The Future We Wanted

Published October 08, 2018

This short story presents a not-too-distant future in which people have complicated relationships with other people, with their own self-concept and with ‘virtual identities.’ In short, very little about this world feels unlike our own. The aspect of this future scenario which felt most interesting was how the main character and her (AI-native) children had a very different conception of the virtual assistant, Augusta. I was reminded of a talk from Stefania Druga (Media Lab) about her research into ‘Growing Up with AI’. In her research, she found that, “young people consider intelligent agents as friendly and trustworthy, and sometimes even defer to them when making decisions.” It is unclear whether children ‘age out’ of these feelings – whether their conception of AI as intelligent beings rather than specialized machines will persist as they come to understand how AI operate – but it seems totally possible that ‘AI-native’ generations will begin to define artificial intelligences as living.