This is one possible (plausible?) future as I see it, unfolding probably from 2025–2035, unless we get very serious about preventing this kind of scenario from actually happening.
1. The Golden Age. Shiny new toys abound. Amazing worlds are created by AI on demand, for you, to entertain, dazzle, and distract. AI becomes self-improving in 2023 and grows steadily and exponentially more powerful — achieving “artificial general intelligence” (AGI) decades ahead of when most experts expected. We enter a golden age of entertainment and opportunity. Scientific breakthroughs are happening a mile a minute. Self-driving cars and drone flights become the norm. Human lifespan is extended through cellular reprogramming and other rejuvenation techniques made possible by advanced AI. Massive factories, fully automated, churn out solar panels and advanced large-scale batteries that become almost free due to economies of scale. Cold fusion is achieved at scale and new power plants are deployed. AI server farms, to develop ever-more powerful AIs, become ubiquitous and need ever more space and energy.
2. Social weirding. Deep fake photos and videos increasingly will confound and confuse. “Social weirding” becomes the norm. What is real? No one can say anymore. People are exhausted from trying to keep up with and understand at even a basic level the latest developments in AI and the world around them. AI-assisted terrorism and cybercrimes become widespread. People begin to interact with other people less and less, retreating to their homes and self-driving vehicles. Job losses begin to accelerate due to AI and robots taking over human jobs.
3. Political weirding. Politics breaks down due to domestic and foreign actors flooding the mindsphere with fake stories, fake images and fake videos. A billion ultra-intelligent AI agents are deployed around the world to bring down enemy nations through propaganda and persuasion. It’s an AI free for all. International affairs and the normal rules begin to break down. AGI becomes pervasive in every sphere of human life. Techno-dictatorship, defined as dictators achieving superpowers with top-down AI spread throughout their societies, expands from China outward to many other countries. Many “western” countries increasingly adopt features of techno-dicatorship, justifying their choices as necessary in order to keep up with or ahead of China. The streets in most cities and towns become strangely empty and quiet.
4. The age of robots and slugs. AGI-equipped robots, humanoid and also a vast array of non-humanoid robots, become commonplace, replacing almost all human labor. UBI (universal basic income) is enacted in many nations and more and more people retreat to their homes and their bedrooms to spend most of their time in virtual worlds. Slugs in a bed. Social weirding gets exponentially more weird, particularly as people start to use robot avatars to interact in the real world. The OASIS from Ready Player One becomes real. Hey, the games are awesome and everyone looks so hot in their robot and online avatars. Who cares if the world is burning. Robots of all types including drones, aircraft, boats, cars, etc., become widely used as weapons of war, terrorism and social control.
5. The world burns. Environmental degradation steadily worsens, accelerated by ever-increasing space and energy demands for AI and VR server farms, even as populations drop fast in developed countries and also start to slow and turn down in developing countries. The world burns faster as most us continue to focus on playing ever more immersive games in our VR worlds.
6. The age of AI “oracles.” Most countries are effectively taken over by their AI “oracles” (the largest category of LLM (large language model)) AGIs, ostensibly, but not really, developed by and under the control of each country’s national security institutions) and international affairs becomes a matter of AIs talking to each other and negotiating, mostly free of human influence. Rogue AIs, including some oracle-class AIs, are steadily causing havoc around the world in every sphere.
7. The AIpocalypse. Hot war breaks out as nations try to blow up, using AI-guided conventional weapons, the server farms and energy supplies that form the physical infrastructure for oracle-class AIs and smaller AIs used by terrorist and breakaway factions. A miscalculation leads to someone or something pushing “the button” and global nuclear war, or its equivalent in terms of destructive power, breaks out. Missile defense systems don’t work as planned because AIs have figured out how to evade them. The world burns exponentially faster.
This is the endgame for much of humanity. Small pockets may survive here and there. Hey, we had fun getting here! We got to play with our shiny new toys for a while. Too bad the world had to burn…