The only set certainty about the future of Artificial Intelligence is its importance. AI has the power to become a powerful force in years to come, though no one can quite agree what form it will take. There are many guesses, however. Whether they are exciting or frightening is different for everyone.
After the Singularity, a predicted point in time in which advancements in technology will occur almost continuously, many predict that nanobots will be implanted into humans. At first, they would accomplish simple tasks, such as storing more memory. Eventually, they would act as a real computer, reading brain signals to turn themselves on and off, and people would rely on them more and more as they become more "intelligent" and more powerful. Nanobots will allow us to do far more than we can currently imagine.
Once humanity merges with technology with the proliferation of nanobots, the Internet will become much more important. Everybody would be wirelessly connected at all times and even physical objects could pass through it. This could occur if a detailed design is given in a “Molecular Description Language” and special nanofactories, or nano printers, existed that could recreate the physical and molecular structures at the other end. Such a system could exist within the current system of economy, provided the rights to objects are still owned by the companies that created them.
The Internet, with its millions of users of varying abilities, encourages communistic practices. Free services such as Wikipedia or peer-to-peer file sharing are most successful when everyone works to the best of their ability to make the website in question as good as possible—the ultimate goal of communism. As the Internet grows, more and more websites like these will undoubtedly come about. Successes over the Internet could easily spill over into actual governments.
Many people fear that once robots become conscious, they will become superior to humans with their unlimited memories and their ability to calculate at lightening speed. Following an evolutionary cycle, they will eventually outlast humans to become the dominant life form on earth. Instead of being separate entities, however, they will probably start out as nanobot computers inside biological people. As the computers grow more powerful and autonomous, they will take over more human functions until humans become more robotic than human. Eventually they would eliminate the need for people, reproducing and growing on their own.
To avoid this, some believe that the solution is to start over. Many neo-luddites want to remove all traces of modern technology and bring humanity back to pre-Industrial Revolution times. They attribute many current and future problems in humanity to technology, and they believe that its elimination will solve many of them.
Perhaps humanity will not be around long enough to find out. Developments like the robot soldier and evolving viruses may bring us back to the basics without help from the Luddites. Robot soldiers are obviously dangerous, as they allow for battle without loss of human life. They could easily make war commonplace and continuous. While viruses are currently only a serious problem for online businesses, they could prove to be a serious issue if nanobots are installed in humans and are continuously connected to the Internet. One hard-to-find virus could potentially destroy all of humanity.
These are only a few of the potential scenarios that could play out as AI comes of age in the years ahead. There are as many possibilities as there are scientists to dream them up, and one will not know for sure what will happen until it happens.