The prospect of armed conflict seems to be permeating the news at the moment, so this week’s Futures story Alice in Peaceland arrives at a timely moment. Written by Natalia Theodoridou, who has previously introduced us to Ajdenia, the tale takes a look at how war might be avoided in the future. When she’s not speculating about artificial intelligence, Natalia can be found at her website or on Twitter. Here she reveals the inspiration behind her latest tale — as ever, it pays to read the story first.
Writing Alice in Peaceland
Lately I have been consistently drawn to the work of futurists, particularly companies such as SciFutures that use sci-fi storytelling as a jumping-off point for prototyping innovative technologies. This is science-fictional thinking at its best: imagining solutions to existing problems and pre-empting the problems presented by imagined futures. Now, coming from a humanities background, I am inevitably drawn to the ‘softer’ side of ‘hard science’ (excuse my liberal use of scare quotes here): the social, the inter-personal, the cultural, how reality is mediated. Conflict and war are topics that invite, demand even, both these kinds of thinking.
Alice in Peaceland came to be when I took the idea of a war to win the hearts and minds of people literally. What if new technologies were used to do just that, through a new kind of advanced psychological warfare? Could trauma, however induced, ever be a path to resolution? This resulted in the AI in my story having to grapple with a paradox: what if the only way to achieve peace were to have everyone affected by the trauma of war? Alice’s answers, alas, were limited by the morality of its creators.