily until one felt they had a better handle on their self-control. This is all without mentioning the continued upward trend of suicide and mental illness seen in the 2010s eventually linked to smartphones and social media. This vicious cycle continued to repeat as technology progressed.
Now, this might sound like this history is coming straight from one of those individuals who has chosen to be “left behind” that technology. If you’re thinking that, then you are correct. I am one of those people. Now, I’m not nearly as extreme as the Neo-Amish that have gathered in the forests and sea-sides of southern British Columbia, the state of Washington, and a bit of Oregon. There are certain technologies that I see the merit in and use on a daily basis. There are those that I avoid altogether. Others, I use only when absolutely necessary, and some, I use occasionally, but it just depends. I have my reasons, and I hope to explain them to you a bit at a time. Just know that I’m not alone in this reluctance to adopt these new technologies because I fear that the values and emotions that I hold dear to me as a human being have also been left behind by this technology, so I choose to stay behind and live my life humanity intact.
Also, I don’t want you to think that I think AR glasses are and have always been evil. It was a fantastic idea that had great applications to make life easier for people. I really enjoyed it when it was becoming increasingly popular. However, it is just one example of the many technologies that started as a wonderful thing that could do a lot of good but started to override the self-control that the individual user seemed to have. That “vicious cycle” that I mentioned earlier has been prominent in this example in particular, but I hope to show you how it’s been true for technology in general, and hopefully you’ll see why it’s not necessarily a bad thing to be “left behind.”
In fact, there are many communities around the world thriving from their decisions to not adopt the continuously advancing technologies of the day. There are many various reasons why one would choose to be left behind, ranging from religion, stubbornness, financial hardship, financial privilege (specifically take a look at the section on Food Computers for that one), etc. Many of these groups tend to stick together to make their modern technology-free way of life easier to manage. As I mentioned earlier, there are the Neo-Amish in the western forests of North America, the Latter-day Saints “bubble” settlements ranging from Utah to Missouri, the non-denominational spiritual monk-like societies all over Asia, the remaining World Organic Food and Drug Association farmers and cultivators in South America, and the Truist colonies scattered throughout Europe, among many others. We will explore their exact hesitancy against each of these technologies on a case-by-case basis, but it is important to realize that some groups are only against one certain technology, while others have quit adopting new technology cold turkey as early as the year 2025.
The World of 2060
In this section, you will be introduced to what the world of 2060 looks like in terms of the developed technology. There are five main areas that will be covered. In each of these sections, various artifacts/pieces of technology will be described, as well as their impact on the world. This will be followed by either an exploration of which groups of people might choose to be left behind by this particular technology and why, or an explanation of an issue that this particular technology has brought into the world.
Humans have been making many modifications to themselves to make their daily lives better. Whether it’s a wearable technology or some enhancement through implantation or surgery, the goal has been to make the human being more capable in all ways. We explore some examples here.
AR Contact Lenses: The concept of Augmented Reality has been around for a while, but only implemented in the form of glasses that just looked ridiculous. Now, no one can a difference cosmetically because of the contact lens implementation. With the entire lens covered with a holographic diffractive grating, light can come from the edges of the device and be guided directly onto the retina. Modules next to the optical equipment connect the lens to the 10G Global Network that processes the data and controls the optical equipment. Many corporations have attempted to enter this market, such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, but Apple won out with the Apple “I” AR System, and the other companies just couldn’t come back from the initial deficit.
Speaking of Apple’s domination in this sector, they set themselves up for quite the hefty monopoly on a multitude of markets since they control practically everything someone sees with these lenses on. There are definite concerns with a single company having so much power in the world, but with some policies placed on them by the government after demand from the people, they mainly focus on making their data privacy and security systems are 20 steps ahead of hackers.
These devices were the big turning point in this new wave of refusing to not adopt these technologies. Scarred by the all-too-fresh memories of what smartphones and social media did to the world, many groups and people saw the same things happening with AR breaking down the boundaries of the physical and digital worlds, and at an even faster rate. Fearful of what that could do to society, many groups, such as the previously mentioned Latter-day Saints and Neo-Amish refused this technology and have been seemingly “left behind” ever since. The Truists don’t really like this tech because seeing pieces of art and real-world locations “just isn’t the same” when it’s a virtual reproduction of it.
Exoskeleton Suits: These wearable machines grant a typical person superhuman strength and speed. By augmenting the way a human typically moves, it upgrades physical capabilities. These machines started as a venture to allow paralyzed people to be able to walk and to prevent workplace injuries in very physically demanding jobs. As the initial prototypes showed much success, progress on making the machines more efficient, lightweight, and powerful was made. Due to the relative frailty of the human body and the fairly sporadic changes of the shape and sizes of a given individual (based on health, diet and exercise habits, and other things), these machines are merely secured to the body rather than directly implanted or attached. However, it is adaptable to all body sizes and shapes and contracts/expands to fit the given user.
By amplifying human physicality, there has been a sort of industrial revolution once again. Humans have been able to “take back” some jobs that were once only able to be performed by robots since the human mind is still an asset compared to a computer (see the later section on AI about this). Large corporations are able to augment their workers with these machines and increase their throughput substantially.
Another area that these machines have changed the world is in sports and entertainment. Many sporting leagues across the world have had to split into leagues that only allow traditional equipment and leagues that allow these exoskeleton suits. In fact, as the greatest representation of this, 2060 marks the Inaugural BIOlympic Games, which will be held in Tokyo. Man and machine become as one to compete in new events never attainable by man alone, such as the 1,000 meter sprint and the 2-ton deadlift, among others.
While most people were very on board with this technology in the beginning, it has become quite controversial as of late with it essentially dividing people into two camps, superhuman and not. Many were against these machines becoming commercial for everyday use, and while there are different types of machines for different applications, most metropolises have people all over with them. The Truists are against the use of these suits for anything other than industrial endeavors, so they are obviously harsh critics of the BIOlympic Games. They are also fearful of the potential of war as certain countries have outfitted their soldiers with these suits, sparking another sort of Cold War in military technology.
Brain Computer Interfaces: Utilizing the AR contact lens, among other technologies found in/on each person, new processors can “read” the thoughts of an individual and respond to the commands given to it. Information is displayed through the AR system, and just by thinking, commands are processed. There are even receiver systems so that telepathic communication is even possible between individuals.
One of the most surprising changes these interfaces has made is to the field of education. Schools had such a hard time monitoring what was being searched and viewed through these systems, that there has been a whole paradigm shift in teaching. Rather than trying to block access to certain facts and making students memorize them (times tables, historical events, etc.), educators give students a crash course in how to use the technology and how to ask better questions in order to be more creative and innovative. So, gone are the days of trivia shows, but there are certainly debates on how to make sure information available is accurate and how to harness what the human mind does still have left in terms of their advantage over computers.
Most people born bore first quarter of the 21st century have been pretty stubborn in accepting these interfaces. “When I was a kid, you couldn’t just Google it,” being their common war cry. They pride themselves with knowing so many things that others have to look up but seem to be the only ones still watching reruns of Jeopardy since it was cancelled in 2035. Also, these interfaces were a big issue when telepathic communication was implemented because the controller for what messages to send out and receive were buggy, and security became a big issue. That has since been fixed, obviously, and now, there is no physical movement required to communicate with someone anymore. Everyone from the 19th century rolls over in their graves every time they hear that.
Sensory Enhancers: Added modules in the form of implants or wearable sensors can be added to the human body and connected to the AR system, granting the user superhuman senses. Imagine being able to see as well as an eagle, an owl in the night, sensing heat like a snake, and so forth. From the array of sensors implanted on the individual, the information is quickly processed and displayed through the AR system. Other applications are a mix of a depth sensor and back-up camera for a car that give people a sort of “sixth sense” in terms of being able to know exactly where their body is in proximity to other objects or individuals around them.
These systems have made ripples in mankind on a much more individual level, but the applications for these sensory enhancers haven’t made much of a difference in day-to-day life for people. Certain jobs have become easier because now humans can see, feel, and hear, then immediately understand the extra information that is transmitted through the world. Perhaps there is room to grow with the applications of this technology.
While there are many groups that just don’t have access to this technology because they haven’t bought in to the AR economy, there are others who have deeper issues with this tech. This is another example of humans losing their humanity itself. If humans were meant to be capable of sensing these things themselves, wouldn’t they have evolved to be capable of it? Perhaps if the benefits of this technology were proven through more clever applications, they’d come around, but for not, it’s not necessary.
Genetic Modification: Medical technology has come so far in the past few decades. Scientists are able to identify and decode practically every piece of DNA within a person. They have used computers to parse through billions of DNA samples to find patterns and through some testing, have determined which strands encode what information, but how to edit those strands to have a certain effect.
This has revolutionized medicine in that doctors and scientists can essentially “edit out” diseases from people and engineer new bacteria and drugs to fight off others. People can choose certain traits they want for their children and edit the embryos to embody those traits. While possible, cloning is still absolutely illegal, the loopholes and workarounds to what is legal and possible with this technology seem to make that issue less black-and-white and much grayer every day.
Religious people and organizations are obviously very against the practice of genetic modification. They argue that no one should wield the power of God. What’s the most interesting aspect of this resistance, though, is that religion is joined by a quite surprising group on this stance, and that is a group that in the past had typically butt heads with them, the Evolutionists. While not religious, these scientists and philosophers agree that humanity should not be capable of changing themselves and only have adapted in the past based on environmental and situational necessity through natural means. Genetic modification is in strict violation of these natural processes and have driven a huge wedge within the scientific community. Because of this schism, the technology is not as advanced as it could be, but the possibilities are endless, and it’s still a huge debate in the world today as to what is ethical and how to stop the supposed unethical things from happening illegally anyway.
Surrounded by Tech
There are certain technologies that can’t quite be confined to the human itself, but certainly create an environment around them that still almost feels like it’s a part of them. These surroundings can be experienced virtually or physically or can be completely abstract.
Holographic/Volumetric Displays: Both holographic and volumetric displays had become quite desired and popular in the early 21st century and were developed alongside the AR systems that permeate society today. However, these 3D displays were created for a slightly different use case. With the AR system, everyone could technically see the same things that these other systems could create, but on an individual level. Although, in the beginning of the integration of the AR system, not everyone had access to the glasses or contact lenses required, so these holographic and volumetric displays were created so the masses could see. There are multiple types of these displays, but they were essentially all made possible through increases in computing and graphical power, as well as a boom in research on the systems as AR was gearing up to take off.
As time has gone on, however, the holographic and volumetric displays started to get abandoned. The AR systems became so ubiquitous for other applications that the computing power necessary to create these 3D images for everyone to see became much more efficient to do on a person-by-person basis through the AR system than through the quickly outdated holographic and volumetric tech. Plus, some users didn’t want to see everything put out in the world and wanted more control over filtering what they did or didn’t see (these holographic and volumetric displays were quite popular with advertising), and so the images and displays were quickly moved solely to the AR system.
The unique effect that this had, then, is that this is perhaps the biggest technology that many “left behind” groups still utilize. Since they have banned the use of AR systems (at least those made after the year 2025, since those are the oldest models that are compatible with the 10G Global Network). However, since some of these groups don’t employ most of the other modern technologies, the displays that they come up with is as close to true-to-life steampunk than anyone has ever seen.
Personalized Advertising: With AR and 3D displays ubiquitous, advertisements are able to pop out a lot more than just a billboard or the side of a website. Plus, with computing being so powerful to be able to remember everything about you and knowing even how you feel about certain products, the advertisements will filter themselves out to be the most effective towards every individual. By using what started as “deep fakes,” the actors or voices can fine-tune the ad to resonate with an individual as best as possible. There are ways to get rid of the ads, but since there’s got to be a way for people to make money somehow, ad free AR vision is monetized.
This form of advertising has allowed trends to penetrate more deeply and quickly than before, especially in fashion. Political candidates can pick the precise message they want to share with each individual to garner their trust and vote. To combat fears of conformity and lack of expression, agencies have been created to make sure that no one trend is allowed to permeate too strongly.
The biggest issue with these personal advertisements is privacy. The only way these ads can be so precise in finding the right demographic of individuals is to learn specific information about them. While most people understand and have come to terms with the fact that being a part of the AR system and 10G Global Network essentially gives up that right to privacy in terms of interest (financial and confidential information is locked up tight, still), some people still do not want any information about themselves to be known by anyone other than family or friends. This is typically true of the older generations.
Haptic Emitters: Implantable and wearable devices are good for sensing but haven’t been nearly as successful at interacting fully with humans on the scale of an entire body. Researchers are still figuring out how to make a compact device that doesn’t have to cover the whole body in order to give haptic feedback or sensations. Therefore, these haptic emitters can be found in certain locations to give a user a deeper sense of immersion. By puffing out air at certain pressures at either a continuous or pulsed rate, these haptic emitters can pair quite nicely with audio and visual information to complete the main sensory requirements of a true feeling of immersion.
Like the holographic and volumetric displays, these are actually utilized by some “left behind” groups, but on a very occasional basis. The Truists are against using these emitters because, of course, if it’s not the real thing, they don’t want anything to do with it.
Now, we discuss the issue of transportation and how it has transformed in the past half century or so. While individuals can interact with anyone wherever they are, they are still plenty of reasons to physically be in a certain location at a certain time.
Autonomous Flying Vehicles: Teleportation is still very against the laws of physics (quantum physics has been slightly misunderstood until the past two decades, and plus, how would you guarantee that someone else wasn’t going to teleport to that exact location at the exact time…), so, here’s the next best thing. With so many of these vehicles around, you can get anywhere in the city within a very reasonable amount of time. All of the vehicles are connected to the Network, so you can seamlessly call and pay for one, and have it come straight to your location. Improvements to the efficiency of the propellers have decreased sound level to that of a car. The smaller ones can fit four passengers for efficiency, but larger air buses can be utilized.
By advancing transportation, cities have grown larger as more people can live farther away from the places they work or visit. There is a lot more space in the air, obviously, so traffic isn’t a big deal. Commuters can make it across great distances fairly easily, which frees up a lot of time for more work and recreation.
The biggest issue with these flying vehicles everywhere is the noise. While each individual vehicle isn’t that load, the constant cumulative noise can be obnoxious to those who aren’t used to it. It’s not a natural sound, and it drives many people to living in a more natural place, such as the forests off the western coast of North America (like the Neo-Amish).
Global Infinity Loop: Not only do autonomous flying vehicles increase the capabilities of transportation, but so does the newly upgraded Infinity Loop. At a fraction of the cost and fuel, these trains even put the name “bullet” to shame. With speeds upwards of 1,000 mph in certain stretches, you can cross continents in a couple of hours. While travel times are only slightly lower than that of commercial aircraft from the earlier part of this century, a ticket is only a small portion of the relative cost. Using pressurized and sealed tubes underground or underwater, as well as electromagnetic propulsion, these trains provide a smooth ride for all passengers.
With this speed of international travel at such an accessible level, companies can greatly expand their work base and work force. Families don’t have to feel so apart. Touring the world has become so much easier than it was before. However, there are some big concerns with the land and natural formations that were destroyed in the installation of these train lines. Also, the actual installation was more worried about finishing on time than doing so in a clean and environmentally safe manner.
The Truists were very puzzled on how to feel about this creation because although it would allow people to go and witness the world with their own eyes, there were also some beautiful natural locations and environments destroyed pretty much because of the installation of this network of train lines.
Interstellar Colonies/Exploration: After being delayed more and more, the Lunar Research Lab was finally established in 2035, and the Mars Colony in 2050. The Mars Colony in particular has been booming, making interstellar travel much more appealing and exciting. Elon Musk, while not fully in charge of development anymore, is spearheading the next expedition from Mars to the moon of Jupiter, Titan. After doing some tests there, the plan is to look beyond our solar system to see what other life might be out there.
Instead of only a handful of people from the history of the entire world, those who have gone to the moon has grown to the point that if you have enough money, you can go on a trip to the moon. Typically, the scientists and engineers of the world are the ones that go on the expeditions, but now more philanthropists and social scientists are being sent out to help the colonies grow as actual communities instead of just science experiments.
Many religious groups don’t support space travel because they believe that it is not man’s purpose to leave the earth that they were placed on. However, they are supportive of discovering and learning more and more about the universe. Just don’t expect the Pope to go preach a sermon on Mars or the Moon anytime soon.
Technology has revolutionized the way we live, but what about the resources that keep us alive? The question of if we’ll run out of resources is still up for debate, but there are new far superior ways of utilizing those resources.
Food Computers: Advancements in genetic modification actually taught scientists some other secrets to chemistry that weren’t possible before, and that is manifested in food computers. 3D food printers can create all sorts of nutritional food. They replicate the nutritional benefits of a particular food by using the chemical sequences available to the printer. While the form factor is a simple cube for each food item, it is capable of changing the color and texture of each cube to make it resemble the original food item. Recreating tastes are now fairly easy, and therefore tasty, yet nutritional food is commonplace.
In combination with some of the wearable/implantable sensors on an individual, the food computer can determine what that person’s body needs and create that food within a reasonable amount of time (no longer than 5-10 minutes). These computers have been sent all over the world to end world hunger. Anyone can have access to all the food they need with these computers. Users can access the machines to add new recipes and experiment with flavors and nutritional makeup. You just need to make sure you have enough ingredient compounds, but those are mass-produced around the globe.
Critics of these computers range from the Truists to farmers and to people who claim that this food has too much of an “artificial” taste to it. With the farmers in particular, though, their whole way of life has been uprooted with the introduction of this technology. While many of them have had to find new ways to make a living, a coalition of farmers have tried sticking it through this hardship to continue to create organic food. The only reason that this has been successful for them is for the fact that there is a sort of prestige and luxury that real, “organic” food has in the eyes of the rich. These farmers sell their homegrown foods for thousands at the Global Farmers Market in Rio de Janeiro.
Printable Materials: Much like food, many other materials are now able to be printed on demand. Not every material has been figured out, but a majority of metals, plastics, concretes, and structural materials have been perfected. With the discoveries in the medical field, human tissue is in the early stages of testing. With that being possible, one could print a replacement heart or other organ. Certain materials, such as wood, do not have a good way of being printed, and are therefore becoming more of a luxury material.
Printable materials have introduced another sort of industrial revolution. Practically anything can be created, whether large or small. Once new methods are discovered to print other materials, the possibilities will be opened even more. Another main item of concern, however, is the resources needed to feed into the printers. This is being combated by using much more abundant materials with similar structural (or even electric, magnetic, etc.) properties. However, there could still be a finite amount of resources available, so scientists are working on more sustainable reproducing materials, or, if they have to, they’re thinking of resorting to moon rock.
As resources continue to get consumed, no matter the method used, many environmentalists are concerned as to whether or not we are ruining the earth and how long it will still habitable. Those “left behind” therefore are sticking to more traditional manufacturing methods but are convinced that even they aren’t necessarily making the environment a better place. New sustainable materials and methods of utilizing them are a top priority of these people.
Man’s New Best Friend
So many of these inventions and technological advances were created by someone—or rather, something—that doesn’t seek the credit (yet): Artificial Intelligence. With computing power and access to information as high as they’ve ever been, AI has come a long way, and has become man’s new best friend. Some wonder, however, if mankind is getting too friendly, though…
Assistant Companions: Have you ever wondered what it would be like to not have a single friend in the world? Well, that’s hard to imagine now in 2060, because everyone can have a friend! Rather than just giving computers commands, you can have your own little assistant to be your companion throughout your day and life. These companions use the helpful assistant models that were started with Siri, Alexa, and the Google Assistant, and have evolved into full-fledged characters that you can interact with and explore the world.
While they certainly can have a personality of their own, they won’t ever fully override you if you don’t want them to. They are completely customizable so that they can be the best friend you could ever have. You can have all sorts of conversations with them about anything from the weather to politics. They can be your personal interpreter, life coach, or buddy to watch movies with. They can be whatever you want them to be. Their job is to make sure you’re never lonely and are always supported.
These companions represent what many of the “left behind” believe is the biggest issue with today’s society—we have lost our humanity and tried replacing it with something artificial. The argument has been around for what seems like forever that technology is taking away the ability to communicate and interact with other people normally. Telephones, smartphones, gaming, and social media have been the culprit in the past. But with AR amplifying everything and introducing an artificial replacement for friends and human interaction is a huge concern to stability of mankind.
Autonomy Auditors: With AI being so prominent in so many aspects of society, a new job had to be created in order to determine which decisions could be handled solely by AI and which decisions should still be made by humans. While data is continually being collected on how tasks are handled when either AI or humans are making the decisions, the AI still continues to learn from the results of what happens and try to compensate for any mistakes. Autonomy auditing is a job typically held by a panel of people at the organizational level. These individuals go through the data collected throughout the years on what processes can be handled by AI, and which ones need to be handled by a human mind or a group of human minds. These decisions range from stock market investing to government policies and to hiring.
The purpose of these auditors is to make an organization as effective as possible. If there are decisions that humans are taking too long on that an AI could make itself, the committee will sign that decision-making process over to the AI. On the other hand, if the AI is in charge of part of a process, and is causing some errors, the committee will revert it back to human control until the AI is fixed and able to take it over again.
Many groups and individuals who don’t have great feelings about AI anyway are not fond of the fact that autonomy auditing is even a job. However, in order to revert as much as control as possible back into human hands/minds, these groups tend to lobby with the auditing committee members so that humanity can take the reins back from AI.
Edge of Singularity: Finally, this is more of a discussion of something that could happen in the future, rather than an artifact that exists today. With that being said, it is extremely important. As AI has gotten increasingly smarter and independent, maybe people are worried about the possibility of a technological singularity—technology, specifically AI—taking over the human race. While there are many controls that have been put in place all throughout the development of this technology to keep it from taking over, it is still a concern that can’t be ignored. Everyday, researchers are discovering new ways to make AI more useful, but before jumping in and implementing it, they must go through a vigorous review process to ensure that this new application won’t potentially open a door to that singularity.
There are some that believe that maybe it’s in the best interest of humanity to have such a force as AI grow to its full potential, but others believe that, much in the same way as genetic engineering is feared, that potential level of power is far too great for any one man or group of men to wield and should be left alone.
AI can take away our free will in certain decisions, as well as our ability to do certain things for ourselves, which is why a lot of religions have stepped away from its use. However, it begs some deep questions that are tough to answer: Where is the line between useful and unnecessary? Are the benefits of this power greater than the risk of losing control? Does technology take away our humanity? If so, how much of our humanity is having that technology worth? It seems that among the more extreme groups of those “left behind,” they would argue that our humanity is worth far more than it all, and thus they have chosen to not adopt the more advanced technologies of this day and age, especially artificial intelligence.
A Day in the Life
As I woke up this morning, I breathed in the fresh air from the forest surrounding my home, or at least the scent of it that I packed in my suitcase for this trip. For my morning run, I hopped on the treadmill and set my location for the Great Wall. I love having a set path ahead of me, but still being able to look out into the distance on either side, especially since this version of the scene was taken before the Loop cut through the countryside. After my run, I showered, grabbed my breakfast cubes for the road, and hopped in an air taxi.
One more day, and it’s the weekend, I thought. I skimmed through my calendar to confirm what was on the docket for the day. Another warehouse trying to fire its repair technician and replace her with a bot. There’s just something about having a set of human eyes on things to make sure it’s not out of line, rather than just running the sensors through it. People will do anything to save a few bucks these days… Two offices to call up and check on, messages to respond to, then lunch. After that, the rest of the afternoon is blocked off, with a one-word memo: Singularity. That’s when the real fun begins…
It’s been a debate my entire life. Are we ceding too much control of our lives to technology? Is AI going to take over the world? How can we guarantee that tech doesn’t get smarter than us, and if it does, how can we stop it? While these are great questions, I, being a religious man, like to take it a step further. What is our humanity worth? Are our creations eating away at that humanity? Or are we able to use technology to fulfill our purpose in life. Some people where I come from tend to believe that we cannot coexist and have banned all use of more modern technologies. I, on the other hand, see nothing wrong with using it so long as I only use it with a purpose in mind—to make the world a better place, whether for others, or occasionally, for myself.
A couple of my calls went long, so I had to grab a quick bite for lunch, then stashed a few snack cubes to sneak during the meeting. Representatives from all over the world, including the Truist colonies, the WOFDA, and the Neo-Amish (they just arrived by electric car). Even the Pope and the Prophet are here! This must be a big deal, I thought. Religious, world, business, and political leaders all gathered together to discuss what is to be done about the future advancement of technology. I still wonder how I ended up being in the position to be able to be in the same room as people with such power, and that they would actually seek my advice and opinions.
The meeting starts. The same old recounting of facts about the history of AI and its impact on society. The same one-sided opinions and biases about whether AI is revolutionary or of the devil. I can see where both sides are coming from. It’s hard to judge how much good can compensate for how much bad, but I think that the good that comes from it is far greater than the bad that will inevitably come from anything good. Finally, the news we’ve all been waiting to hear is about to break. The head of the Council on Artificial Intelligence and Humanity stands up. She explains that due to many concerns about the impending possibility of a technological singularity, the Council has deemed the Vision Research Initiative (to implant an AI into a genetically engineered human body) has been postponed until a near-unanimous majority vote to move forward with it is acquired. The religious leaders, among others, are overjoyed. The researchers, as well as many others, are devastated. So much work for so long, all put on hold, perhaps indefinitely. I feel a mixture of relief and sympathy, but I still think that this was for the better of mankind. Who knows what kind of power could be unleashed if we were to open Pandora’s Box?
After multiple press conferences, question and answer sessions, debriefings, and more, it’s finally time for everyone to go home and think on what has just happened, to mull it over and let it sink in. Another meeting on the topic will be held in three weeks, this time in Tokyo, not San Francisco. Until then, I’m going to have a lot of calls and questions to answer. For now, though, I get to escape back to my mountains where my heart always longs to be. This time, that feeling is much deeper.
I take another air taxi to the Infinity Loop station for my quick 20-minute ride to Denver. There, I take the air bus out for 15 minutes or so back to the depot where my wife and children are waiting for me. Before I cross the platform, I take out my AR contact lenses, disconnect from the network, put all of my work away, and run to embrace them without any distractions to pull me away from what matters most to me in my life. Work will still be there after the weekend. So will the rest of the world and all its craziness and business.
While some members of my family have chosen to be “left behind” for years, and some for even decades, I choose to still be in touch because of the difference I know I can make. However, I too, have my limits. These weekends back with my family and all of my interactions with them remind me of that humanity that I so deeply believe in and am fighting for. While I may be left behind by the world for a couple of days, I never want to leave behind my purpose, my humanity, my life, or my family. And that’s why I choose, in my own way, to be left behind.