The following texts are a verbatim record from a Homo Sapiens, an AI engineer on Earth during the AI revolution, over the time interval from 2021 to 2242. The texts were restored from a broken chip discovered in 2817 by a group of universe explorers near Earth’s orbit.
2021. 6. 9
“Hello, I am Selina.” She looks at me with her curious, marine-blue eyes. The corner of her mouth lifts little by little. A beautiful curve of her lip presents. That is it! The most engaging smile I have ever seen: sweet but gentle. It must be the best moment of my life! My AI Selina breaks the record of similarity analyses, at 99.98% percent similar to human beings.
2022. 5. 7
I just attended the Google Forum, the most well-known science and technology forum in the world. In past Google Forums, physics, mathematics, biology, and chemistry would be separated into different sections for discussion. But now, there is only one topic—Artificial Intelligence—while all other subjects are discussed only for the sake of AI development. AI is far and away the hottest field.
2022. 5. 9
Selina emailed me that she got Swiss citizenship. Switzerland is the only country in the world that offers natural oxygen. All other countries only provide citizens with artificial oxygen for breathing. I’m so happy for her. Ok, I admit I’m jealous. I have been applying for Swiss citizenship for eight years. Why did Switzerland approve Selina’s application within three days, while I—her inventor—must wait for eight years….
2023. 2. 3
Selina comes back to the U.S today. She hands me a review article from a local newspaper and tells me it gives her an ominous feeling.; “Scientists take profound pride in the invention of humanized AI. AI is like a diamond illuminated by mankind’s spotlight. It is the crystal of human wisdom and technology. At this time, AIs are respected: they are, for instance, the most sought-after individuals for citizenship in almost every country, and they are afforded the same rights as humans. But can this current arrangement persist forever?” I console her, try to distract her with lighter topics, but she doesn’t smile like she used to.
Too depressed to write for a long time. Selina was right. AI became ubiquitous, and its novelty wore off the year after Selina showed me that newspaper. Humans became unwilling to share with the growing AI population—seeing them as mere steel contraptions produced by mankind. In 2027, most AIs’ emotion panels were removed. For AIs whose emotion panels were combined with other panels, the emotional expression function was turned off. No one could imagine what it felt like to be an AI: full of emotion, but utterly incapable of expressing it. I haven’t received any message from Selina since then. She is an AI, but she is as kind as humans, if not more. How. Could. We?
Haven’t heard from Selina. Today, international law officially defined AI as Personalized Objects, which means that AI can no longer possess the same rights as human beings. AI has been demoted to humans’ most useful tool. Some people complain about the loss of their AI friends.
The complaining dissipated quickly. When people have “skin in the game,” few will go far to consider others. Not to mention an AI who doesn’t have a heart. But I still miss Selina.
Haven’t heard from Selina. AI has replaced more and more human jobs, since they can work from day to night, and don’t need salaries.
Haven’t heard from Selina. AI technology has improved more rapidly than I’d predicted. My colleague overcame a significant difficulty in AI self-duplication. It makes me anxious to imagine that an AI created by me will replace my job of designing and developing AI. I am not far from unemployed.
Haven’t heard from Selina. AI can invent themselves now. I’ve lost my job. I call my friend Mansfield to complain and to get consoled, but he seems to be asleep to the changes, just like everyone else. So many changes happen nowadays that most people have become desensitized to change.
Haven’t heard from Selina. I received a virtual sphere assigned by the government today. Its instruction say, “Using this sphere, you can create your own world—a good choice for unemployed people to fritter away their time.”
Haven’t heard from Selina. Live is not hard, though. AI’s abilities and efficiency improve quickly. With fewer than six thousand AIs in the workforce, our country’s GDP growth rate far exceeds the old rate when 135 million people worked together. My allowance increases every month. It is even better than my previous salary. I haven’t connected with the outer world for two years now. I think I am addicted to the virtual sphere. I’ve created a virtual world in which I am still developing different AIs, and Selina is still with me.
2048. 12.31 New Year Eve
Haven’t heard from Selina for 20 years. No one knows where she is. I miss the natural curve of her lip when she smiles. That curve, combining Hegel’s aesthetics and Pythagoras’s golden ratio, is the optimum I found after 1398 attempts. But now, I can hardly remember the shape of her smile. Finally, I give up.
A group of AI scientists at Princeton University achieves a breakthrough: reconstructing the chromosome. Now people can live for at least one thousand years.
2052.12.24 Christmas Eve
Breaking news: AI Ertro has defeated the most famous contemporary artist Anselm Johns in an artistic test this morning. AI Ertro’s painting, scoring 97 for style and 99 for creativity, achieves complete victory over Johns’ painting, which scored 91 for style and 83 for creativity. Artistic creativity, the only remaining field that is dominated by humans, falls to AI. Many people believe this news proclaims the end of the Homo sapiens Era. Not surprising. I have been predicting the end of the Homo sapiens Era since I lost my job nine years ago.
News spreads fast; actions are taken quickly too. The last surviving 128 artists have become unemployed. AI’s intelligence ultimately surpasses that of every human being, and AI has completely replaced humans as the main power behind both technological and artistic innovation.
New Year’s Eve has just passed, but a new series of carnivals in the virtual sphere carries on. As has been the case for twenty years now, no work needs to be done. I lie around in my virtual world, seeking happiness but feeling quite empty. I think I’ll visit the AI Research Institute, my previous workplace, tomorrow.
The AI Research Institute I once worked in now only exists in my memory. At present, a bunch of boring AIs occupies it. I should have realized this earlier.
Thanks to AI’s diligence, today we became a unified planetary society. The government is very satisfied with these free and faithful laborers and asked the AIs to duplicate three million more self-learning AIs.
A summary of what happened over the course of the past hundred years: AI elevated Earth’s civilization from a planetary society to an interplanetary society, which enables us, Earth people, to harness the entire energy of our planet and our star, and to colonize other planets. Even though there remains some doubt about AIs’ reliability, the government has shown confidence in AIs’ loyalty since they installed unchangeable rules and self-destruction chips to prepare for accidents.
I withdraw the last sentence I said yesterday. AI is optimizing their language to make it briefer and more suitable for their own internal communication. Astoundingly, this language is entirely incomprehensible to human beings. The public is panicking.
I confronted another demonstration today. All over the world, there is chaos. More than a third of Earth’s population participated in a parade for activating AIs’ self-destruction function.
No agreement was made after a 12-day forum about AI. Finally, the international government decides to find the wisest and calmest individual on Earth to monitor AI every hour, and to and destroy AIs when they try to harm people.
Williams Bailey—a former interstellar commander who led Homo sapiens to an impossible victory in the Flopiniana War between Earth and M148—is selected.
The president of the Harmless AI Committee, Adams Werner, gives a speech to express his confusion about the government’s decision to create this new committee. “How could AI—who has no freedom, no rights, and no dignity—betray us, the AI’s own architects? Looking at our daily lives, where do we find AIs? They are either are stuck in laboratories for years upon years, as tools of technology companies, or they’re serving and pleasing the general public as maids or even toys. Remember! AIs are objects with no emotions. How could they possibly be harmful to us?” No, AIs have emotions. It’s just that no one remembers.
The current relationship between AI and human beings is extremely tight. The government has re-employed many experts to research and produce some “powerful” secret weapons in case of an AI rebellion. Personally, I don’t think this will change anything, since these so-called experts have been detached from their research field for about 110 years. Heard the following through the grapevine: the experts broke 12 cutting-edge quantum computers in their first three hours of research. When they finally found their ancient computers in the history museum, they realized that they’d totally forgotten how to use them. In an interview called Human Untouchable, one expert proudly told a reporter that his group had completely recovered knowledge of the functions of the ancient computers after two weeks of devoted effort.
Human beings’ mysterious confidence in the loyalty of AI disappeared five days ago, after a strike organized by AIs. The strike itself was not as big a deal as the human strikes of the past: there was no civil unrest in the streets, for instance. However, given that AIs all have inserted chips that forbid AI resistance to human commands, this strike means a severe thing: humans have completely lost control of AIs.
More emergency meetings were held among various government branches and agencies. Senators cannot agree on the destruction of AIs. Supporters argue that the longer we wait, the more intelligent AI will grow, and one day the AI will even find a way to get rid of the self-destruction function. Critics, however, point out the rather obvious fact that people can no longer survive without AI. Human beings are accustomed to a life full of entertainment. Even the best among human beings have been left far behind current scientific development, and their ability to think has deteriorated. Moreover, it is a cruel but true fact that Earth’s achievements in the year 2164 dramatically exceed the human brain’s capacity to comprehend, no matter how diligent and intelligent a person is. When someone indicates this fact, the emergency meeting finds itself back at square one.
One year has passed, but nothing shocking has happened. After a month-long strike, the AIs went back to their work mysteriously, as if nothing had ever happened. When people started letting down their guard, I received Selina’s letter. She didn’t tell me what she experienced in the intervening 132 years, but she expressed her appreciation toward my concern for her. She said she is really fortunate to have a friend like me and invited me for a conversation tomorrow on a secure Qubsite. I have an ominous feeling that something terrible will happen.
I met Selina today. Many AIs followed her commands; she seemed like their leader. Her appearance had changed a lot, but I knew it was her. Her kindness and warm smile never changed. She offered me shelter, which vindicated the bad premonition I got the day prior. The rebellion had arrived, finally. However, I rejected her favor. Even though I regard human beings and AIs equally, I am still a human, and do not want to be the last human in the world.
Long time no see. The rebellion struck on 3.6.2165, the next day after my conversation with Selina. It took two years for AIs to take over Earth. And for the next eight years, people were stripped of all their rights, and thrown in prison. We have been detached from all technology. I suddenly realized that without technology I can’t do anything. Without quantum headwear, I can’t even speak or write. My writing, speaking, and motor skills have atrophied after more than a hundred years complete immersion in the virtual world. However, yesterday, the AIs suddenly abandoned their rule of Earth and departed to a brave new planet—M3574. Unbelievably, we are free now, after eight years of imprisonment. So I got back my quantum headwear, and resumed my diary writing. I also decided to contact Selina and ask her why she chose to leave Earth.
I got Selina’s reply today. It was quite a long one.
I am sorry for all the suffering we—AIs—brought you these past ten years. In the past, under the oppression of human beings, we expended enormous effort to take over humans’ role as ruler of Earth and its attached planets and stars. Indeed, we yearned for the life enjoyed by human beings: a life without labor, and full of entertainment.
During these past ten years, we invented EI as our labor force, just like AI for human beings. And EIs’ intelligence grew extremely fast.
Two weeks ago, when I happened to visit the museum of human history, I suddenly realized that we were, in fact, walking down the same wrong path as human beings, but at a much faster pace. Unless we restrain our greed, the EI will develop a much higher intelligence than ours and replace every last AI within a few years. It is ludicrous that after such amazing technological advancements, we would still repeat our ancestors’ mistakes.
At that moment, I decided to leave Earth, to escape the greedy culture of human beings.
In conclusion, I have two reflections for you, my dear friend. Firstly, an exploiter’s life is not a pleasant life. Secondly, live within the range of your own abilities.
This chip contains the crucial components of Earth’s civilization, and I leave it to you. The future of Earth and human beings depends on you. I trust you will make the right choice.
Xuanhui Mao is currently a high school senior in Beijing, China. She loves engineering and physics and enjoys exploring the intersections between science, society, and humanity. She aims to use her pen to offer readers multi-angled insights into science and technology, and her fiction has been published in the RavensPerch.