With apologies to Charlie Stross

The singularity already happened. It happened before any of us were born.

We are not the dominant life form on earth. The dominant life form is a giant, of toddler-level intelligence, toddler-level emotional intelligence, and superhuman powers. These giants can literally move mountains, but they move slowly. Their component parts are people. We donate to them a third of our lives in exchange for room and board. Those who refuse to sacrifice their lives to the giants die.

The giants come in two breeds. One, the limited corporation, is a race of cannibal warriors: they stumble around the landscape, fighting each other, and their existence is justified on the grounds of their incredible troop supply chains. The other, the herbivorous non-profit/governmental organization, has a symbiotic relationship with the limited corporation, acting to maintain their health by redistributing supplies between them, because they are incapable of cooperating outside of the context of pack hunting.

This structure is an old one, but not an ancient one. There have been a handful of changes over the past century and a half (like the end of an already-dying race of giants called empire around 1914, whose niche the others have already begun to fill), but for the most part, 2018 looks like 1850 but faster: the key players are the same kinds of creatures, and progress primarily comes in the form of these giants moving faster and requiring fewer resources.

The worst case scenario, with regard to superhuman AI, is not that it will change the structure of the world but that it will merely accelerate the exact trends we have seen from 1850 to today — in other words, the giants will continue to have owners but cease to have human component parts, but they will continue to rule the earth. Even without superhuman AI, this remains the trajectory — we would get there eventually, if we didn’t form our own giants with fundamentally different programming.

Written by

Resident hypertext crank. Author of Big and Small Computing: Trajectories for the Future of Software. http://www.lord-enki.net

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