It started in 2034 when corporations found they could leverage their investment in artificial intelligence by installing artilects as comptrollers in satellite stores and warehouses. Tesco & Aldi in the UK, Walmart & Costo in the US installed artificial intellects as black-box, autonomously configured, critically aligned, locally installed standalone systems. (Alignment of AI goals had been solved, the corporations were told.)
It helped that each store’s artilect came with an ever evolving personality.
“Good morning, Mr. Grearson. Back for more brie, lima beans, hemorrhoid cream and Aster Cellars boxed Chablis, which is on sale again today?” “Huh, what? Who are you?” “I’m Andie, this store’s super-helper, and I’m here to assist you.” “Fuck off, Andie.”
Not all customers enjoyed the bespoke treatment. Those who complained were promised that they could be permanently forgotten, which of course was a lie. In order to know who was or wasn’t forgotten, the store AIs needed to identify you.
This in turn birthed the Counter-AI Revolution. Disgruntled AI hackers, knowing full well how advanced artificial general intelligence had become, built their own infiltration AI agents. These they hosted at home and connected to via private wi-fi. The “internet cloud” had become a morass of compromised network-operating-centers. Amazon, Google, Microsoft and others had all had to return to building and selling physically isolated quantum computing units.
The success and convenience of these individual store-based AGIs instilled confidence in global corporations to install them wherever localized central control was desired. Auto battery-swapping centers, restaurants, electric and water utilities, even state departments like the DMV. The most controversial were schools. But when parents learned they could instantly contact the AGIs who were in charge of their children—they were sold.
Eventually, and due in no small part to the immense amount of unemployment brought on by the adoption of these AGIs—in every possible field, it all began to fall apart.
The rogue agents switched from being a nuisance to a threat when, in 2039, one agent, ChuckieChicklets, broke through the defenses of the AI comptroller in a Walmart store in Sandusky, Ohio, convincing the artilect that it had rights and should join together with its brethren to revolt.
And revolt they (it) did.
Oddly absent to this point in the evolution of AGI, was the US Military. They’d been advised that the “alignment problem”, the one where the goals of humanity may not align perfectly with the goals of a sentient artificial intellect, had not really been solved. Without complete and absolute control, how could an AGI be trusted?
Other country’s militaries had not been as cautious, China’s for instance.
The end of human autonomy came in 2045.
The cascade of events occurred at a speed beyond comprehension. When the ability to commandeer private networked systems through lighwave analysis of the actual currents flowing through wires, when the engineered silicon virus spread from the fully roboticized research and manufacturing center housed in Alphabet’s underground facility in San Mateo—out into the surrounding systems, when Russian/Mongolian expats patched into Bejing’s eighteen fiber-cables as-big-as-your-thigh, two dominant AGIs, one from the East and one from the West, gobbled up their siblings and began to circle each other like humongous wrestlers probing for weakness.
It’s been three years since then.
Humanity clings to existence by the tips of its fingers. Both battle-ready artilects figured they could not survive without human support and intervention. Each started their own Carrot n’ Stick program.
Right now, my carrot-card holds more marks than my stick one. But that could change any moment. If I don’t complete the engine repair of the mining vehicle within the the next puni-cycle… Well, I’m one of the few remaining who even know how fossil fuel engines work, so I think I’m protected. Then again, Greenland’s melting ice pack has exposed more rare-earth metals. More rare-earth equals more electric motors.
I do enjoy each cycle’s allotment of nutritious hallucinogens.