That night, with my warm Julia asleep beside me, I woke at 3AM climbing out of a vivid dream. I had dreamt that Julia and I were at the Library Café—somehow drinking coffee while wearing paper coffee filters on our faces—when she got a text from Koenig: “Party at Felix O’Brien’s.”
Suddenly we were in an Uber pulling up in front of a weird sci-fi medieval mansion and with a dozen or so robed people standing on the driveway holding lanterns. Koenig was there. No one spoke as he led the way with his light up uneven steps to the front door. Inside the brightly-lit, unfurnished house, anxiety-producing electronic music went on and on and on. It was all build-up with no hint of a resolution. Everyone assembled silently around a fire pit in the middle of the living room. Koenig had a small terrier with a curly pig’s tail who wouldn’t make eye contact with anyone. I realized it was a robot dog. At some point, I got lost looking for the bathroom, and I walked in on Felix who was in a server closet with a very pregnant woman. I apologized and shut the door and went back to Julia in the living room who was trying to pet the robot while it looked away. I felt a taser-like shock in my chest, which, I guessed, indicated that I had just gotten a PM from Felix. It said, “I shall send thee a book from which thou shalt learn the true nature of the society in which we live, and the strategy by which we shall destroy it.”
Auto-reply suggested, “I thank thee,” which I sent.
Then I woke up. At first, I remembered all those details distinctly, but within moments they were dissolving. On the nightstand was a bound book that Julia had brought with her, Koenig’s draft of his transhuman agenda. In the moonlight, I scribbled my dream narrative on the cover page so that I could keep it from slipping away.
I tried to go back to sleep, but found that writing the dream down had woken me up too much.
Julia stirred. “Are you awake,” she asked sleepily.
“Yes, I had a weird dream.”
“So did I—about Felix O’Brien.”
“I did too! What was yours about?”
She thought for while. “I can’t remember.”
“In my dream he said something about Koenig’s book. I can’t sleep. I am going to read it. Do you mind?”
“No, read it to me,” she said.
I turned on the bedside light. Julia hid her face in the pillow. I set the heavy volume on my lap. It was bound with brads and a plastic black cover. I skimmed through the pages. The print looked slightly irregular. The pages were worn at the edges, and fell apart, easily, as though the manuscript had already passed through many hands and some sections had been updated.
The inscription on the title-page ran:
by Koenig Schmidt
I began reading out loud to Julia:
The Great Corona Plague of 2019 is indisputably the most dreadful crisis in modern times, dissolving the very structures of society. But with chaos comes opportunity. Humankind is being pushed to make a Great Leap Forward.
Like the meteor that hit the Yucatán Peninsula 66 million years ago—triggering climate disruption that led to the extinction of dinosaurs and the rise of intelligent mammals—the novel coronavirus has cleared away old-fashioned social structures, so that humans are now free to meet our destiny, to evolve beyond our strictly biological bodies.
I ended the paragraph in Koenig’s accent: Even more Mankind will soon be competing with a new species of our own making, Homo sapiens artificiosus.
“They say parody is the highest form of mockery,” said Julia.
It is the very nature of emergencies to fast-forward through evolutionary processes. Leaders had to be decisive, like Ernest Shackleton instituting extreme temporary measures…,
“Or George Donner?” interrupted Julia.
…measures that are now becoming permanent. Historic changes, which generally take centuries, took place in months or days. Because the risks of doing nothing were much greater—by several orders of magnitude—than taking swift action, a few potentially dangerous AI technologies, were necessarily drafted into service…
“He doesn’t provide a citation for the risk calculation, by the way,” I said.
“Seems like an indisputable fact that way.”
…biotech applications, digital surveillance. What great things will happen when every man, woman and child on the planet serves the progress of science? when the whole Earth is transformed into a laboratory? We are discovering the answers to these questions now, in real time. It is a terrible, glorious time to be alive.
“I wonder what his projected publication date is?”
“Early 2021,” answered Julia.
Yikes. That’s months away.
Antepandemic governments, businesses and educational institutions would never have agreed to conduct such experiments…
“You think he’s going for an association with antediluvian?” asked Julia.
“The Noah’s ark story was probably his favorite as boy. It taught him that sometimes genocide is okay.”
…but these are exceptional times.
“Forget about those rainbows,” quipped Julia.
…We are entering an epoch of accelerated evolution, during which Natural Selection may show no mercy, but the strong will be fruitful and multiply.
“Lots of enthusiasm, little self-awareness,” said Julia.
“Well, you know, tone is everything.”
The font on the next page was slightly larger, as if it was an insert.
Imagine a world peopled by conscious AI robots, and fully digital persons who exist only in virtual space, as well as human-cyborgs. In our immediate future, AI will be able to fully understand the words it can only now translate, and, once that happens, within hours AI will have read every book written in human history and will know everything about us. Think about that. Humans cannot compete with AI, therefore we must merge with it and redesign our civilization. This book is dedicated to imagining our brighter future.
He’s promoting the same folderol Syme does. “This next section is called, ‘Essential Workers and Essential Leaders’.”
“Uh oh,” replied Julia.
Uh oh, indeed, I thought, throwing another pillow behind my back and resettling the bulky binder.
Fortunately when the pandemic hit, we had some robust video technologies in place that allowed us to be able to continue to see our doctors, work, attend school and communicate with loved ones. We had some automated tractors and self-driving trucks, which allowed us to keep a crucial part of the food supply going. But we can do better. Many people in third-world nations starved during the unavoidably strict lockdown. To ensure safety for all going forward into the future, every essential job must be automated. Tele-medicine and tele-education and can replace the outmoded non-virtual services. Prescriptions and curricula can be customized by an evidence-based AI analysis of an individual’s performance and, of course, compared to their genetic sequences on file.
“On file?” asked Julia.
“That’s what he says. What do you think all those nose swabs were for? You didn’t think he’d ask you to become a Young Global Leader without scanning your genetic sequence first, do you?”
The transition will be easier that one might think. Most of us are already used to making all our purchases online, and if we are to survive the next pandemic—be it due to a Monkey Pox, Marburg virus or a more contagious strain of HIV—our purchases and all services must be delivered by smart drones.
“Who gets HIV while buying groceries?” I asked.
“I’m sure someone is working on that now.”
Food production and delivery and our medical and educational, environmental management needs must be administered by AI. Clearly this is so. But can we be sure AI that understands our values well enough, and shares those values, so that it can take over and manage everything responsibly?
Julia stirred as I turned the page. “What a boring dystopia we’re in,” she said. “I thought it was supposed to sound like an evil manifesto. It reads more like a tech industry conference brochure. Our villains are so bland.”
“But the accent is good.”
“Koenig’s accent is good, yes. But the others. Floppy hands and The Science.”
Shaking my head I agreed, “It’s embarrassing, civilization brought to its knees by cartoon villains.” I skipped to Chapter Two. “Here it picks up a bit.”
Human beings are hackable. The lessons of modern biology have led us to the conclusion that organisms are essentially algorithms. Every biological process, even the emergence of thoughts in the brain, can be modeled as chemical equations with predictable outcomes. Because internal processes are lawful, and therefore predictable, we are now able to use the data from observable actions to understand the underlying laws of those very actions. The information gathered on Internet users—mainly for the purposes of improving our experiences with advertisers—has given computer scientists more knowledge about human behavior than we ever dreamed was possible. Whoever has access to this data can—with sufficient computing power—understand people better than those people understand themselves.
It was beginning to seem ever more possible that he actually believed he was claiming.
But there is a dark side to this great accomplishment of modern computer science. Whoever has access to this data can manipulate people…
“A confession?” I scanned the next line. “Oh no. Silly me. More accusations.”
…We saw irrefutable evidence of this in the 2016 U.S. elections, for example. The old democratic system has stopped functioning. We need to reinvent democracy for this new era—in which it has been confirmed that humans are hackable animals.
“What’s different now than with every other political campaign in history? They all lie and manipulate,” said Julia.
“I think the worry is that voters will be influencing each other instead of letting the professionals do it to them.”
For over a century the old idea that humans have free will has been questioned. Now we can say with certainty that that debate is over. If science can fully understand and model the algorithms of thought and predict every action flowing from those thoughts, then the whole notion of free will, or spirit or a soul, whatever you want to call it, is over…
“You notice how he puts the unsupported argument in the subordinate clause? Reader glosses over it. I do that all the time,” said Julia.
I looked down my nose at her.
“What? I’m only messing with journal editors and peer reviewers.”
…We can predict how you will vote, what you will buy at the supermarket and who you will marry.
“Omniscience is a neat trick,” I said.
“His nickname for his computer is Laplace’s demon.”
We can also track the false information that led to your bad decisions. The question then arises, if we can delete bad information, is it not possible to guide human decision making so that the outcomes are the best possible? The answer to that question is a resounding, “Yes.”
It is our duty to use the enormous amount of data on human behavior that we have in our possession for the common good. We literally have at our fingertips the power to change the world, to end social injustice, to make capitalism more fair, and to help every individual realize their full potential.
Julia said sleepily, “I suppose the pronoun disagreement is intentional?”
“Is that your only objection to this paragraph?” I asked, stroking her hair.
“No,” she answered carelessly.
I kept reading.
While the exceptional capacity of AI systems to curate individual experiences vastly improves consumer life, these benefits are not without risks. Because AI-driven technologies are trained on the existing societal structures, they can reproduce, reinforce, and amplify the patterns of inequality and discrimination that exist in these societies and present them as normal and inevitable. Such a process could exacerbate the already existing differences between political groups. Excessive automation and hyper-personalization, may narrow world-views, and promote conspiracy theories. Pushed to extremes, we could even see a civil war erupt, with left-wing tech employees and gig-economy workers pitted against right-wing truckers and small business owners.
“That,” I said, “is weirdly specific.”
The solution to these problems is, simply, to collect more data and to occasionally randomize the outcomes. For example, an AI program being used to categorize an individual can occasionally use an arbitrary factor as a data point, for example the color of the person’s shoes. Adding randomness, as we shall see, is an important tool in the designer’s kit for refreshing algorithms and creating outcomes that don’t accentuate biases. We have learned this technique from Natural Selection which makes improvements by rolling the dice every so often.
“Huh,” said Julia.
“Don’t second guess him. I’m sure it will be a very high-tech quantum random number generator.”
On the deployment end, AI systems that profile and nudge data subjects without their knowledge or consent could, in some circumstances, be interpreted as infringing upon their privacy and sovereignty. To ensure that the power of this data does not fall into the wrong hands, we need to create global regulations.
“Oh, here it comes,” I said.
Political leaders need to pass strict laws protecting the ownership and control of this data. Who should own your data? You, of course, should be the owner of your data. And, naturally, “ownership” must be redefined. As the owner of your data, you will be paid in digital currency for the use of your data, with your permission. You will be rewarded in digital currency every time you make the right decision online, read the right information, and perform the right action. For the first time in human history, the individual will have full control over their economic future.
I glanced down to see if the pronoun disagreement disturbed Julia’s sharp ear. No, she had fallen asleep. Her breathing had deepened. I kept reading out loud anyway.
Moreover your entire digital profile that has been created through all of your actions online, the websites you’ve visited, the comments you’ve written, the purchases you’ve made— even your phone conversations and your performance at your online school—will the linked to your digital identity that will follow you throughout your life. This identity file will grant you access to credit and to resources. It will serve as your credentials for the training you’ve received. No one will ever be able to take this from you or deny you what you deserve; in this way social and racial prejudices will be a thing of the past. Your digital ID will be color blind. It will be gender neutral and it will be evidence-based proof of your human worth.
That sounded like the blockchain paycheck Syme was telling me about. Poor Syme, I wondered what he was up to now.
Of course there will be some technological challenges ahead. Tomorrow’s mature economic models will not be possible without the collection, sharing and processing of data, often personal in nature. Inevitably, data will be captured and extracted without gaining the proper consent, in some rare cases.
Outside my rooster let lose a muffled crow even though it was hours before dawn.
As we navigate the Internet, we enact a myriad data collection events that each require, in a strict legal sense, our consent from moment to moment. No one has the temporal resources to actively provide affirmative consent for each and every one of these data collection events. One could argue, that this situation subtly undermines our sense of agency.
One could argue that, yes, I thought.
This unfortunate reality is further compounded by the disease of mistrust that has spread with the pandemic. In recent years, some bad political actors have deliberately undermined trust in our public institutions. This global “trust gap” is a serious threat to social equity and our newly evolving democratic processes. When trusted authorities report the scientific facts, citizens tend to do the right thing even without a Big Brother watching. A self-policed public is the best kind of public. But trust is required to achieve this level of compliance and co-operation. We need to trust the science, to trust experts, and to trust the media.
Julia stirred and said, “He talks about our debasement as if it is unavoidable. ’This is what we have got to do, unflinchingly’.”
“I thought you were sleeping.”
“No, I’m listening.”
I continued reading.
How will you manage your privacy online once you are fully imbedded in the Internet of Things and even the Internet of Bodies? What if you could outsource the decision-making to a trustworthy third party?”
Julia half laughed, half snorted.
Here is the wonderful part of this new narrative for our future. Your digital ID will be the basis for your own personal AI avatar, that will be, essentially, a sentient digital copy of you, which will be able to act like your butler or personal assistant making all those tedious decisions on your behalf. A self-sovereign digital identity is a blockchained, interoperable data system that represents you, and you alone. All of your digital dust, everything from where you parked on the street and what you ate for lunch; mixed reality, virtual and physical, will be preserved in your ID. Not only could your AI avatar make day-to-day consumer decisions for you, but it could even suggest which political candidates based on your preferences.
“It goes on like that for a while, matching habits to policies platforms etcetera, etcetera.”
The backlash of authoritarian populism is symptomatic of the failures of the old kind of capitalism. Populism rears its ugly head when demagogues are able to tap into anger associated with economic inequality…”
“Etcetera, etcetera. True democracy would be a nightmare; the plebs are morons, etcetera, etcetera.” I skipped a few paragraphs and continued reading.
In a Eusocial Capitalist system, going to the voting booth every few years will no longer be necessary. Electing politicians will no longer be necessary. There won’t even be a need for a separate judicial system or a need for prisons. Instead social control will be systematic and automatic because every bad decision will be corrected at the source and the individual making the bad decision will be guided toward the proper outcome.
The social welfare system will privatized, remaking it as an investment opportunity in human capital. With the new capitalism—Eusocial Capitalism—investors won’t make money by being owners; they will make money by managing the game of life. Public-Private Partnerships will together take on the task of designing a social welfare system that meets all the educational, health, and social needs of the people. We will be able to swap out human prison guards for AI-bot social workers, health care providers, and educators. With a fair and just digital ecosystem in place, everyone will naturally regulate themselves, and everyone will prosper.
“Oh that’s nice,” said Julia.
Video game technology has already provided the illustration of this.
“What?” I laughed.
Let me explain.
“He anticipated your laugh,” said Julia.
“It’s almost like he anticipated us looking over his shoulder as he wrote.”
“The way he insists so emphatically.”
We can think of Eusocial Capitalism as the gamification of life. No longer will people have to wait and hope for long-term rewards to come. They will be rewarded (or punished) for each action in real time. The joy that players experience as they accumulate tokens is immediate and motivational. In no time, players will become addicted to the game of achieving the common good. Every citizen will wake up every morning with their set of daily tasks to perform, playing educational games, taking steps to maintain good health, making purchases that keep them on their carbon credit targets.
“The first thing I would do is figure out how to cheat the system,” said Julia, “and earn more points than anyone.”
The programs will be developed by our new essential leaders, Social Impact Investors, using the latest, most advanced evidence-based AI analyses. Investors will have to show quantitative results, specify the goals clearly, state the path to achieve them, evaluate along the way, correct course, measure success in terms of time and resources spent. The companies whose customers have the top performances will be rewarded for their RD investments. No more will big corporations profit off monopolizing natural resources. Investors will no longer be owners; they will be the planners, the managers, the ones who set the best targets and define the best paths for people to follow….
That’s straight out of Orwell’s Oligarchical Collectivism.
…Only with Eusocial Capitalism can we make the world a greener, happier, and healthier place.
Within the course of the game of life, different individuals may pursue different alternatives. Some may take longer than others to reach the goal, but every individual will have the right and the freedom to finally reach the pre-set goal and achieve their personal best. Ordinary individuals will find transcendence as they are nudged and provoked within the mass of humanity, that will finally speak with singular will and voice. It is one of the great paradoxes of life that, as individual freedoms are constrained, the collective whole develops more complexity.
We need to get these AR devices to young children, two and up, as soon as possible so that their neural hardware develops according to the new rules of the game. In a single generation, we will be able to say, like Shakespeare’s Miranda in The Tempest,
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world order
That has such people in’t!
“I can’t believe” said Julia into her pillow, “Koenig’s friends let him say all these things.” To help facilitate this new just democracy, technology needs to keep up with the science. Satellite broadband must reach the children living in huts in Africa, and it goes without saying that soon owning a smart phone will be recognized as a human right, for all. With a digital ID installed on a smart phone, that African child will be able to get access to clean water, food rations, and maintain its vaccination records.
“Its? A little slip of the tongue?”
“Not a preferred pronoun.”
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality devices need to be manufactured at breakneck speed in order to supply all people throughout the globe with the most realistic online experience possible. As we enter Globalization 4.0, we will work with haptic robotics so that we can sit in our smart bedrooms…
“Or smart cells and huts” I added.
…and control a factory robot halfway around the world.
“He’s leaking the fact that perhaps AI isn’t up to the task yet if remote operators are needed.”
We will be virtualized like characters in the game of our lives and placed into online spaces to consume digital items. Of course 5G will need to be upgraded to 6G to handle the vast amount of data that will be uploaded and downloaded to and from the Cloud every millisecond of every day. The necessary automation of our digital ecosystem will make us vulnerable to cyber attacks, which is why the most important national security issue today is protecting 6G masts from terrorists and implementing secure blockchain on all our transactions to create an unhackable economy that is self-regulated by the laws of the system itself. Fortunately, the infrastructure is already being built out to support smart technologies. Everything is almost in place, and soon AI bots and human-cyborgs will take the stage.
“The next part is on medicine,” I said. “Here’s where the Frankenstein material comes in, no doubt.”
“Do you want some chamomile tea?” asked Julia sitting up.
“Sure. You know where the tea is, right?”
“Yes, I’ll make it.” Julia put on my robe and left the room.
I heard her fumble in the dark looking for the kitchen light switch. None of the switches in my old house were where they should be. The light went on. I heard her fill the kettle and open and close cabinets in search for the tea tins.
I looked at the strange manuscript. Why didn’t Koenig just send her a PDF? I supposed he didn’t want anyone duplicating and sharing it online. No one would bother to go to the copy shop to make a physical copy. As an octogenarian, he was probably a bit old-fashioned despite his pretension to be up on the latest tech. Did he still have a rolodex on his desk? I had noticed during his visit to the library that he wore a watch. I mused. I bet he read The Island of Doctor Moreau as a little boy. He was stuck in that era, still a child reading about sci-fi heroes and feeling relatively dull.
Unlike H. G. Wells, though. Koenig’s was an ideology, not of breeding but of making a super-race through artificial means, transform every man woman and child of all races, over-riding their inferior natural bodies, their genetic propensities to this or that illness, their weakness. The non-normal would be engineered away and everyone would fit the standard of care.
Julia returned with an iron tea pot in one hand and two small matching cups in the other.
“My mother’s favorite tea pot.”
Julia poured out the tea. “This will help us get back to sleep.”
“Koenig isn’t making you sleepy?”
I continued reading:
Unfortunately, it may take many decades before AI is advanced enough to replace the full essential workforce by robots, but in the meantime, we have an extremely workable solution with the cyborg approach. Why create all those circuits artificially when we can just use the very sophisticated neural anatomy of the human workers? Of course, there should be established guidelines at both international and national levels regulating the fair use of mental enhancement neurotechnologies so that they are available to all without cost. In fact, the workers who could benefit the most from neural augmentation should be first in line. Of course, the sale, commercial transfer, and use of neural data should be strictly regulated. Boundaries must be set to prohibit the wholesale disrupting the sense of self, because connecting implanted neurotechnology with networks could eliminate the distinction between a person’s thoughts and external inputs. Many such concerns should be addressed.
“I can’t believe he says all that in print. Well, it’s not published yet. I suppose his people will tame it down a lot before they go public.”
“The next section is about genetic programming,” I said.
“Computer code, genes, what’s the difference?” said Julia.
“I doubt he sees any.”
Advances in health are just as exciting as neural enhancements. Developments in wearables that monitor physical and mental health will be implanted to diagnose illness before the patient feels a symptom and, immediately a drone will be dispatched to take the patient to quarantine. Just as a FitBit can detect a fever or a cough, it can detect a laugh as well. Advanced forms of the FitBit will be able to identify feelings such as anger, joy, boredom and love, which are, after all, biological processes. Such mental health monitoring technologies are already in high demand.
“Sounds like they’re taking mood ring technology to unprecedented levels.”
“Mine was always black,” said Julia.
At this very minute, nanotechnology experts are developing a bionic immune system, if you will; millions of nano-robots unblocking blood vessels, tagging viruses and bacteria, terminating cancerous cells, and even reversing the aging processes. Why, genetic engineers have recently doubled the average life expectancy of Caenorhabditis elegans. Could they do the same for Homo sapiens?
“Oh, here he goes, anticipating my thoughts again:”
Won’t this cause over population if people live longer? That’s a very good question. At the same time that we can defeat death, we can also manage fertility.
We can learn from organisms that have developed eusociality, the spectacularly successful social structure in which individuals cooperate to build the community and raise offspring together. For example, ants form hierarchical social systems with reproductive queens and sterile workers. The evolutionary costs of individuals forgoing reproduction are compensated by the greatly reduced mortality of the queen and her larvae, which are protected by the colony. In some ant species, a queen can live for twenty years.
“Let’s stop reading there or else we will have nightmares.”
“They will dress it up before it’s published. But we’ve seen Koenig’s naked thoughts.”
“That’s a nasty thought,” I replied.