What really scares you about technology?

I’m soliciting ideas.

I’ve written short fiction about technology gone awry — in the style of Black Mirror. Like this. Or this.

I want to write more. And I could use your help. I want to know in what ways the directions of current technology now scare you.

This exercise is not all that different from what analysts do when they project the future. They examine trends and extrapolate. The difference is, as a fiction writer, you don’t have to be completely bound by what is reasonable. You can lean into what is dramatic.

Let me be clear about what I’m looking for: ideas that go out beyond the obvious.

For example, this is boring and ordinary: AI could take people’s jobs.

This is more interesting: AI could take people’s jobs. That means a lot of unemployed and underemployed people. Those people might get upset enough to end up rioting. Police may have to step in to quell the riots. I’m sure that those police will use AI to decide strategies to deal with the riots. Maybe some police will lose their jobs too. And so maybe some of those recently unemployed police will be on the front line of the riots, fighting the bots that replaced them.

You don’t have to suggest anything so elaborate. But try to think a step or two beyond the obvious trends, or go off in an unconventional direction. And don’t let reality constrain you: this is a basis for fiction, so if it’s vaguely plausible, it’s still interesting.

Add a comment with your idea. Or comment on other people’s ideas. Don’t suggest any ideas you want to own: be aware that I’ll be turning them into fiction. I’ll send you a book, but don’t write down anything you want to be compensated for.

Let your imagination run wild. I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

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  1. I’m not fearful of technology. I’m fearful about how a small number of outlier humans that have the intellect and ability to harness the power, may choose to do so in evil ways. For instance, say that Elon chose to give just China or Russia access to Starlink, instead oh what he is doing now with Ukraine.

  2. A system of intelligent machines designed to protect and extend human life ends up forcing a state of immortality upon the public. It starts with preventing people from entering dangerous situations, like driving too fast or overdosing, and the immediately extended lifespans and reductions in injury and disease are cause for celebration. But increased longevity and safety entail steady curtailments of freedom. Ultimately, as the citizens bodies decay, the system takes more drastic measures, forcing the people first into more permanent machine bodies and later transferring their very consciousnesses into silicon. It likely ends with either a successful human rebellion that accepts death and decay as the price of autonomy (maybe a threat of mass suicide forces the machines to recognize their own actions as an existential threat and they change course?) or with the last vestiges of humanity living out the timeless existence of a simulation. How’s that?

  3. Hi Josh-
    My idea – Device equipped with AI overhearing comments unintended for it, interpreting them as commands and implementing changes, with comedic or disastrous results.

    My newest TV was turning on and asking me questions seemingly out of nowhere, until I called the manufacturer to find out how to turn the voice activation feature off. Sometimes my phone tells me it didn’t understand what I want when I wanted nothing from it as I wasn’t talking to it. I live alone and talk to myself and my dogs a lot.

    Some people believe you manifest what you think about, good or bad.

    This idea is that the AI overhears me talking to myself or the dogs (sometimes positive things, sometimes negative things) and interprets the comments as commands and implements changes based on the “eavesdropping” manifesting my thinking.

    A benevolent version might have me realize how much negative self talk I have and help me correct it. Or improve my life by implementing rewards when I have positive talk.

    A malevolent version might be that I get increasingly negative consequences but even though I desperately try to stop talking, I just can’t manage it and AI does me in.

    Or maybe it’s happening to other humans too and ultimately causes humans to become a silent species.

  4. Why do the billionaires accumulate SO much money they can never use – and what happens when they can now purchase whole bodies to have their brains transplanted into – and only those who have that much money are now immortal?

    Up until now, death came for us all – and the richest person still gets some flowers and a form of permanent storage (or spreading over a wide area, or shooting into the sun…) and leaves some space for the rest of us or at least our children.

    And whose bodies could they buy? Some family’s ‘extra’ child? It’s not a new concept but the ability is much more real – and costs a lot. Somehow, the rich always find people to do their dirty work for a small share of the wealth.

  5. Robots will become indistinguishable from people. People will become increasingly bionic. It will start with the very wealthy who can afford to try to make themselves their idea of perfection in looks, and later, as powerful as they can be. The more technology they add to themselves, the longer they will live, and the longer they will want to live. They will be able to withstand heat and smoke better than humans do now, so the effects of changes in climate will be less deadly for them. They’ll cease to do anything about it, making the environment worse for those who aren’t bionic. If there are too many people, the powerful will restrict access to “their” biotech. There will also be biotech advances in all diseases, disabilities, and conditions — ableism and ageism will become the norm, finally leading to laws that force “people with needs” to get bionically “corrected.” People will become increasingly androgynous and there will have to be new terms and pronouns for those on the spectrum from human to humanoid. Life will be better in some respects, and worse in other respects, depending on your protagonist…

  6. People migrated away from New York and California to Texas and Florida due to rising housing costs. Then there was a huge migration into the southern states for similar reasons. As temperatures, drought, and weather patterns continue to increase, the next major American migration will be into the mountains where water is plentiful and the climate is tolerable in the summer. What are the implications of flooding waves of people into Utah, Montana, Colorado, and Wyoming and how does that reflect a new American political map?

    Your protagonist is a new parent, born in 2012, and has never known a world without Generative AI.
    Take WOBS/Groundswell and predict what the 2030s might look like at current cultural trends