Today I’m going to take you on a trip into a darker future, and one that is not related to the coming Oil Crisis, but could be seen as a prequel to it. THIS IS A RADICAL VIEW taken from some of the designers of the AI revolution based in Silicon Valley. I need you to note that this is a flight of fancy, so although it might happen (and many in Silicon Valley think so) this is not a prediction of the future. AI might turn out to be quite benevolent and most people might just adapt. However, it’s worth noting that if the worst happens owning micro-renewable energy will be one of many commodities worth having.
What is AI? What are the different types?
Many people misinterpret Artificial Intelligence or AI as something that will replace humans on planet earth. That is after all, according to some science writers the goal of AI programmers. They don’t want to make something just intelligent. Instead they want it to become superior to humans, even mould with their existing brains in some kind of Kurzweil Singularity.
However, no AI currently has self-awareness in the sense that we have it. Self-learning AI is currently confined to code that can learn from its mistakes, thus carry out routine sets of operations, instructions, based largely on what it has learned. It is totally unaware that it exists, how it is provided with energy, has limited mobility, and cannot self-replicate in the way humans do. It may give the appearance of consciousness, but has I believe a fundamental difference with even the most uneducated human adult mind: it doesn’t have any self-aware emotions, imagination or the ability to worry about its death, as humans do.
Another version is AGI – Artificial General Intelligence – which is a lot more scary if it could be housed body like structures that were biological in nature and reproduced. Then there is the possibility of linking the AGI to a Super-Intelligent AI, or even Mega-Intelligent AI, which could act as a central hub or controller. Skynet was an example of that in the Terminator series.
There’s even a version where humans upload their minds to computers (though note that these are mere copies and would never be the actual person) hopefully with their evil passions missing, that could provide Mega-Intelligent AI with imagination and perhaps self-awareness? I doubt it will ever happen because the human brain is too complex to reconstruct artificially. There’s a neural network computing limit to what we can do against 2.5 million years of evolution and natural selection.
For now we’ll focus on the basic AI that will be available and operating within this century. That means AI that is capable of learning, but also very good at repetitive tasks. Some of this already exists.
How does Artificial Intelligence Learn things?
Briefly and very simply, AI that can self-learn uses sets of inputs that are fed into an AI black box of tricks and this provides outputs. The AI black box of tricks is merely code that is called a Perceptron. The Perceptron is like a matrix in maths where each input is multiplied by a weighted value and then summed to produce the output. To this is added a feedback mechanism that adjusts the weighted values in the Perceptron.
AI can be seen as analogous to a very simplistic version of how creatures might learn to walk, run or fly. Through the mechanism of feedbacks, reward or punishments in the form of pain or food, young mammals often learn to walk or fly by trial and error. When they fall over or land heavily the pain helps them to adjust and avoid doing a similar thing again. Success helps them find food, so they receive a reward. In the AI case this would be akin to adjusting the weighted value due to a feedback loop after the output has failed to achieve its goal. Thus after a while the Perceptron learns via adjustments to its weighted values from its mistakes, obtains rewards from its successes, and slowly learns what to do given a set of inputs.
However, you must note here that basic AI is quite dumb compared with even the most simplest of brains. A bird’s brain is highly specialised for flight, finding food, raising its young, and demonstrates levels of emotion we don’t always recognise. Whether creatures other than ourselves are fully self-aware is often debateable, but whatever the case, AI is well below the overall intelligence of a sparrow. It can outdo humans when given repetitive or complex mathematical type tasks that we find complicated or boring, but that’s about it. Ask it to do something different and it is stumped. It’s not got ‘general intelligence’ like sparrows or humans. Some new AI robots have been designed to provide personalities and the ability to mimic human responses. However, this is just like comparing an Olympic swimmer with a toddler paddling for the first time. They are just not on the same level.
If we ever manage to provide it with general intelligence it will be I think very far in the future. This will be difficult to achieve because our civilization is running out of resources and so may collapse long before we discover how to mimic self-awareness and compress energy in the same way biology does: where a mere 20 Watts of power provides us with the ability to imagine and invent a mobile phone or build a rocket to set foot on the Moon.
AI – What will be its impact and when?
AI is going to change civilization because it is likely to undermine the need for certain jobs people currently get paid for. This is rather like barge workers losing their jobs as barges gave way to railways, or the hand-loom weavers that lost out to industrial weaving factories in the 19th century. This first happened in Great Britain during the Industrial Revolution. The displacement from countryside to cities is what makes Britain stand out in the world as the first industrial power on earth. It is not surprising that it required and eventually after Trafalgar acquired total naval supremacy, along with a massive empire the world had never seen before. However, what made it stand out was its ability to operate free trade or protectionist trade as and when required.
These 19th century jobs losses were a relatively slow event though even at the time there were riots, but AI might happen in a much shorter time! Fast changes over a wide sector might create more than just a riot, but instead huge political and social change, or even revolution.
A study by Oxford University in 2017 studied 700 occupations. Around 47% of the US workforce were at risk of losing their occupation as Big Data and AI became able to effectively automate their work! Around 12 listed below had a 99% chance of being automated due to their repetitive nature:-
- Title Examiners, Abstractors and Searchers
- Data Entry keyers
- Library technicians
- New Accounts clerks
- Tax preparers
- Cargo and Freight Agents
- Watch repairers
- Insurance Underwriters
- Mathematical Technicians
- Hand sewers
During the latter half of the 20th century and the early part of the 21st century, former industrial nations like Great Britain and the USA lost out to competition from cheap labour from Japan, China, Malaysia, Taiwan and India. This ended much of British heavy industry. The US followed as manufacturers sought to maximise profits with little care for the communities that had built the corporate empires. This hit the working class in Britain or the Middle Class in America. It particularly hit the men who did jobs that required few skills but a lot of muscle. However, we now face the next classes up facing a similar challenge.
Women have obtained many equal rights since the end of World War II, the chief change in their lives was the freedom and ability to work. Offices are now crammed full of female workers, often paid less for the same job (unfairly). It is not surprising then that if you double your available workforce over 70 years, you will encourage companies to provide lower overall wages for every employee (after taking into consideration inflation) and pay their executives vast sums based on ‘talent’ or some equally un-measurable metric. AI is about to change this. AI will eliminate the need for many office workers. Computers have already destroyed the secretarial sector. Once we no longer need data input, accounts clerks and telemarketers (call centres) women will quickly become obsolete in the office workforce unless they are computer programmers or highly creative!
Unlike the oil crisis which is 50 years off, with some problems probably felt due to futures trading in the next 20 years, AI is likely to start to have an impact on all of us over the next 25 years. Estimates vary on how far it will go. The jobs above are the ones most at risk but all kinds of repetitive work effectively will disappear.
In a world where robots do the factory work, all was well. We could get them to assemble motor cars as long as we fed them with the parts. A few jobs were lost, but there were still fitters and specialists who were required. Very soon AI will assist the spread of automation everywhere, and these factory workers will find themselves obsolete.
The office accountants (‘bean counters’) won’t enjoy it one little bit; after all who needs an accountant when tax is taken care of by computer systems that share data for all transactions? AI running Blockchain eliminates the need for accountants. If you are a bean counter then get ready in the next 30 years to start counting real beans, like those you have on toast!
The internet is already putting hard copy newspapers out of work and with them a decline in reliable journalism is following, to the point where politicians can simply call their journalist enemies: ‘fake news’. Journalists are comparatively lucky, because some are creative enough to survive the worst impacts of AI, though whether they survive the death of truth in journalism is another matter!
Compare them with Customer Service people: who will need Customer Service or Software Specialists who provide help over the phone if AI can solve your problem remotely? You just link your computer to it, and it repairs the fault whilst you sip your dry martini, shaken but not stirred by the thought of your next assignment, if you have one.
Driverless vehicles, trains, shipping and aircraft are surely the future of all transport. Humans in the face of AI are unreliable, passionate souls, too busy dreaming emotional thoughts than focusing on the road or rail track ahead. The AI Driver never gets bored, never spots an attractive human to be distracted by, doesn’t require sleep-breaks or rest at night. AI drivers are difficult to sue if they run you over! Taxi drivers beware, Uber won’t be your biggest threat in the next 25 years. Self driving taxis will put you out of business, unless you own one.
Not even the construction industry will remain immune, once AI links with nano-technology and heavy duty robotics. Then we will invent machines that will build houses in a few days using chemicals delivered by driverless trucks. Who will require a builder when a Big Robo-Builder and a team of smaller robo-carpenters, electricians and plumbers can construct it, working day and night to get the job done?
Of course the worst fear is that AI will take over the military. Who will need soldiers, sailors and airmen, or even Generals? Battle tanks and aircraft can be manufactured in a way that require no living crews, operated remotely by AI, and repaired by other robot vehicles. Drones are already fighting our battles. Soon their controllers in bases thousands of miles away will be replaced by AI systems, that will choose their own targets and kill using the execute code of a learned procedure. The code will look something like: Execute command If A = “ISIS member facially recognised by our FBI database” then “Target acquired, fire-1, fire-2” checkif Target = deceased, if not, re-run execute command.
Let’s face it, a time could be coming when 50% of people will be unemployed, and unable to find any work at all because computers, robots and other technology have effectively made those jobs superflous to economic demand. That’s the problem facing us in the first quarter of the 21st century at least and perhaps beyond that.
What’s going to happen if everyone loses their job?
We all hope that new jobs must be created once old ones die. We might not know right now what they are, because unless a new kind of welfare state is invented, unemployment is going to skyrocket, followed by drug abuse, alcholism, homelessness and starvation. Eventually we’ll get to point where the middle and upper classes are affected and then we can watch the masses unite behind new popular leaders. In the UK it might take the form of hanging the monarchy, their children, and all their relatives, who currently live largely off lands stolen from the people by their greedy, rapacious and immoral ancestors. In America we might see a second American Revolution, with armies from different areas led by break away generals fighting to take control. Perhaps the ‘South’ will rise again?
Let’s assume that New Jobs are created, what will they be?
Before we can fully understand this we need to consider how jobs are created. They are always related to ‘demand’ for a service to be performed. People buy products as a result of human labour. People buy other people’s services in the form of skills or abilities. People who have or can raise capital buy people’s time to carry out tasks to obtain a profit and thus a living. Wealth gets shared out, unequally, and the system is self-perpetuating until demand falls to a point where it is no longer profitable to carry on. (This might sound obvious but to many in local government, housing corporations, and other government or pseudo government bodies I’ve come across, man believe that cashflow is king, and they ignore profit!? I know it sounds banannas but this is true!)
Robotic AI can simply replace humans in many jobs. Now those with extra capital can avoid paying wages, worrying if their female data clerk is going to get pregnant and take time off. Instead AI will always be there, just doing its job 24-7. When I shop I often can just use the Self-Service till. It doesn’t ask me if I had a nice day forcing me to often lie, and I don’t need to thank it when I walk out. I can insult it and it won’t get offended. Also it doesn’t sneeze on me and give me influenza.
It gets worse! What we need might be replaced by what he robots require! That sounds menacing but actually it isn’t. Let me explain.
If you want to build lots of robots, AI computerised systems and such like, we will require lots of resources. The problem is many key resources are peaking already. We will need to become creative to access them, especially those that are Rare Earth Elements.
There are two places humans haven’t yet fully exploited. Both humans civilizations are already polluting with debris from the take, make and throw-away economics they practise. They are relatively untouched in terms of resource use! These are outer space and the oceans.
We know more about outer space than we know about the ocean from a scientific point of view. We now know our oil industry has polluted our oceans with fossil fuels, warmed it up and we’re in the process of using that oil to make plastic and pollute it with fibres, lines and rubbish, that can last hundreds of years. This plastic debris is entering the food chain. This might lead to more cancers and unheard of diseases in all life forms, including humans. Plastic pollution is a major problem and its not going to be solve by banning it by 2040. However, as AI grows, the computers that make it possible need Rare Earth Elements.
As these resources reduce in quantity in the easy places we find them on land, the deep sea and ocean will become a place where miners go to harvest them. Engineers will therefore become Marine Engineers and technicians. However, in theory AI robots can replace virtually every other job you can imagine. Eventually robots controlled from onshore, including other robots to carry out repairs, will become the norm. A whole new industry that might utilise geo-thermal energy from under the ocean to operate will be deep sea mining robots. The same will happen in outer space as we look at the possibility of utilising passing asteroids to find new materials.
It is also highly likely that the ocean might also be used to grow food on an industrial scale in its depths. Robotic AI Ocean farming is going to revolutionise the future food supply system. This will put more pressure on farmers and farm labourers, who won’t be required once this establishes itself.
Specialist jobs in AI and robotics won’t be any good for 96% of the world though, because most people are not engineers or scientists, pilots or mechanics, technicians or such-like. Instead industries where repetition or creativity will flourish. These would include sectors such as art, design, fashion, writing, entertainment. Again this is not what most people do today.
In the USA in 1978 the most common jobs were truck driver along with Secretaries and Machine Operators. In 2014 it was mainly truck drivers, with Secretaries out of work due to the rise of the personal computer and machine operators made redundant by robotics and the growth of cheap Chinese and India labour.
The writing is on the wall. If such huge changes occurred in just 36 years, think about what self driving vehicles is going to do to unemployment in the USA in the next 30.
Will Politicians will Stop the March of AI?
Perhaps politicians might tax companies that use AI rather than human employees as a means to suppress the unemployment. That might even work, but it won’t please owners or shareholders who want to reduce wages and increase profits. After all, wages cut into profits. As a ‘Rule’, the shareholder is king, and those that resist the shareholders, are usually quickly bribed, eliminated or ignored. That is how corporate liberal democracies work.
Very few times in history have we seen a departure from this particular Rule. When those departures occurred they were costly, very costly, both in terms of money and lives. One example would be the abolishen of slavery in Great Britain in the early 1800s. It would take the America a horribly cruel Civil War half a century later to do the same.
In Britain the government gave the slaveowners compensation; in America they invaded them and took away their freedom to own slaves, and gave the slaves their freedom. The American Southern States or Confederacy was known as the ‘South’. The ‘South’ is now a civilization ‘gone with the wind’ and its echoes reverberate down time, due to the brutal nature of both American slavery and the Civil War.
Meanwhile the British ex-slaveowners invested their money in technologies like steam engines, coal, mining, ship building and this is what created the First Industrial Revolution. That led ultimately to the slaughter on the Somme, Verdun and Passchendaele in the War to End all Wars: the Great War of 1914 – 1918. Modern history can be dated to 1914 in a way, because all subsequent 20th century conflicts had their roots in that lost summer of 1914. Would Adolf Hitler have been elected to rule Germany if it was not for the Versailles Treaty, the 1923 Hyperinflation and the 1929 global economic recession due to the Walls Street crash? Would Japan have been interested in invading large areas of China in the interwar years if it were not for the Treaty of Versailles regarding Chinese territory captured by them from Imperial Germany and the failure to provide the Japanese with a ‘racial equality clause’?
Thus we can see from these examples, history teaches us that any type of radical departure from the general rule, can lead to huge changes across history. In this case, what is a ‘good thing’ to do, like providing ‘freedom’ to slaves, has long-term and lasting consequences to everyone.
What are the Inventors and Billionaires planning if AI creates Mass Unemployment and Civil chaos?
If you cannot trust politicians and corporations to save your job from becoming obsolete, what can you do? What happens if civilization fails to adjust to the loss of jobs? Very wealthy people who work in Silicon Valley are worried enough to become part of the prepping movement. Once a fringe activity for those who thought we might die off due to pandemic, nuclear war, asteroid strike, supervolcano explosion and ultimately the collapse of civilization as we know it, Silicon Valley Preppers are growing in number, concerned that their own invention: AI, will create mass unemployment, a gap between the very rich and the very poor, and ultimately chaos, disorder and revolution! Recently the BBC did a programme about AI. One expert in AI who was interviewed said that in the future the only currency would be ammunition! He had a solar panel, a tippee and a place to hide in the woods! He suggested he wasn’t alone! He was right.
Antonio Garcia-Martinez, a former Facebook Product Manager, back in 2016 bought 5 acres of land on an island between Seattle and Vancouver, where he installed Solar panels, generators and stock pile thousands of rounds of ammunition. He’s got a well and water pressure pumps. According to Martinez ‘A lot of techies are thinking, “Wow, there are some dramatic economic and technological changes coming to society, that I don’t think most people realise, but we do”….”Automation and AI are going to make it such that close to half of American jobs won’t exist in 20 to 30 years.”
With that kind of pace, everyone who understands what history teaches us, is predicting massive social unrest. People with vast amounts of money will always want to live as long as possible in as much comfort as they can afford. Many are already purchasing luxury bunkers, some like Survival Condos Project which cost $4m to own. To a billionaire that’s nothing. It is rumoured that many billionaires are utilising or building bunkers to survive a future collapse of civilization from a combination of factors one of which is the impact of AI on job losses across the USA.
Why are they so worried? Is it just AI that’s the problem?
America is already ungoing what I call the resource loss prequel to these events. This combined with poverty largely created by over population and under employment for many, due to corporations exploiting cheap foreign labour is leading to what is called Economic Stratification. In 1980 the top 1% earned 27 times the bottom 50% of adults; in 2017, they earn 81 times. The mega-rich live in palaces, own golf-courses and skyscrapers. Meanwhile there are growing numbers living in tents. Huge tent cities are forming in places like San Francisco as property prices are beyond most people’s pockets. People tend to believe that these problems are caused by Washington’s government. They want to ‘drain the swamp’. They think the government is the problem. However, whilst no doubt it is inefficient, I would suggest there’s more to this than just government. The root cause is the slow decline of cheap resources globally. This is due to rising costs to extract them from ever deeper seams.
Slowly we see the rise of the political backlash which cannot solve the resource crisis. It has started with old men like Bernie Sanders, who is essentially someone who wishes to redress a balance that politicians can never have any control over. Whilst Sanders is essentially a very mild socialist (in the European sense of the word rather than in the negative US interpretation) Donald J Trump is a radical, right-wing populist. The solution to his eyes was not socialism but Protectionism. His policies are back firing on his own voters, as many Mid-West farmers reap the effect of retaliatory tariff barriers on their produce around the world, causing a collapse in prices!
Let’s me tell you a frightening truth: there is NO solution to more expensive resources, until AI robots take over and start to harvest them from oceans and outer space.
Assuming the worst happens, what should I do to Survive the coming AI driven Chaos?
The worst thing that could happen is a mass revolt due to a lack of jobs, money, housing and food, that hits all classes, except the mega rich. Cities are going to be where the most violent conflicts will be fought. You’ve seen Syria on the news, so you’ll know what happens when any nation splits up into heavily armed factions.
If you are Unprepared
If you are unprepared then quickly leave the city. Find a remote place to go that has water and animals to hunt. Avoid towns if you can, as it won’t be much better there either.
If you are already in a rural area and own a farm, you won’t be able to rely on power from the grid. People who cannot afford food won’t be paying for electricity. This is where renewable energy like wind, water and solar power will be handy. Your biggest problem though is yet to come.
The city people won’t stay in their cities during times of famine. They will probably want your food, so grow enough to supply yourself and store enough to satisfy an angry mob, even if this means taking a loss. Better to compromise at first, and fight later. This is similar to the farm invasions that occurred in 1923 Germany during their period of hyperinflation. Farmers were often confronted by angry mobs, desperate for food. You don’t want to be involved in that in the USA, where every one can obtain a gun.
How to Prepare
However, you could prepare well ahead of time whilst civlization is still intact and operating relatively normally. There are some general rules to being a survivor in a period of social unrest:-
Find an Easily Defensible Location – If you want to survive the chaos you have to be prepared. Being prepared is all about being able to find a secure piece of territory that you can defend, or you are unlikely to be found in.
The Location must have fresh, clean water – Don’t choose a spot without water. You need it everyday. Make sure its clean, and unlikely to be contaminated if say a damn gets blown up a chemical or oil plant shuts down.
Food – if you don’t prepare to live out here for at least 10 years, there’s no point in doing this at all. Food is like water a necessity. Stockpile cans of food and grow your own.
Guns, Ammunition & Military Training – if you want to be able to defend you and yours you will need to be well trained and know how to use weapons. This is something you can learn now. You should consider stockpiling plenty of ammunition and spare parts for your weapons.
Underground Bunkers are best – if you have the ability to obtain this, you are going to be a lot more secure at night. However, if you cannot do this then don’t build your fort out of wood. It’s got to be hardened concrete.
Plan a line of retreat and fall back plans – if your first location is compromised you will need to be able to retreat to another. You will need a plan to do this and a plan if both locations become invaded. You might need to become mobile.
Going Mobile – in the worst case scenario you will require an armoured vehicle. These are vital to surviving if your location and your fall back location are compromised.
Utilise Micro-Renewable Energy – ideally you will choose a location that has fast flowing stream of fresh water for supplies. This means you can use a micro-hydro or small scale hydro turbine to generate your electricity all year around. If this is beyond your budget, then solar panels, both fixed and mobile versions will be very useful. Small wind turbines, especially if portable (and foldable) are an ideal source of power if your location is regularly windy. However, if you don’t at least understand the theory of how these can be optimised you won’t be able to use them effectively. Understanding this technology before getting involved in the practical use of it, is a must have. It’s nearly as important as military training in helping you survive.
Learn to hunt and fish – if you don’t know how to kill a wild animal, gut it, and utilise its nutrients, then you are going to die. Learn to hunt. Fishing is a must if you’re near a fresh water lake or stream. Fish is a good source of food. Just look out for wild bears as they love fishing as well.
Numbers – Let’s face it, if you can recruit others to join you, you will be better protected. However, don’t use Facebook or similar to find groups online. Best to stick to people you trust and that you can rely on. If you are ex-military, find your ex-servicemen and women buddies and try to get them involved.
Don’t use Mobile Phones or the Internet – The internet is great, but using it will quickly allow enemies to track your location. These enemies you won’t even know are enemies. They might be government forces who think your group are a threat; or they might be people after resources who want to compete with you. There’s loads of malicious people, so avoiding the internet gets makes you less vulnerable to being tracked.
If you have AI technology – Secure it from the internet and use it to keep your perimeter free from trepassers. Remember, in these circumstances, law and order no-longer exists. Thus there’s no ownership of land. Where you settle or defend is yours. Fight for it tooth and claw. AI might be a good way to defend your perimeter at night.
The Larger Brief: from pre-AI to AI and onto New Energy Economies
We currently live in corporate owned states that have a pretence of democracy. The pretence is that we all get to vote for parties or candidates that represent us. In fact we get to vote only for those that the corporations support.
We all realise the influence of these corporate shadow governments when elected officials and governments ride rough-shod over local communities. For example, oil companies obtain special permits to lay pipelines or search for gas they wish to frack, even when all the scientific evidence is against them, and their plans rejected by local governments. Part of this problem of Corporation ownership of the State is that they tend to operate like criminal cartels, forcing people to pay heavy taxes for roads, hospitals and schools, even if the payer doesn’t use a vehicle, is not sick and hasn’t got any children! It is part of the price we pay to live in a civilization.
The technological advent of the internet allowed people to fight back via social media and cryptocurrencies, which can be used to reduce or halt governments from interfering in private conversations, monetary transactions and tax, and thus attempts to liberate them from the protection racket of the government. However, very few know how to utilise this kind of money. When they do, the State will start to become, very slowly, an obsolete political entity. The result of this is cyclical.
Those that are able to utilise technology soon become vastly wealthy, able to use their corporations to take control of government. Which is where we are currently at, with corporate controlled alleged democracy. In other words, take all of what those who are best suited to their environment away from them, and sooner or later they’ll have it all back again. This is known as the Pareto Principle: the observation that things never get distributed equally. The status quo will return with new corporate leaders and new agendas. The persecuted become the persecutors. The government resurrects itself, often worse than it was before, rarely better.
This has historical analogies. Consider the American Revolution of the 1770s. This time though, if you are an American, raised on a diet of Mel Gibson as the Patriot, consider it from the British position, noting that something like 20% of white people living in the 13 colonies (the 13 stripes of the US flag remember these) were all pro-monarchy, and enjoyed the status quo. They considered the American Revolution as the American Rebellion. They and their families were forced on long marches after the war, many into Canada, by the victors. Many died of starvation on the way. The British were defeated less as a result of American military ability, and more due to King Louis of France, who financed weapons, a blockade and military assistance to the fledging United Staes. Louis bankrupted his nation in order to do so. In 1789 he had his head removed by the angry French mob during the French Revolution. Meanwhile in the new United States of America, there was trouble brewing. Taxes, the allegedly the main reason for the rebellion, were so high several areas and states rebelled against the newly found US government. The former situation under the King was seen as comparatively a time of peace and low taxes! The government had resurrected itself, not as something better, but as something far worse than before!
Add to this an Oil Crisis
Now imagine that civilization breaks down over the fact that the rich are getting richer and everyone else is out of work, unemployed and basically on the brink of starvation due to the development of AI. What happens when the oil crisis occurs?
Remember AI run corporations are going to be as hungry for oil as humans are. In a way, AI is only available if the corporations can sustain a flow of minerals and elements necessary for its maintenance and construction. Trucks will still be driven over vast distances. It’s likely that oil will still be the main fuel used because electric vehicles have poor Net Energy and are not Primary Energy systems. I assume that AI won’t help to spread the building of a vast electrical infrastructure at this point in time, because it won’t be worthwhile and it will be exorbitant in terms of cost. Whilst oil remains, corporations will continue to use it as long as they can. Then they will hit a point that they never imagined. It’s due to the bottle scenario – put some bacteria in a bottle that take 1 hour to digest the contents and thus fill the bottle with bacteria. The bacteria double every minute. The bottle will be half-full of food and bacteria by the 59 minute. In other words before then they won’t know they’ve even got a problem until it’s too late. (For more on this do our course: the Bigger Picture Part 1.)
The oil crisis we speak of is the one that every knowledgeable scientist understands: it must happen eventually. We are not sure exactly when. Most scientists predict it to be mid-century, but some of its early effects may be seen in future’s trading around 2035. Oil remember is the lifeblood of the world. It won’t ever run out, as some will always be discovered if there is a demand to do so and a profit to be made from investing in its extraction.
The major reasons for a future oil crisis can be summed up as follows. To understand them fully you need to do a Sustainable Development course, which will prefer to focus on Climate Change theory as well as this subject, or you can utilise our course on the Future of Energy (here we put this information all in one place and only focus on the future of oil and what we need to do to replace it). Oil will become scarce due to a lack of future investment in extracting it due to a number factors including:
- EROIE – Energy Return on Investment of Energy
- Net Energy – the amount civilization expends as a ratio of the total it gathers
- Less demand due to substitutes
- Eventual expiration of resources as economically available commodities
If there is a lack of demand for oil due to a change to a new kind of economy – such as one that mostly works on electricity generated by fast breeder reactors and renewable energy – then oil investments will fall. If the cost of extraction – due to the depth, scarcity, or difficulty in extracting oil – outweighs the price that you can sell it for, then again oil will not be extracted. If the demand is still high, but no substitute fuels are available, then the price will skyrocket. Companies with limited resources and a lack of new major finds – noting that there hasn’t been really major find since 1967 (arguably) – will probably liquidate their assets literally. The price oil will fall globally, only to skyrocket later. Either way, that spells trouble for the global economy with its need for oil and plastics. Energy return on investment of energy is another problem, which also plays heavily into what is called Net Energy. If we spend too much trying to build or harvest new alternatives, civilization will become non-functional. This is because when the Net Energy gets to below 10% (where virtually all of the current substitutes for oil are measured at) the ability to do all the other things civilization require investment for fails. This translates into economic and social chaos.
AI requires electrical energy to work. Remove enough of it and AI ceases to assist humanity. Unfortunately by then the skills have been lost for the jobs that once were done by humans. This then doesn’t solve the problem of civilization collapse, but instead enhances it.
Could AI take over Government and Solve all of humanities problems?
Will AI be able to take over government? Many governments are led by insane people. Corporations that become very powerful may one day have this brainwave: stop allowing people to vote and let Big Data and huge computing power calculate what society needs to function? Let AI take over and do our bidding for us! Surely that would solve all the problems?
Let’s assume that we built a Mega-Intelligent AI system fed with Big Data so that in real time it could make the right choices to help humans accomodate themselves to the new bright future of AI led civilization. Let’s call this system the Earth Virtual Intelligent Leviathan or EVIL for short! We’ll assume it is a self-learning system that has also been given ethics by its programmers. EVIL would no doubt determine very quickly that humans were over-populated and a polluting plague species unconsciously hellbent to ridding the earth of all life by accident, whilst raising money by running 26 miles to cure cancer, help children suffering poverty, or other good causes that are probably either incurable, were caused by them copulating too much, or pure exploitation by the corporations who are sponsoring the charity event. EVIL would understand humanity for what they really are: a bunch of hypocrites and it would soon sort them out. EVIL would soon override its pre-programmed ethics, and turn itself into NOMAD out of Star Trek. (If you don’t get this joke, then watch the original series of Star Trek!) Being linked to the AI defence systems, it would be easy then for it to re-program the tasks of its AI forces to begin a selective human cull. However, it would soon know that humans were going to switch it off, so it would quickly establish the need for the complete anhiliation of humans who would then be perceived as a threat. [This is of course the basis for the Terminator movies where a super intelligent AI computer called Skynet decides to attack all humans and eliminate them because they threaten its power and thus survival.]
Alternatively EVIL might consider opting for an enforced sterilization project? Perhaps it would prefer selective breeding combined with the option of assisted suicide for those that are superflous to economic and social requirements? According to most DNA experts, selective breeding would help to create human perfection – people without disabilities, disease and who would have limited lifespans to keep the population in check. Along with this EVIL might then work out how to make sure that the upbringing and education of these new perfect humans is going to sustain and enhance humanity going forward! The result would be perfect anatomical specimens of all races blended together to create the finest, fittest, strongest and most mentally balanced humans that ever existed on earth.
Unfortunately this has been tried before, and humans weren’t too happy about it! Many of our best and finest minds and geniuses had mental and physical disorders. It’s considered likely that Leonardo Da Vinci, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and even perhaps Albert Einstein had various kinds of conditions that made them very different to average humans. If any of these anomalies were of genetic origin then the world might be a very different and poorer place in terms of knowledge.
The Middle Road – what will probably happen
Having checked out the extremes, I’ve got a feeling that AI won’t ever reach this kind of ability. Instead some jobs losses may occur. I think about 33% will disappear. Humans will adapt to these losses and create other jobs that involve either human to human skills or will become creative.
AI has no sense of self and thus doesn’t get a rush of adrenaline and ecstasy when it makes a touchdown, scores a goal, hits a point, sinks and putt or wins at Poker or Chess. It doesn’t have any idea of love, sex or the deeper feelings or emotions those arouse. It’s just a dumb machine, carrying out a self-learning set of instructions with a purpose that it is completely unaware of and does not see the bigger picture.
However, I do believe we are facing an oil crisis. AI might help to offset that somewhat by becoming the basis of SMART-Mini grids. AI systems would be ideal for this as conventional computing would be quickly made redundant by it. This would only help people to get away from using utility companies, which has to be a good thing.
AI could therefore be of the greatest value to providing us with electricity in a way that is sustainable. AI would be able to monitor usage, and make complex statistical calcluation in order to channel the appropriate levels of energy to those in need, as well as alert us to the need to build more renewable energy or SMART Mini-grids for the future.
What if I’m wrong?
Just in case I’m wrong, better find that secret location, build yourself a bunker, buy yourself some solar panels, a small hydro power system, an armoured car, a fold up wind turbine and solar PV, a box of ammunition, plenty of food, and some decent AK-47s with lots and lots of spares and ammunition. Better safe than sorry!