Digitizing the World Will Have Severe Consequences For Both Civil and Defense Professionals
By Brett Daniel Shehadey
Special Contributor for In Homeland Security
Over the next 20 years, the world will come together in a way that many may find sudden and frightening. Even now, we are building the bridge that will connect the Internet to the human and the natural world. The following is a radical interpretation of possible events from a futurist perspective.
The “Internet of things” (talking network devices), Google’s effort to map the millions of miles of roads for use of their autonomous vehicles; the emergence of smarter, capable robots and artificial intelligence and the use of augmented reality are all presently digitizing the world around us and creating a connection between the real world and the digital world.
Understanding this dynamic is essential to all social sectors as it will profoundly influence them all. As of now, there exist distinct but traversable dimensions of the present strategic environment: the natural world, the human world and the machine world.
In each dimension, there are bridges to link them together but the process from human to machine and the natural world to the machine world is rapidly underway. Already, the human has a bridge to the natural world, but increasingly chooses to be more removed from it. A desire that might see a reversal (e.g., non-GMO foods).
Humans also have a bridge to a machine world but even the intelligent machines will soon have their own world in which only they will be able to communicate in directly and interact with exclusively with other intelligent machines. To some extent this exists. The bridges could be sub-realms to the three dimensions of process and activity. Such an exclusive virtual location is already burgeoning as machines bypass human operators and function and communicate with other machines and devices.
A soldier’s gun and BDUs will talk to him in the future (the gun and uniform will talk back with an AI chip).
A farmer will sit inside his smart house and tell his robot farmers what to do (they will more cost effective, accurate, faster, durable and mobile on agricultural terrain than even the workhands before).
The world around us will increasingly come alive. SIRI is only the beginning. Even the walls of the house may talk to us in 50 years and call for emergency services if needed.
Diplomacy should be but is presently on this track; still antiquated by the near avoidance of technology; and with private and defense industry, in full transition. The State Department lacks its own DARPA, for one.
Strategic diplomacy and AI diplomats could discuss the best diplomatic options and outcomes through digital diplomacy gaming but currently this is not a priority. States that do not incorporate a digital diplomatic framework and powerful AI scenario generators and big data may fall behind.
At present, most people are already servants (to use a kinder word) to an artificial human system with many living under too much of the natural sphere in developing countries. That system is increasingly being digitized to include machines that are part of the infrastructure and therefore part of the constraints and enforcement. This will become more complex with the use of more and more AI computers and devices in constant communication.
The human system is really the urbanization process mixed with governance, science, technology and industry. Yet while people are forced to transition from their manual labor jobs, those positions will easily be replaced by robots and machines that can work more efficiently than humanly possible. A small portion of the humans will remain in those industries or professions to oversee and advise those robots and mechanical devices but the larger bulk of the blue collar workers and farmhands worldwide is approaching a state toward eventual but gradual extinction (50 year timeframe).
Homo Moderno is already part of mechanical system that is abstract from nature, noted as the evolution of the human sphere. Yet the near future will make him even more a part of a digital sphere, in terms of a social-cultural system. This will be a highly disruptive and the most difficult time, more consequential than the industrial revolution around the world. The ultimate goal will be for to humans to overcome this position and successfully integrate the three spheres (natural, human and machine) together into one without becoming a component or slave to any of them or polluting the world and themselves out of existence in the process.
In the distant future, perhaps as early as 50 to 100 years from now, the digitization of the world will produce such an extreme competition among peoples around the globe and the intelligent machines within the system that planet earth might eventually develop as many as four distinct intelligent races in the highly competitive running: 1) the human unchanged (which will use external technological devices and less sophisticated AI applications): 2) the GM Human (those genetically engineered humans that are smarter, faster, stronger and others; whose offspring will carry the altered genes of the biological parents or be grown in labs); 3) the cyborg (a race of human-machine hybrids that will rally together as a distinct race with implants and implant or carrier electronic interfaces into their offspring); and lastly 4) the intelligent machines (capable of sentience or near sentience and will consist of massive varieties).
A fifth might include a portion of intelligent machines as insects and nano-machines that reach a tipping. A further time-frame might include a mixed race of all the above elements.
Sound too futuristic? As far-fetched as this is, once should note that the Office of Naval Research is currently looking into “ethical” AI programming to avoid worst case scenarios presented in science fiction over the last century. The grant is for $7.5 million dollars presently.
But the above is not a worst case scenario necessarily as much as it is one likely outcome of the present digitization of the natural and human environment and a striving to counter and balance intelligence but results in the creation of radical human transformation.
All the races above would be unique in their own way. They will have emerged out of the natural sphere, to the human sphere and likely meet in the digital sphere of a future world. So, the key will be to strategically control the virtual space because everything will depend on it.
The machines will naturally have the initial advantage but will require things or tasks that they lack and are not proficient in. The future races will be driven by mankind’s need to compete in various fields open to them which now include powerful mobile technologies, biotechnology and artificial intelligence. The outcome of having multiple dimensions in the strategic future environment as well as four distinct intelligent races will result in conflict and cooperation alike. It will likely not be man versus machine but nations with the above make up or adopting a particular evolution for competition.
It is unlikely that only one intelligent species will be added to company the human race and even cyborgs and GM humans emerge in response to a rise of intelligent machines and a digitized global world in separate paths. These technological enhancements will alter their classification with competing resources of nations, wars, and as the capability becomes more available to them for adoption and the temptation too great to ignore. Again, it is unlikely that these races will initially feel separated but will at some point choose to identify themselves with their own group and compete with the others to their survival, acceptance and maximum advantage.
But even if this takes place 50 years or more in the future, there is hope that they will reach a state of tolerance, acceptance and cooperation as they eventually specialize into something stable and productive as they settle to find their place in a multi-tiered world. The alternatives being they all find themselves extinct, there are some races destroyed, only one survives or all merge into one.
Some might find themselves more inclined to be accepted by one race more than the other (e.g. cyborgs by machines or GM humans with humans). Eventually, normal humans as they are known today might by large disappear if such a biotechnology and cybernetic implants races are needed in the immediate survival in a digitized world.
When it finally happens, it may also happen fast. Techies call this hypothetical even the “singularity.” It is a movement in time that sparks an artificial intelligence superior to human beings; although it does not have to be superior to be a classified as an “intelligence.”
The Singularity is foreseeable but a gradual singularity that involves counterbalance tendencies wired into the natural fabric of the human being is just as likely to spawn a human engineered evolution of our biology to keep up, if needed. Humans are already obsolete for so many complex things but they will always be extremely relevant for imagination and innovation, among others and human modification will likely be the effort to preserve the race will in the end destroy it or create more races from it in the process to compete and as well as function with the purely artificial and intelligent.
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