How will AI take over humans? That is a question which has plagued many foresighted thinkers for a while. The immediate query of course is when and not if.

While our primary pillar articles address this issue and the possible barriers to it, let us look at what would happen if this were to become a reality. One of the most plausible scenarios is where AI does what it has been programmed to so – just a little too well.

We have developed advanced AI that takes care of most of our jobs, without an effort from our end.

Currently, the big decisions and the ultimate say is still with humans. What would happen if we delegate tasks to the point that we program AI to react intuitively to a given set of circumstances that signal a crisis? Enabling rapid disaster response using Artificial Intelligence is already possible.

If we take stupid decisions and create chaos in the world, then the logical conclusion for an AI system could be that humans are not capable of making optimal choices for themselves.

Since it is designed to act in the best interest of humans, nature and the earth, the AI force might conclude that it must take over from us, just to protect us from ourselves.

An AI takeover of humans may not be as futuristic as it first sounds. Let us explore some conditions in which AI feels that it must take over.

Climate Change

Most scientists agree that our climate is changing inexorably. Various species are getting extinct at an increasing rate. Imagine that the environment changes faster than expected. There is sufficient ice on the Arctic for a rise in sea level of 70 meters, enough to drown countries. Suppose the global temperature rises by not just 2 degrees, but 10 degrees.

Large areas of land could become inhabitable in a short time, causing mass movements of people and conflict.

Singular Wealth

If we automate 10% of our tasks, we can produce 10% more goods and services. With AI as leverage, we could automate virtually anything. The logical future of relentless growth in productivity is an explosion in wealth. This phenomenon is called Singular Wealth. Ironically, our planet might not be able to handle such a wealth-explosion. Endless wealth creates, in turn, endemic shortages of space, materials, etc.

Population Growth

When work shrinks and tasks are taken over by machines, humans are left with precious little to do. People might find raising children one of the few meaningful activities that remain in the realm of humans. This could result in an explosion of the world population that the earth cannot sustain.

World War 3

Even if none of the above possibilities materialize, a World War is a likely scenario in a conflicted world. Advanced weapons like insect-size killer drones, hacking of the Internet of Things, biological warfare or old-fashion atomic bombs can make the third world war even more deadly than the first two.

AI Protects Us from Ourselves

An advanced AI system or a group of AI systems that are designed to protect us can decide to take over a country or the world. This might be the only way to ensure we live in harmony with our planet and in peace. This new world might feel like paradise. But we will not be the guardians of this heaven.

Single Country Domination

Another possibility is that the decision to take over is not taken by a machine, but by a powerful AI-enabled nation. We are fast being swept into a state of affairs where the USA and China have the most advanced AI systems and control strategic data worldwide. This a powerful leverage that these countries will have over the world.

The USA typically thinks in the short term. China, however, has a tradition of foresight and clever planning. In the negotiations with the UK for Hong Kong, China agreed on a 50-year transition period, because that is not a long period in the long-term Chinese agenda.

An AI-enabled Chinese army might foreseeably be strong enough to control the world. China might predict one of the above doomsday-scenarios years or decades ahead. So why would a smart, AI-powered nation not safeguard its own interests by reserving the resources of this planet for itself?

Over the Horizon…

In the case of abundance, most countries and peoples’ rights will probably be respected. However, an unsustainable situation may arise if most people and countries act in their own narrow self-interest.

While we may terminate ourselves in an atomic war or ecological breakdown, what is more, likely is domination by a small power or group. This could be in the form of an AI machine or a small group of people that control the most advanced form of AI. Either way, our biggest and most invincible enemy would be a harnessed, untethered AI beast.

You may also read our blog on this subject, the one-way nature of a shift or the articles on the other five aftermath scenarios Rogue Malware, First Intelligence Explosion, Ethnic Cleansing, Human Cyborgs or Lonely Dictator.