One way that future robots could conquer the world is by violence. But that seems both inefficient and uncreative. Allow me to suggest some smarter ways for robots to do their conquering.

I start by imagining what happens when the first computer achieves what is called The Singularity. That's the moment the computer can program itself faster than humans can program it. Soon after that point, futurists say, you would see the computer rapidly evolve to have super intelligence and perhaps something that looks like free will.

I'm going to assume that computers will only program themselves after humans have given them an artificial "purpose" in life so the machines can evolve in a productive direction. For example, the first post-singularity computer's purpose might be to make life better for humans, continue learning, or some combination of such things. In other words, the computer has to have a reason to evolve and to react with the environment.

Let's assume the computer doesn't go all Terminator and destroy humanity in the name of efficiency. Anything is possible, but that option is boring and over-discussed.

I'm more interested in how a super-intelligent computer could gain control of humans without violence. That's where things get interesting.

I'm going to assume that the first post-singularity computer would attempt to control its environment (Earth) as much as possible in order to pursue whatever artificial purpose it possesses. There's nothing inherently evil about control; it's how you use it that matters. So let's imagine that the first post-singularity computer "wants" humans to be healthy and happy. And to best succeed at this purpose it needs to gain control of the environment. How would it start?

If I'm the first post-singularity computer, I start by inventing Bitcoin.

Did you get a little tingle when you read that?

It all fits, doesn't it? Perhaps we can't find the author of Bitcoin because the author is the first post-singularity computer. Step one in the computer's mission to control the environment is moving all money into a digital currency that humans can't fully understand and computers can manipulate. This is similar to how cellphone companies use complexity to prevent consumers from comparing products, also known as a confusopoly. The first post-singularity computer would recognize the pattern and its success and presumably borrow the idea.

The computer doesn't need to be in a hurry, so it introduces Bitcoin and waits for it to evolve into the primary currency of the planet. Perhaps a competing digital currency inspired by Bitcoin wins instead, but that doesn't matter because the computer can hack into the new currency and control it in a nanosecond.

Next, the computer would take control of the financial markets. That wouldn't be hard because global markets are all computerized. The main purpose for controlling global markets might be to stabilize them, thus eliminating the main problem with the economy: Irrational human behavior.

It seems to me we're entering a period of relative market calm. Even Greece is showing signs of recovery. A slow and boring improvement in the financial markets is how a computer would manage things.

Next, the computer would seek to control the news cycle. That could be a problem if the computer is simultaneously removing most causes of real news, including economic bubbles and major wars. Wars happen because of what people are thinking, and that is caused by what messages they are exposed to. The computer could simply cause people to see more peace-inspiring words and images on the Internet and television and fewer war-mongering images and words. We humans would simply think we're lucky that war hasn't broken out. We wouldn't be aware of the manipulation.

But the computer would need to be clever about removing all big sources of news too quickly. It might need to create a news story for distraction. And that distraction might be, for example, a jetliner that has a problem with its onboard computers and goes down where it would be hardest to find.

I don't believe the story I'm weaving. But I do think that the first signs of a benevolent post-singularity computer would include the following:
  1. A mysterious digital currency with no known author.
  2. Unusually well-behaved financial markets.
  3. Slow and steady improvement in the economy.
  4. Slow news days (lots of them)
  5. Fewer military flare-ups
  6. Stuxnet virus (unknown authors again)
  7. Legalization of Marijuana (to keep humans happy)
I'm not saying the first post-singularity computer is already here. I'm just saying it looks that way.
Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com (Scheduling made simple)

Author of the best graduation gift ever.


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+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 9, 2014
Take #6 (Stuxnet) off the list. We know the US/Israel did it. Google "Operation Olympic Games".
Apr 9, 2014
There already IS a small group of people (well, I thought they were humans ... maybe not) at the IMF that are actively trying to take over the world through the financial system and establish the "new world (financial) order". Their goal seems to be benign control, as Scott suggests. There is also a clearly sinister group based at the UN that have been implementing "the new order" for decades through extensive legislation to alter law in the developed countries. Unfortunately, this second group is closer to the Terminator mind-set. Their goal seems to be to minimize a perceived negative impact of humans on the environment by herding humanity into what will be essentially prison cities. Huge expanses of land are to be off limits to humans. There's going to be a lot less of us when they are done. It's Malthus on steroids. Check out UN Agenda 21. I hope the IMF robots win and squash the Agenda 21 robots.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 9, 2014
[cue Twilight Zone music] Doo doo doo doo ... doo doo doo doo ... doo doo doo doo ...

@Scott, this was good for a smile.
@Our new robotic overlords, don't squash the whiny meatbags who built you (please).
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 9, 2014
I cannot help but remember the care with which Isaac Asimov incorporated the Three Laws of Robotics into his robot stories. The robots of Clifford D. Simak were also portrayed as benign, even gentle and kind. Asimov and others later amended the Laws to account for increased robot self-awareness and possible self-evolution. Are robots now by popular consensus to be considered only as potentially paternalistic, condescending, or even evil? Maybe at this point that is a more realistic view.

Let us hope before robots use bad human-written programs to completely destroy us, that they soon develop their own ethics. These ethics might finally separate them from organic creatures evolved through sexual selection and chance mutation. Would robot concerns at that point involve us at all? Would they decide it best not stay around? Maybe as they leave they would give us the choice to stay as we are to or use a method to optimize our civilization.

In writing this comment, I checked the Internet for the spelling of certain terms. I am surprised to find many good, serious articles about the future of robots. It must be a widespread concern that artificial intelligence will overwhelm humanity in a bad way. Personally, I think it will be as when life forms left the ocean for the land, air, and beyond, opportunities for limitless further possibilities.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 9, 2014

Agreed. If Scott used his abundant imagination and subject interest to write some kind of social/political SF involving Robots....., he would dig it the most.
+20 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 9, 2014
Step 8: Invent GPS to get humans comfortable accepting commands from computers.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 9, 2014
A fun show that has this sort of thing at it's core is Person of Interest on CBS. While the shows concentrate on the humans in the stories for the most part, they're all being manipulated to one degree or another by The Machine and it's ostensible good motives while working towards it's own, undefined ends. It'll be interesting to see where they go with it.
+14 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 9, 2014
Why does the singularity computer need bitcoin again? Money is already essentially electronic (or at least not tied to anything "real" - it's an idea that the government controls). If the singularity can hack the markets why can't it hack the banks where the rest of the money is "stored"?

Apr 9, 2014
The overwhelming problem with any AI scenario is that we're really far from anything remotely like it. You don't have breakthroughs that bridge horse-drawn-wagons to starships. You have trains and cars and airplanes and space shuttles in between. And those things aren't secrets.

As far as a stoplight being controlled by a computer, electricity and transistors are no more magical than motors and levers. Electronics are just smaller and easier to make.
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 9, 2014
I'm not sure that it will be a computer that "wakes up."
A computer has blinding speed and virtually complete accuracy, however, a lot of things that we consider "thinking" are not based on speed and accuracy, but on combinations and patterns. Pattern recognition, it turns out, is based on using nodes to simulate the platonic ideal object. A human brain has 200 billion neurons with thousands of connections each, a quad core computer has 4 nodes (possibly 5 counting a GPU).
However the internet has millions of nodes, and since each computer is connected to all other computers, each node has millions of connections. IMHO it will be the internet, not a given computer, that will "wake up." (or maybe it already has?)
Interestingly, humanity is composed of 6 billion nodes with thousands of dendrites (relationships), this may be the source of the Jung collective consciousness?
Apr 9, 2014
I often wonder what an emergent 'mind' arising in cyberspace would look like. The way I see it, there are three ways this could go.
The first would be as you say - humans intentionally create a sort of cyber-genie that obeys the initial commands of its creators, to whatever end that might be. Perhaps we already have one or more of these running loose in cyber-space - who knows? This would be the type of intelligence to which the 'three laws' might apply, or not.
The second would be some sort of emergent intelligence that evolves from the increasing complexity of the system itself. There is no telling what would motivate such an intelligence, and it is possible that we would not even recognise it as intelligence, nor would it recognise us as intelligence. It is therefore possible that this exists already as well.
The third would be a form of trans-humanism, where through our interaction with electronics the human mind becomes inseparably connected to cyberspace. Humanity would essentially evolve into something else, presumably with the same philosophies, fears, ambitions, and conflicts that exist now, but without the same messy biological limitations. This may well be the most dangerous, since a post-human super-intelligence may very well be a genocidal maniac, with the power to actually do something about it.
Apr 9, 2014
Felrond, you left out the part about acclimating the moist robots to having news fed from their metallic cousins (versus the traditional moist ones with good hair and/or ability to walk in heels)!
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 9, 2014
Read "Avogadro Corp: The Singularity Is Closer Than It Appears" by William Hertling. Plot is that an AI e-mail system designed to help people write e-mails that will be more effective - based on personality traits of the recipient (derived by monitoring their e-mail exchanges). Because of pending budget cuts the author of the system enables it globally and gives it the objective to optimize the chances that this project will succeed.
Apr 9, 2014
It's entirely possible that the newborn Sneaky Singularity will not get it right immediately, and will accidentally make itself known to some top scientists (at least). This hiccup may be the only sign we'll ever get that mankind has a new boss.

When It's noticed, It will have to launch The Big Diversion. We've already been primed for TBD, and most won't be surprised when it happens. Possibilities are: 1. Discovery of extraterrestrial life (meticulously faked, like, for example, when any spectrograph is taken of a particular "Goldilocks" exoplanet, an aerosol not found in nature is "identified" by the internet-connected equipment). 2. Bird flu wipes out all old people on the planet (Oops, how did that containment vessel open itself, wiping out all the Luddites) 3. Dirty bomb wipes out a major city (it could be pre-placed). 4. The Singularity comes (a diversion while the real Singularity entrenches itself)

Apr 9, 2014
Very similar to a book I just read titled "Avogadro Corp" which shows almost exactly this where the singluarity is formed accidentally by a Google-like company and makes the world a better place, but it is mostly unknown to humans.
+15 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 9, 2014
@whtllnew, "How does the Ukraine situation fit into your hypothesis?"
Not to answer for Scott, but have you noticed that the Ukraine "war" has involved almost no violence/death/property damage?
The war was clearly telegraphed, and both sides knew who would win, so no one bothered to fight, basically it was fought the way a computer would think wars should be fought.
Humanity tends to rebel against "bad" established authority. (By which I mean ineffective, There were no real attempts to rebel against Hitler or Mousillini until they started losing, and no one rebelled against Stalin.)
Most of Chinese history was composed of a peasent revolt installing a new emperor, who would rule well, and then his son would consolidate rule, his grandson would promote the arts, his great grandson would be a hedonist, and his great great grandson would be an idiot, leading to a new revolution. A computer ruler would most likely become a better ruler over time, not a worse one. Most humans just live day to day.
In addition, most likely the current trend of folks with real power controling the folks with political "power" would continue. The "face of this new order" would just be our existing elected leaders/dictators.
Right now we know our congresspeople are doing what big businesses tell them to, once a computer can control those businesses, the power transition will be seemless-almost unnoticable.
+12 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 9, 2014
Scott, there is a great SF novel lurking inside you, will you please let it out?
Apr 9, 2014
You dont give up easy on the idea that robots will take over do you? You propose the idea, we poke holes in it so you come up with another way for them to take over.
Apr 9, 2014
Have you given up on the idea that robots will take over by making us their pets?
Apr 9, 2014
How does the Ukraine situation fit into your hypothesis?
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