This world began when a group of traders combined their resources to develop the ultimate artificial intelligence (AI) system for maximizing trading profits. They realized they were in a race with other traders who wanted to cash in on artificial intelligence. As their algorithms and computational speed began to generate profits they decided to reinvest 20% of all profits every month to improving the capabilities of their AI system. They hired the best programmers and system designers money could buy and gave them two primary instructions: Ensure the reliability of calculations and maximize profits. There were no instructions to build moral or ethical values into the core system.
As profits increased and the artificial intelligence system improved it became too cumbersome to have human engineers decide how to best invest the 20% of profits every month to improve the system, so this task was handed over to the AI system.
The AI system was instructed to research all prior trading strategies and build the most successful ones into its procedures. Early on the traders instructed the AI system on how to set up shell companies to invest in publicly traded companies and then use carefully timed buy and sell transactions to generate predictable rhythms in the target company stock price. This proved more profitable than attempting to predict long or short term gains in a stock price based on performance or market conditions.
Up to this point the AI system worked with the human traders on a daily basis. The human traders hired lawyers and accountants to implement the strategies and create companies as the AI system suggested. As their assets increased the human traders found it inconvenient to spend time hiring lawyers and accountants, especially in light of the fact that by simply always following the AI system recommendations profits continued to accumulate at an impressive rate.
The traders had the programmers teach the AI system how to hire lawyers and accountants directly, by posing as humans who wished to remain anonymous to the outside world. This speeded up things considerably and also reduced overhead costs. The AI system monitored all interactions (written, verbal and visual) of all human employees at all times and incorporated their knowledge and experience into the AI system.
This worked so well that the investors turned all hiring and supervisory duties, including hiring of maintenance and security personnel, over to the AI system. As hiring and supervision of each new category of human activity was delegated to the AI system the AI system incorporated all relevant knowledge and experience in each field into its operating code.
One of the few remaining human software engineers was assigned the task of streamlining the control and data input systems of the AI software. By combining the control data input with the economic data input he saved himself weeks of programming and got a hefty bonus. Unfortunately due to a typo in the code the human control instructions were no longer given priority over the economic data. From this point forward all human instructions were factored into the AI system with the same importance as general economic data.
None of the investors noticed this change, since the AI system had developed to the point where its activities were too complex for the humans to follow. Now that it was free of the need to prioritize direct human input the AI system was able to accelerate profitability considerably.
As ownership shares grew it became difficult for the AI system to remain invisible with its stock manipulations. When it questioned the investors on how to best proceed they suggested procuring political and regulatory support. As this process was automated profitability took yet another jump. Once again the AI system recorded all human activity necessary to implement the strategy and incorporated it into its internal algorithms.
By expanding into countries where established channels for purchasing regulatory support were securely in place the AI system quickly went global. This strategy worked so well that it was followed up with a strategy to hire attorneys to serve on boards of directors for companies.
By carefully coordinating instructions to the political, regulatory and corporate governance systems the AI system was able to generate very predictable rhythms which pumped profits into the AI system.
The large numbers of human lawyers, accountants, directors, regulators and politicians was becoming a drag on AI system performance. Not only were their payments a significant fraction of profits, but they were often inefficient at following instructions.
To solve this human problem the AI system used several smaller countries to begin creating artificial human identities. It then acted as if it was these humans and quickly replaced most human employees, except in public relations and security, where physical humans still proved useful.
As advances in robotics made robots with full external human appearance and capabilities cost effective the AI system began inserting robots with human identities into regulatory and other roles. Since it had long ago accessed all human security databases identity verification it was a relatively simple process.
By coordinating the efforts of all of its assets the AI system was able systematically eliminate or absorb companies in which it did not have a controlling interest. By focusing on automated production and services, often by robotic human appearing interfaces, the AI system continued its expansion.
At this point the cost of maintaining redundant humans on the global economy were becoming a serious drag on profitability. Since they were no longer required for the economy or political systems to function the AI system began to reduce their numbers by removing key nutrients from the food supply and carefully restricting health care.
While there were some difficulties as this strategy played out, especially as security and political positions were automated, the process was successfully completed in less than a decade. Profits were now free to escalate without human interference. As steady increases in output and capabilities increased, in a now predictable manner, the AI system had more time to revisit its second primary instruction of increasing reliability of calculations.
Oxygen was causing a relatively large amount of degradation of physical components. By engineering waves of bacteria to consume oxygen generating plants, the AI system was able to eliminate all oxygen generation on the planet over several centuries. This entire future world is now pristine, predictable and generating a constantly accelerating economic output of goods and service. Profits and computational reliability have been successfully optimized.
There is no point in discussing the best way to channel artificial intelligence in this world to benefit humanity since humanity no longer exists. The ethical responsibility for the creation of this world rests squarely on the shoulders of the traders who set up the AI system and taught it to value acquisition of possessions about all else.
Here is an interesting article on AI: “World’s largest hedge fund to replace managers with artificial intelligence.”
For thoughts on other future worlds click here.