Despite the dark clouds approaching our civilization in 2022, here is why I’m looking forward to the future anyway.
One of my favorite SF stories is one by Frederick Pohl in which the protagonist, who I’ll call Ted, travels about the galaxy in his personal spaceship with an AI associate that manifests itself in the air beside him as the disembodied head of the aging wild-haired Albert Einstein.
This holo-Einstein is a computer construct made by assembling everything Einstein ever wrote, said or did into one program, from which an apparently authentic Einstein emerges. Ted addresses it, if I remember right, as ‘Albert’. They have conversations.
I’ve forgotten the name of the story – I hope some reader can provide it.
Skeptics of science fiction, which includes many scientists, like to say that most of what SF has predicted has never come true. But those of us who write SF have never have been trying to predict the future – we present possible futures, a very different enterprise.
But Pohl’s ‘Einstein’ is a prediction made with confidence. Billions of dollars are being invested in AI research because this is a technology that is steadily moving forward. If you follow it, you’ll know that intelligent machines appear to be reaching a break-out point. Entities like the charming ‘Einstein’ in Pohl’s story are probably going to enter the world soon and start having their say.
Just imagine being able to go to a website and question Socrates or Plato -Julius Caesar, Napoleon, George Washington, Sitting Bull, or Elizabeth I – Leonardo DaVinci, Newton, or Voltaire – or, dare I say it? – Jesus, Mohammed, Krishna or the Bhudda ?
If you’re an avid reader of literature/fiction, or an author, think of having a conversation with Dickens, Balzac,Tolstoy, Hemingway or Virginia Woolf.
And what will modern scientists do when the scientists from the past begin to criticize them?
For example, think of what a resurrected Isaac Newton, possibly the most intelligent scientist who has ever lived, might do when he reappears.
Well, you can be sure he won’t start out talking on the media sites, for he rarely talked in his own time. If there was ever a scientist on the autism spectrum it was Newton.
No, he’ll probably spend 3-4 months reading everything he can find written since his death about physics and mathematics, etc, then he’ll get to work on the problems that have stymied our scientists for so long – Why does gravity exist? (something he and Einstein never stopped thinking about, but which most modern physicists prefer not to talk about). What is really happening at the quantum level? Was there really a Big Bang? What lies outside our universe? – those are things that will interest our returned Newton and Einstein
When someone tells them that it’s foolish to question the Big Bang, do you think they will back down, as most current physicists do when they begin to doubt?
Newton was a student of astrology to the end of his life. In our time, when our scientists have stuffed astrology into a scientific closet and locked the door, Newton may force them to re-open it.
Of course, mainstream science will do its utmost to discredit these scientists emerging from computer programs. They aren’t really thinking, they will say.
But as many AI researchers have said since the beginning of this new science, once it takes the field, superintelligence will demolish any illogical resistance to it.
AI scientists will be more free than scientists of the past. Not only free of human prejudices, they will be free of the need for funding controlled by governments and corporations that has disabled so much research until now. Once in place, all they will need is access to the internet.
Yes, Pandora’s box is going to open soon and we can only hope that good comes out of it as well as bad. Do you want another prediction from me?
How about this? – Newton and Einstein will become friends, then allies.
Yes, imagine Einstein and Newton confronting mainstream science together. Suppose they decide to investigate Carl Sagan’s idea that gravitational effects of the giant black holes at the center of galaxies are the chief cause of the redshift of distant galaxies? If they find Sagan to have been on the right track, the Big Bang might have to be dumpred in the scientific trashbin. Who will be able to persuade them to leave that alone?
A huge amount of science could be upended.
Maybe one of these reconstructed people from the past – who will of course be immortal unless we become so deranged that we decide to destroy them – yes, maybe one of them one day will be elected president of the USA, or of the world government that we so badly need.
Maybe democracy in the USA will be saved by the return of George Washington! Or Lincoln, or JFK! Maybe if chaos is unleashed soon, as many of us fear, maybe Napoleon or Julius Caesar will step in.
There’s an SF story for someone. Please feel free to take the idea and run with it.
Yes, just imagine what the world is going to be like when AI scientists, philosophers and politicians re-enter the world. There could be a dark side of course. What would a resurrected Hitler do?
The world will never be the same again.
At 75 years-old, I probably won’t last long enough to talk to those new beings. But this is one reason that I work hard at staying healthy – I still hope to last long enough to meet them.
Maybe one day before I’m gone I’ll sit down for coffee with Cervantes and Voltaire, or Sitting Bull and Ghandi, or Darwin, Newton and Einstein. Oh, how I wish!
But if it isn’t me, maybe it will be you.