Do we want to live in a Black Mirror world?
Amy Webb, the renowned quantitative futurist, sits down for a captivating conversation with Adam Spencer, the Australian comedian, and media personality at the inaugural SXSW Sydney. Enter a future outlook where we live in Black Mirror reality, and stream past life to escape from it.
In a world where technology hurdles forward at breakneck speed, Amy Webb, the renowned quantitative futurist, at the SXSW Sydney engaged in a captivating conversation with Adam Spencer, the Australian comedian, and media personality. Together, they delved into the intricate world of AIsmosis, ‘Brain Warrant’ and death of internet as we know it In their jolly discussion, they offered a perspective that goes far beyond mere trends, emphasising the importance of “modality” – the need to zoom out and track multiple facets simultaneously, as the only way to predict the future.
Amy kicked off with a dose of reality, highlighting how FOMO and the fear of missing out have tangible impacts on our future. She noted that venture capitalists are eagerly pouring money into anything remotely related to AI, causing an “expectation of exits.” However, her concern lies in the impracticality of this frenzy, hinting that funding might eventually dry out, leaving us in a precarious position.
Two major convergences are on Amy’s radar. The first involves the transformation of the internet, where search engines vanish, and chat becomes our primary mode of interaction. Imagine asking for a meal plan, and it seamlessly integrates with your calendar to order groceries – a world where friction points evaporate, reminiscent of the Amazon experience. However, the selection process becomes a question mark about what products get suggested.
“Search will disappear, chat will become new way we interact.”
Amy delves deeper, discussing the concept of AIsmosis, where humans are increasingly intertwined with automated systems, blurring the line between man and machine. While progress is evident, the loss of individual agency looms large.
A point often overlooked is the partnership between cloud storage (GPU) – a significant move that aligns powerful tools (aI) with big tech. The resulting homogeneity is a concern Amy believes needs more attention.
Amy skilfully paints two contrasting futures. The optimistic one encourages companies to build with choice and agency in mind. The pessimistic scenario, on the other hand, warns of a world filled with uniformity, where the illusion of choice conceals the reality of sameness.
“Everything will start sounding the same over time with less choice and you’ll be made to believe you have a choice out of two same options.”
She tells a vivid story, asking us to imagine a life with 5,000 paper cuts, one is fine, but 5,000 around all of your body is painful and debilitating. Life will be nothing like before. Everything will start sounding the same over time with less choice and you’ll be made to believe you have a choice out of two same options.
The conversation shifts towards the era of assistive computing. Long division and spelling struggles are relics of the past, thanks to our trusty pocket calculators and AI tutors. ‘Economists and insurance companies drive me crazy’ Amy said. They refuse to use modern tools, imagine not having to guess and use real time data about how the economy is going and interest rates, GDP etc.
The ever-pressing question of job displacement is tackled head-on. Amy suggests a shift towards automation for formulaic tasks, while humans retain their role in creative and finishing touches, ushering in a wave of new, yet undefined jobs.
Then, we venture into the realm of moonshots for the next 5-10 years. Amy predicts the gradual disappearance of screens, replaced by innovative devices like the ‘Broche’ product with in-built screen projector and camera, which could provide real-time feedback on our actions, even during meals. The introduction of Smell Print, allowing gamers to immerse themselves in fragrant spatial experiences, or adult experiences is another fascinating prospect.
However, Amy’s insights take a darker turn as she discusses technology’s ability to recreate memories through MRI scans, raising concerns about privacy and ethical boundaries, imagining being issued a ‘Brain Warrant’ by police to piece together the parts of the story. Deepfakes that can manipulate medical images add another layer to the complexity in abusing the medical systems.
One crucial point Amy highlights is the impact of trust in an age where people constantly attempt to game the system, and they will because they always have been.
“Knowing that you could be understood everywhere all of the time is not something we may want to know.”
Towards the end of the conversation, Amy poses a thought-provoking question: Is breaking the language barrier good for us? The potential implications of seamless, automated translation for our interconnected world are terrifying, she adds. Knowing that you could be understood everywhere all of the time is not something we may want to know.
Kickstarting the SXSW Sydney on the first day, Amy Webb and Adam Spencer have not ended on a happy note, although AI won’t kill us in sleep there are still many questions left unanswered as we move on living in unprecedented times. Let’s wait for the 2024 Future Tech report released at SXSW Austin to see where we’ve moved towards.