You can learn a lot from a dream, even when it’s about death. And even when that death is your own.
I had such a nightmare the other night. Who killed me? When and how did I die? I wish I could tell you, but I don’t have a clue — my subconscious mind revealed none of these answers. Instead, it chose to show me what happened after my passing.
I fully expected to find my wife and son grieving over me. But they didn’t. You see, at the very moment that my heart stopped, another me — a substitute me — stepped in to take my place. It was an exact physical copy guided by artificial intelligence. It had all my memories. It knew everything I did, and it had all of my quirks. Family and friends simply carried on their relationship with me — with this other me, that is.
Sounds pretty horrifying, doesn’t it? Strangely, this all seemed normal in the dream. In that universe — the one generated by my sleeping mind — it was not only me who ended life this way. Everyone did. Everyone lived on, sort of, through an artificial replacement.
So what was my subconscious trying to tell me? I’ll never know for sure, but I’d like to think it was sounding an alarm. Perhaps it was the age-old warning, “Be careful what you wish for.” Specifically, don’t wish for immortality, because this is what it’ll probably look like.
Or my mind could be cautioning me, in a broader sense, about artificial intelligence. Algorithms are already recommending vacation destinations for us. “Last summer it was Maui, two years ago it was Busan. Shall I book a flight to Europe? Berlin and Budapest are cheap at the moment.” AI also decides our media diet. And it’s practically answering our email, proposing responses like “Got it” and “Me too!” These were all tasks that we used to do ourselves, or at least with the help of people close to us. Of course, we can always say no to AI, but as it gets better and better at “helping” us, won’t we become less willing and less likely to resist these offers?
Before you say no, how many of you switch off your car navigation device so that you can enjoy driving to new unknown places? I thought so.
AI is great. It’s convenient and makes life easier, and we can enjoy that. But it wants to be part of everything we do, from cradle to grave and maybe even beyond. And if we let it, it will be. Fortunately, the threat is pretty easy to detect. I figured it out, anyway. One night with my eyes closed. (Tony László)