AI Vignettes

It's difficult to imagine what the world would look like if we do achieve extra-ordinary AI tech. For instance when we say AI in the next ten years will be able to drive a truck cross-country, what does that really imply about the state of the world? It might mean that there's mass unemployment because a steady job has been automated, or it might mean greater material abundance as costs for transport are driven down. Maybe both.

These are the types of questions that speculative fiction - aka SciFi - tries to tackle. Given this change in science or technology, what does society look like as a result?

I think it's a useful exercise because it makes explicit all the hidden assumptions in our thinking. A bit like scenario planning as a forecasting technique, you start to notice all the bits and pieces that make up your true picture of what the world will be, the ways they might be true and the ways they might not. And hey it's also a lot of fun.

I participated in a writing workshop with AI Impacts where we spent timeboxed one hour sessions writing vignettes about the possible futures of AI. The goal was to create concrete visualizations of things like CAIS, slow takeoff, fast takeoff, decisive strategic advantage, etc. I created two short stories:

I don't think either will be wining a Hugo, but I quite enjoyed the experience and I do think I gained something valuable from trying to actually visualize and conceive of what dramatic development in AI could look like (even with the entertainment bias I added). I don't think that this type of fiction writing should be compared to rigorous forecasts. They serves a different purpose, and it would be bad if stories, even smart stories, replaced more formalized models. Rather it's a good way to get an intuitive feel for what the models predict. Taking this approach a step further, Daniel Kojokatjlo proposes generating random parameters for a model of technology development, and then post-hoc explaining in fictious prose how that trend happened.

I recommend setting a 60 minute timer and taking a crack at it yourself!