Technologists and political scientists are describing the shape of things to come in terms of a "cognitive age" in which artificial intelligence and deep and machine learning will create a societal transformation equal to or surpassing the effects of the industrial and information revolutions. In this revolution, information and data will become the new oil and fossil fuels that powered the industrial age.
Fanciful thinking, perhaps, but consider the possible world of 2084.
You arrive home. Keys have been replaced by facial or retinal recognition. The door opens. Your house welcomes you and asks if the temperature of 72 degrees is satisfactory. Before you can take your coat off or place items down, your house updates you on the latest news.
You are told that, due to traffic, your spouse will be returning 20 minutes late. You are further informed that your refrigerator, freezer, stove, dishwasher and microwave have all conferred and generated a shopping list that will be delivered by drone at a specific time.
As you enter your living room, your house robot asks what you would like for dinner. It then reminds you that the gardener drones will be arriving to trim the bushes and cut the grass and that your self-driving car has returned from the shop, where the latest update has been installed. Its battery is fully recharged with a radius of 500 miles. The robot asks whether you will be attending the virtual cocktail party set for 6 p.m., so the necessary bookings are made for your joining this group remotely.
As you enter your study, you ask your computer the status of your bills. The computer comes to life and tells you that your utility, food and credit card bills have been paid and updates you on your bank balance. It asks if you would like a review of your other holdings, given that the stock markets suffered small losses that day. You decline.
Your children return home and head for the media room, where they will wear special glasses designed for homework and school assignments. The beauty of these devices is that they measure learning and can register how much or how little of the material is being retained and apply whatever corrections are needed. These readings are also relayed to your glasses, so you know their learning progress, and that in addition to carrying dozens of newspapers and journals you prefer to read, hosts 500 TV and streaming channels for movies, also can accommodate a virtually unlimited number of books.
Your spouse returns and as you are changing for the drinks party, you cannot find a particular shirt. You tell your 3D printer to produce a replacement. In two minutes, it is ready to wear.
At exactly 6 p.m., the virtual party begins. Holograms appear for each of the participants. And the background can simulate any place in the world. Today, you are on top of Mount Everest. You circulate freely among your friends. The only disadvantage is that 3D printers have not reached the point where food and drink can be recreated so the hors d'oeuvres are served by your house robot.
After dinner and several hours in the media room catching up on news and mail via your helmet, it is bed time. Your dog was walked by the autonomous dog-walking collar that did not need a human, You repair to the bedroom, where your bed sets itself to provide the best sleep position. It also measures your vital signs, in essence providing a daily medical exam and alarms itself to awaken you gently at the right time.
The fear of job displacement never materialized. Many millions of AI repair people were needed to ensure proper functioning of the AI systems. Because of climate change, powerful electrical storms were common, often disrupting both inter- and intranet connections. Hence repair persons were vital. Virtually every smart home or apartment had two or three permanently assigned repair technicians for these contingencies on a round-the-clock basis.
If this seems fantasy or absurdity, think about homes a century ago. Many lacked electricity and indoor plumbing. Television had not been invented and radio was in its infancy. Cars were not universal. No one had flown the Atlantic. Telephone service was limited and cellphones were of science fiction. Shopping was restricted to local shops and stalls and mail-order catalogs. Someone of that era would be stunned by today's world.
Of course, the threat of machines becoming human and other Frankensteinian distortions happening cannot be entirely dismissed. Still, AI could indeed revolutionize the shape of things to come.
Harlan Ullman is UPI's Arnaud de Borchgrave Distinguished Columnist. His latest book is "Anatomy of Failure: Why America Has Lost Every War It Starts." Follow him @harlankullman.