Nature Future Conditional

The story behind the story: Query, queue, repeat

This week, Futures welcomes back Steven Fischer with his latest story Query, queue, repeat. When he last appeared in Futures, Steven introduced us to the First Fragmented Church of Entropy. This time, he presents a very different piece about technology. Here, Steven reveals the origins of this tale — as ever, it pays to read the story first.

Writing Query, queue, repeat

Human-level machine intelligence is coming. Don’t believe me? Ask Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk or any of the thousands of computer scientists surveyed over the past few decades.

Whether it’s ten, or twenty, or two-hundred years from now, Homo sapiens will create machines that can match and outthink us, and that’s a reality our species needs to face. What is uncertain, however, is what human-level artificial intelligence will mean for humans, and that question will be answered largely by our response to it.

Although androids with laser cannons and glowing red eyes make for exciting movies (and short stories, I hope), the reality of AI will be much more subtle. Machines have few reasons to compete with humans for physical resources such as water or crops, but competition between humans and AI is inevitable for far more important prizes such as jobs, and wealth, and in a broader sense, relevance.

As technology progresses and machine intelligence continues to grow, humans, as individuals and a whole, will have to choose how to respond. Will we resist the changes that AI entails and attempt to hold onto a world that is familiar, or will we adapt and evolve as our ancestors did, maybe even to the point that we intertwine our biology, not just our lives, with the machines we’ve learned to rely on?

While bombs-and-bullets war between humans and machines is a future that belongs squarely in the realm of science fiction, the political and social struggle around AI will be very real, and it’s time to start deciding which side you’ll be on.

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