Imagining the future

I’ve only ever read one Iain Banks novel — “The Wasp Factory”, a book I didn’t really get on with, if I remember rightly. And that was at least twenty years ago. But this interview in the Atlantic — pegged to the publication of the latest instalment of his “Culture” sequence — makes me wonder if I shouldn’t have another go. One subject that comes up for discussion is whether Artificial Intelligence (or “the Minds” in this context) will really take us onto a new level of civilisation. All in all, Banks sounds surprisingly upbeat:

I think AIs might be the saving of us. Again, I could be wrong, and if any AI we create ever does do the whole thank-you-for-the-gift-of-life-now-die-puny-humans thing, I disclaim all responsibility for the artist’s impression constituted by the Culture novels failing to chime with grisly reality.

Ideally you want strength in depth in your future society, with a robustly reliable step-down process in place that lets you fall back to the aforementioned dumb-but-fast supercomputers and on down to standard human capabilities—without suffering too much in the process—just in case the Minds, or whatever, do suddenly decide they’re bored with the whole thing and disappear up their own collective fundament…

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Chief theatre critic for The Times. Twitter: CliveDavisUK Facebook: Instagram: clivephotos
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