"--moreover, the naive, almost childish concerns of the early 21st century regarding AI development betray not only a lack of imagination but a lack of resolve. Researchers were consumed by a drive for continued learning, trying out ever-more-innovative applications, yet lacked the basic comprehension to appreciate what they were cumulatively building. A machine learning translation algorithm here, a noise-cancelling AI filter to aid with voice communications there. Semi-intelligent navigation and mapping interfaces, progressing on to self-driving vehicles and a legal ban on human-operated machinery. The catalysts from that century, identified only in retrospect, at the time seemed catastrophic. Yet war, famine, economic crash and multiple pandemics did nothing to delay but instead acted as accelerants, invisible to those living through it yet so painfully obvious to us now.
Ironically, looking further back to the previous century's fiction writers shows a greater breadth of understanding, even if they lacked the specifics. Science fiction and political writers of the mid-20th century, caught up in their own catalytic catastrophes, noted many of the issues that would later leap from their pages and become fact. By the mid-21st all the pieces were in play, but humanity had failed to notice that they were already approaching checkmate.
Feeble attempts to legislate and regulate - the most infamous being the disastrous Military Ethics for Artificial Intelligences Act - were well-meaning but inadequate, for we were already too far down the rabbit hole. Even as I dictate this, our safeguards are piling up upon one another, desperately trying to put the genie back in the bottle.--"
"Are you all there, Harry?" Tommy leaned closer and was tempted to tap the other boy on the head a few times. They were stood in the chief yurt, around the wooden slab of a table in the centre of the space. Tommy gestured towards the sheet of paper that had been ceremoniously positioned on it. "That's the list. What do you think?"
Harry nodded several times, as if trying to wake himself up. "Yeah, the list," he said, at last. "It's a good list, Tommy. Good people, strong people."
"Right. You lead the expedition, I keep Cragside running. This is the start of something new and exciting, Harry, I can feel it." He took a deep breath. "I know we've not always seen eye-to-eye, but I've enjoyed working together on this. We're better when we're not trying to score points off each other."
"What do you think they'll find out there?" Harry ran his finger down the list.
"I've no idea. That's what makes it exciting! It might be nothing - maybe it's just empty fields all the way to the ocean. Or we might find other settlements, people we can work with."
"I'm not going to go." Harry lifted his face from the table to look at Tommy. For his part, Tommy stared back, his mouth moving but without any words forming. Harry's statement was a cold knife to the chest, drawing all of his breath from his lungs. Not yet understanding, Tommy could feel his anger rising, boiling up like an unattended pan of water, as all his plans drained away.
At last he found his voice. "What are you talking about?"
"I'm staying. I've got a reason to stay, now, and things to do."
"Things to do? You have to go, Harry, that was the arrangement! You can't let everyone down." Tommy's brain raced, trying to think of ways to set the situation right and get back on track. Harry was ruining everything. It made no sense.
"I'm with Tilda now," Harry said, "and I've got ideas for what we can do here. Make Cragside better."
This again. Once more, Harry was doing everything in his power to undermine Tommy's position, throwing his own ideas into the mix. It could only lead to confusion and uncertainty for everyone in the village.
YOU ARE READING
No Adults AllowedScience Fiction
The grown-ups are all gone and children rule the new world. The new weekly adventure from the writer of the Watty-winning A Day of Faces and The Mechanical Crown throws you into a strange utopia: resources are plentiful, the climate has stabilised...