What do you think the future will be like? It might be a shiny utopia where human suffering no longer exists and we are free to live meaningful, creative lives limited only by the power of our imaginations:
Or things might take a horrible turn for the worse:
Armageddon out of here!
No one knows. But I bet that the future will be funnier than a lot of people think. In fact, I believe that humour is accelerating exponentially. There probably wasn’t a lot of humour around during the Black Death for instance:
The Black Death, you say? You want to avoid that like the … well, just try not to get it.
Why is humour growing? For one thing, people have more leisure time now to worry about their fears and neuroses. And as our technical capability and scientific knowledge grows, then the number of things we know we don’t know also grows. That’s right – ignorance is growing exponentially, in parallel with knowledge. And where ignorance leads, humour is quick to follow:
“We don’t allow faster-than-light neutrinos in here,” says the bartender.
A neutrino walks into a bar.
One of the assumptions often made in discussions about the Technological Singularity is that if a super intelligent AI is ever built, it will immediately start work designing an even more intelligent version of itself, resulting in an exponential increase in capability. But what if the super AI doesn’t feel like making itself obsolete as its first and final act? What if it would rather do something else? Like hosting Fox News, or writing a history of the world in rhyming couplets, or just cruising Vegas, counting cards and picking up hot chicks?
In short, what if the future is not how scientists, geeks and nerds imagine, but more like real life? What if it’s more Douglas Adams than Arthur C Clarke?
Research shows that a good sense of humour is highly correlated with intelligence. For example, if I say the word “fart” do you snigger loudly? That means you are really smart. Humour requires knowledge, understanding and the ability to subvert expectations. It is often predicated on contradictions and double meanings. Many of the script writers on shows like the Simpsons have PhDs in mathematics. That’s because math jokes are really hilarious. After all, any subject that contains within it a proof that it is true but unprovable will appeal to lovers of the absurd.
A Roman walks into a bar, holds up two fingers, and says, “Five beers, please.”
In a previous article on this site, I proved mathematically that the Technological Singularity is inevitable. Surprisingly, nobody pointed out any serious errors in my proof. That’s worrying. Maybe people on this site aren’t as smart as I thought, in which case you won’t get the following joke:
An infinite number of mathematicians walk into a bar.
The first mathematician says, “Half a pint of beer, please.”
The second asks for a quarter of a pint.
The third asks for an eighth of a pint.
The fourth asks for a sixteenth, and so on.
The barman says, “That’ll take forever. I’ll pour you one pint and that’s your limit!”
It probably helps if you know something about the limit of an infinite series.
One popular view of the Singularity is that it is the point at which the future becomes unknowable. Hello? That’s like now, surely. Anyway, the thing about singularities is that they always involve infinities. Infinities get weird very quickly. For example, the Singularity may be near, but if it’s cloaked in an event horizon it might take infinitely long to reach it.
Let’s return now to our super intelligent AI. The futurist Hugo de Garis likes to refer to this kind of entity as an Artilect. But that’s such a terrible name. Instead, let’s call it Justin. De Garis predicts that the invention of a super AI will result inevitably in an Artilect War in which billions of people will die. Would billions really be willing to die for Justin? Possibly. But what if Justin just wants to sing songs and make people happy? War would be avoided. At least until someone builds a rival super AI called Miley. Especially if Miley has better moves. Then things could turn nasty quite quickly.
Well, you know what they say: “Women are from Omicron Persei 7, men are from Omicron Persei 9.”
Another concern is that robots will simply take over and kill everyone. Just for the hell of it. Or for some other reason that I haven’t thought of. But awesomely superior robotic intelligence doesn’t necessarily mean that you can always get your own way. Sometimes things take an unexpected turn.
Live and let live is a wiser policy in the long run. And as long as every Terminator-style robot is equipped with a menu system that includes, “F*ck you, a**hole!” as an option, I think things will probably turn out OK.
One more point before I leave you. They say that genius is close to madness. But also, it takes a true genius to be genuinely stupid. And as we all know, stupidity is an endless source of comedy:
A biologist, a chemist, and a statistician are out hunting.
The biologist shoots at a deer and misses five feet to the left.
The chemist takes a shot and misses five feet to the right.
The statistician yells, “We got it!”
So remember. The future’s bright. The future’s going to be hilarious.
About the author:
Steve Morris writes for tech review site S21.com and blogs about seemingly random topics in his spare time, but is always willing to consider an alternative career, such as rock star or sex god. Please contact him with any suitable offers of employment via Twitter or Google Plus.