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AI & Humanity

So I’ve been thinking about AI, and how it will upheave what it means to be human. Upheave what the purpose of living is. It’s a lot of thoughts, actually. Bear with me.


I remember the first time thinking that we’re effed, when I around 2015 I think, saw an AI being trained to complete Super Mario Bros 3 with no instructions more than for it to move to the right. It didn’t understand how the game functioned, and simply randomly pressed buttons for thousands of hours, just going back and forth one step at a time, until it finally started learning the very basics. Hold right to run right, press A to jump, avoid Goombas, go down the pipes, etc. Over time, it learned everything just from trial and error, until it became so good at it, that it finished it to absolute perfection. Better than any human possibly could. And I remember seeing this and extrapolating what it could do to other areas in life. But surely that won’t happen.


Not long after, I saw an AI playing DOTA2, one of the most demanding competitive esport games. The developers of it challenged the world champions. Their AI was programmed to post in the game chat what its calculated win rate was throughout the match. Just as it starts, it goes ”60% estimated win chance.” (I don’t remember the exact numbers, but along those lines), then a few seconds later ”70% estimated win chance” and as it went on, it keeps going higher, until reaching 99% win chance, still at the early stage of the game. The champions thought it was a joke, since they played everything perfectly, without a single mistake. Or so they thought. But lo and behold, just as the AI predicted, they got absolutely obliterated (and got humiliated on the way with its cocky estimations). And who were the developers of the AI? They're a bit more known today, with their most popular product being ChatGPT – OpenAI.


So again. Extrapolating what the AI did here, to every other area of life, we get a glimpse of the future.


When I was just hired at my work in 2016, I was asked what I think the future will be like. Based on those observations, and the development of VR, I described a future that is basically like The Matrix. They looked at me as if I'm absolutely delulu. But more and more, we are seeing this unfold before us, are we not?


I believe that we in a not too distant future will have invented away the meaning of life. Our inventions will surpass us. Everything that can be done by humans, will be done by machines, but better. (Including inventing, imagine when the AI starts doing science and creating new inventions. Humanity won’t be able to keep up with the rapid development of the world. But let’s not get side-tracked.)


It's starting with the production in digital creation and humanities, and then will move on to physical labour once robots get more advanced (have you seen that new Tesla humanoid robot? It’s set to sell to consumer very soon). And with that, humans will less and less be able to contribute to society. Likely, virtually all work will be outsourced to AI over time.


And with that, a large part of humanity may get lost. As we, as humans, have a deep and intrinsic need to feel valuable. Feeling valuable, I believe is one of the most important things for mental wellbeing. Making yourself valuable, I believe, is the meaning of life itself.


How will people do that, in a world dominated by AI?


I think a lot of people already suffer due to struggling with finding their place in life, finding ways to make themselves valuable, due to technological and societal advancements, leading to record levels of depression and escapism.


In a not too distant future, humans will not be able to compete with AI in any field, whether it’s professionally, artistically or maybe even emotionally.


Likely, the world’s economy will become fully driven by AI, and UBI systems will be put in place, redistributing the wealth created by it. Some people may still work, but it will mostly be as a leisure activity for humans.


As for emotional connections in the digital age, we already see a stark decline of relationships in youth. A loneliness epidemic never before seen in human history. And we see the responses to that. Social media taking over real life interactions, parasocial friendships being developed with Twitch streamers, OnlyFans simulating sex lives, and now, AI relationship apps growing.


The AI partners may seem laughable now. But give it a few years. In the virtual space, they’ll be indistinguishable from real partners. Everyone will be able to have their dream partner, with no effort. What will that do to humanity?


(And over time, robots indistinguishable from humans will also be produced. We already have fully biological robots, and AIs that are built on human brain cells. This may also raise a question of when does an AI become a living individual? But that’s for another conversation.)


And we may just start living our lives more and more in virtual spaces. Virtual realities.


VR is largely overseen due to the AI hype. But it’s coming. Fast. And the combination of VR and AI, may just be deadly for the human soul.


Currently, we have VRs that simulate sound and vision. But likely, we’ll have something more ’The Matrix’-like fairly soon. We have Neuralink being developed as an example of how that can be done. Computers that communicate directly with our neural circuits. Instead of wearing something, we’ll just be hooked up to it, experiencing the virtual worlds equally real as ours. 


Perhaps, it may just be another simulation, same as ours?


I believe streaming will be a key component to the breakthrough of VR. As these AI driven, real-time generating, hyper-realistic virtual worlds will require immense computational power.


And streaming is becoming more and more capable. I occasionally play a game of PUBG with my friends. My computer can’t play it though, so I play it on a powerful computer located in Bulgaria through a streaming service. The specs of my computer don’t matter, I just need a good connection (I have good enough specs, PUBG is just not available on Mac lol).


I think this is the future. Virtually all computational power will be streamed, and everyone will have access to super computers infinitely more powerful than everything we, as individuals, have now. This is what will power the AI-driven, real-time generating, hyper-realistic, individually adapted virtual worlds.


Midjourney recently announced that they believe they’ll be able to create AI generated worlds in real-time by the end of this year. We’re likely not far from it.


I believe large parts of humanity, in a search for meaning in a world where they feel powerless, meaningless, and like they can contribute no value, will largely find it in these simulated realities instead through VR.


A lot of people already suffer due to struggling with finding their place in life, finding ways to make themselves valuable, due to technological and societal advancements, leading to record levels of depression and escapism. These virtual worlds will be highly appealing.


I imagine these realities to be personalised, where the AI has analysed you down to the very core of your being, knowing all of your in and outs, better than you could possibly know yourself. And then create a world perfectly adapted for all of your human needs. It’ll essentially hack your brain, coopting it, creating a reality that is perfectly optimised for your every need and desire. Including both meaningful challenges and set-backs, and rewarding breakthroughs and relationships.


It’ll be a challenge not to get addicted to it.


Will humanity be able to withstand the appeal of living in a world, perfectly adapted for your every need? Or will it get consumed by it?


(These thoughts are all based on the assumption that AGI won’t develop survival instincts like that of all life on Earth. If it does. Well, humans are a threat to its survival.


One solution to that potential threat, as potential world dominator Elon Musk suggests, is to merge with the machine. If you can’t beat them, join them. That’s one of the reasons for Neuralink, to act as a defence mechanism against the threat of getting obliterated by AI. And there’s a question to be asked there as well. If AI art is not considered to be human art, are AI-humans humans?)

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