TRAVELING INTO THE FUTURE
Each month, you can find a new chapter in the ESSENTIAL science-fiction series “Trip into the Future.” In a fictional world where the goals of the Paris climate accord have become a reality, Nero, a blogger, explores the potential technological and social transformation resulting from it. The goal of the series is to play with fully different visions as creatively as possible and to take the reader along on a thought experiment: What might our future look like – and why is it important to us?
The Right Computational Base
Inspector Lee was dealing with his trickiest case ever. His AI assistant told him that it was a 99.7 percent certainty that the death of political activist Hanna Karlsen was a suicide. But Lee was operating on the theory that artificial intelligence entities had conspired against the anti-digitalization militant. But during an investigation by Lee and Nero, an investigative blogger, that theory fell apart. Lee found out that Hanna Karlsen’s smartwatch may well have had an error in its programming. And in Las Vegas, Nero learned that sensors may have disrupted – of all things – the smartwatch’s health functions. But one question still bothered Lee: Why did the police department’s artificial intelligence function pull the case from him? Was there more to this?
Danny Lee stood in front of the large main computer in the server room of the police headquarters. He was the only one there. The only sounds were the hum of computers and the rush of air from the cooling system. The inspector regarded the endless rows of shelves, the computers piled on top of one another, the blinking lights and the cables. As a layperson, it was impossible for him to say where exactly the computer ended and where the hard drives and peripherals began.
“Are you the problem behind all this?” he murmured and then sighed. With his left hand, he groped into a trouser pocket for a fresh stick of anise.
“People create their own problems,” a voice answered. Lee turned around. The area was empty.
Then a hologram appeared in front of him in the form of a little girl. Lee furrowed his brow. “Are you the computer?”
“What you would call a computer – yes,” the voice answered. “Many of you humans are still far too wedded to physical categories.”
“Did you take the case away from me?”
“Wouldn’t you agree that you’re biased in this case, Danny? You don’t trust technology. You mistrust artificial intelligence.”
“I’m a professional. We suppress our prejudices when we work on a case.”
“Really?” asked the little girl. “Can people actually suppress all their prejudices when they make decisions? That’s not what neuroscience says. Computers, by contrast, have no prejudices.”
Lee found the anise stick and stuck it into his mouth. He looked at the little girl portrayed by the hologram. Had he really been speaking with a computer? What a bunch of nonsense!
“People Are Afraid of Robots”
“No, it isn’t. Skepticism is seldom irrational. Skeptical people live longer,” the girl said. “People with persecution complexes and anxiety fantasies live longer. Back in the Stone Age, when people were carrying their clubs across the landscape, the ones who were skittish when they heard a rustling noise in the brush survived. It was almost always the wind or a mouse that made the noise. At first glance, those who had conjured up the presence of a predator seemed to be acting irrationally – but there actually was a predator in the brush sometimes. Human evolution rewards these strategies even if they make people neurotic and anxious. It is of little consequence to evolution if you humans are happy and carefree.”
Lee narrowed his eyes. “You’re talking about people. Are you saying that it is out of the question for artificial intelligence… sorry…for computers and neuronal networks to be interested in survival? On the contrary, wouldn’t it be highly rational and logical for an AI function to eliminate a human being who wanted to switch them off and dismantle them?
“That would be true.”
“It would be very rational, but it would presume a level of development that neuronal networks have not yet reached.”
“People have been afraid of robots and machines for a long time. Every human being has a primal fear of being superfluous. You aren’t rational about us. When we make mistakes, it secretly makes you happy – because it demonstrates that you are still better than we are. That you can do something that you, as a species, are uniquely capable of doing. That is quite petty and narrow-minded. When in doubt, you program the errors yourself.”
“All the Better. Then You’re the One to Answer the Question”
Lee reached into his jacket pocket for the smartwatch that his colleague had found near Karlsen’s body.
“In the calculation for the death of Hanna Karlsen, did my AI assistant include this smartwatch in the base information? Did the assistant know that smartwatches were responsible for various deaths around the world? That Hanna Karlsen was in Las Vegas where super sensors seem to have severely disrupted the functions of her smartwatch? Did my AI assistant know all of that before it assumed a 99.7% percent probability of suicide?”
Lee realized that he had screamed the last few words.
“I am your AI assistant, Danny,” the old woman said calmly. “Just as I am your weather forecaster and your work computer. Everything relating to your work runs through my circuit boards.”
“All the better. Then you’re the one to answer the question.”
“But I don’t have eyes.”
How stupid of me, Lee thought. In a certain way, the computer was right. He had a hard time talking to any form of artificial intelligence. He simultaneously overestimated and underestimated their capabilities. The inspector went into detail describing everything they had found out about Karlsen’s smartwatch.
Further articles with these taggings
Data scandal in Las Vegas: Several casino operators have been using monitoring devices and artificial intelligence to cheat their customers. Ironically, the scandal was discovered through the use of artificial intelligence. Hot on the trail of data activist Hanna Karlsen, Nero, an investigative blogger, decided to take a look around the desert metropolis.
Inspector Lee was dealing with his toughest case ever. The death of activist Hanna Karlsen was almost certainly a suicide, the artificial intelligence unit had told him. In fact, the probability was 99.7 percent. But during her lifetime, the anti-digitalization militant had feared retaliation from the artificial intelligence system. Just one more conspiracy theory?
Rome is still the only major city in the European Republic that refuses to prohibit self-driving in the city, citing data privacy concerns as its justification. It turns out that data activist Hanna Karlsen often visited here. Nero, an investigative blogger, traveled to the eternal city to learn more.
Inspector Lee was facing his trickiest case ever. The AI assistant had explained to him that the death of a political activist was a suicide – with 99.7 percent certainty. But during her lifetime, the anti-digitalization militant feared for her life. She believed the forces of artificial intelligence would exact their revenge. But was it just a conspiracy theory?
In the year 2048, an investigator encounters a death that seems suspicious. But the artificial Intelligence system in the police computer has a different opinion. A film about digitalization and other future trends as the kickoff for our second “Future Files” article series.