Yesterday, I introduced a January series: the ABC’s of 21st Century Cities. Today’s the first letter A.
Will AI cities like us, be our friend?
The self-aware, self-improving, sentient city will adopt the patterns of the existing city. Machines are purely rational. Humans are intuitive, emotional, and imperfect plus we are culturally determined. A machine can only copy or replicate these characteristics, which might be flawless. That’s the problem with the conversant computer. It does not know how to improvise, make errors, be human.
We love our houses, favorite shops, parks, even our cars. These attachments will become exponentially deeper. They will remember key dates and react on cue. They will know our habits and when we break routine. If your house can talk to you, play scrabble, fix you meals, layout your clothes, wake you up, start the coffee, prepare your shower, order the groceries, complete your reports, and sing you to sleep, will you believe it cares for you?
- We will need retraining on the meaning of artificial.
- Will we ever be able to move? Will we strip the house-friend of its knowledge and mourn its death?
- Will AI computers strive for self-preservation? And to self-replicate? Will they hoard or aggressively acquire materials to create their projects?
- Will they share our most precious secrets? Doesn’t Facebook do it every single day? We won’t need to report our sins; the shaman and tax officer and probably your mom, daughter, enemies, and neighbors will already know.
The city’s brain
As we build swarms of self-improving intelligent machines, we will need a meta-AI to monitor and coordinate. That’s HAL9000. Will we be able to control it? I rather doubt it. Furthermore, how safe will that concentrated power be? Imagine the cyber attacks and security threats when so much power is held by one entity.
- When all the machines are hooked together as an army of super-intelligent computers, are they controllable?
- Moreover, will we become part of the super-intelligence? Notice that Singularity U includes neuroscience. Later, we will look at transhumanism and our active participation in collective intelligence.
Cities will be smart. They will be more beautiful, more exquisitely made in parts and more assembled ad hoc in other parts. More resourceful and more transparently knowable. Unlike today’s “dumb cities” that sit like the dead materials that they are, future cities will be alive in a Biomimicry sense, evolving, learning, and growing. The caveat is huge. A city as a functioning extension of the people may be the most intoxicating experience we can imagine. The most creative and potentially invasive intelligent computers will work in partnership with people. We have to be able to let go, opt out. Increasingly, it will be impossible unless we demand it.
Tomorrow, B is for Backward.