I am writing this in Mac OS X, having momentarily given up getting Linux satisfactorily configured on my laptop. So, in the spirit of escapist fantasy and cracking nuts using sledgehammers, I am going to write about what a world with strong AI would be like. Warning: I am in a very lazy, rambling mood.
Say we get strong AI. This means we understand intelligence sufficiently to be able to replicate it digitally. We’re going to completely ignore any potential speed advantages: pretend that this new strong AI has exactly the same effective intelligence as a normal human when running on conventional hardware. However, like everything digital, intelligence is now repeatable, shareable, and mixable.
What does repeatable, shareable, mixable intelligence mean? Basically, it will be the end of experts. If you’ve spent years accumulated specialized knowledge and skills, anyone else can absorb these skills in a tiny fraction of the time. Sure, they need your permission, but presumably you aren’t the only expert in your field, and someone else will be more than willing to give away their skills (either free or for a price). There are privacy and security concerns, but these are resolvable: we need a few seed experts willing to forgo all privacy to build a reasonably secure AI simulation platform, which can then bootstrap into safely simulating even more experts. The seed experts will either plentiful or spectacular heroes, so there should be no difficulty finding them.
Initially the simulated experts might be only consultants in boxes, available to anyone to ask questions but not directly integrated into one’s consciousness. However, that won’t last: digital intelligence is easy to experiment on, and we’ll quickly get better at sandboxing and separating out the knowledge and expertise we want and integrating it into other minds. The risks involved are fairly small: if you need to combine your expertise with several different kinds to solve some task, just put the combination behind a firewall and inspect the results carefully. Yes, some people will balk at simulating and then destroying copies of their own minds; these people are going to have trouble competing.
What does the world look like without experts? Here are a few examples:
Why take what politicians say on faith when you can simply copy a policy expert, merge with them, and check? Sure, some people will refuse to think reasonably even if it takes no effort; these people will be a tiny, irrelevant minority. The vast majority of voters will simply ignore anyone who doesn’t share the reasons behind their political statements. The idea of representative democracy starts to look a bit silly when the voters know just as much as the representatives, and liquid democracy (or something better) is easy if everyone has optional expertise in game theory and security.
Privacy and security
Secure communication is already possible if you have the relevant expertise. So now it is easy for everyone. If you don’t want to think about it, just buy an extra computer and simulate you plus security expert checking all of your Facebook posts. This makes the NSA’s job impossible: now all the terrorists are security experts too. Luckily, every average citizen is suddenly an optional expert in counterterrorism (not to mention probably backed up, which makes terrorism fairly difficult).
To end the bickering between people building system software in C and functional language theorem proving advocates, someone breaks down and simulates a million aggregate years of combined hardware hacker / systems programmer / formal methods / mathematician time and produces a proof that a (slightly modified) Linux system is correct. It is suddenly very difficult to get anyone to download software which doesn’t have some level of safety proof; all legacy software is relegated to formally checked sandboxes. All new low level code now comes with matching high level code, plus a proof (courtesy of a constructive logic expert if necessary) that they do the same thing. Parallelism bugs go away, and all new parallel hardware comes complete with simulatable parallel hardware optimization expert (you only need one!). There is no longer any reason why Linux trackpad support needs to be so inferior to OS X.
The concept of “automated” starts to blur, is it a self driving car if you are simulating a widely shared driving expert with part of your mind? Is it is an automated factory if the automation is a thousand copies of one guy pumped full of simulated anti-boredom drugs?
Entrepreneurs no longer need to assemble a team of expert employees to get work done, and the employees are expert entrepreneurs anyways. Thus, reasons for different people to work together boil down to either fun or resource sharing (everyone is now an expert capitalist).
I’m going to end the post here, since I really have no idea what such a world would be like (other than fun!), and have satisfied my desire for rambling. I’m fairly confident we’ll get there as long as climate change and energy shortages don’t destroy us, so here’s hoping.