In addition to the broad themes they spelled out, these experts made dozens of striking assertions about how life might be changed by people’s applications of AI in the coming years. Hundreds of important ideas can be found among the 166 expert responses. A few of the many:

  • A new meaning of life will arise in a “self-actualized economy:” Massive AI-generated economic efficiencies that improve work and the way basic infrastructure performs will be combined with medical and other scientific advances that will fundamentally alter the way people act, connect and care for each other.
  • There will be a shifting boundary between what’s human and what’s a machine: As AI applications become normalized and ordinary the things that are considered controversial and dangerous will change from year to year.
  • Adjunct intelligence will be everywhere: This will dramatically affect individuals’ sense of identity, perception and even consciousness itself. Our AI systems will know us better than we know ourselves. This reality will create a Mind2 – or Mind 2.0 – world as we move from a rules-based order derived from religious and territorial hegemonies to neural network rules based on AI software and machine learning.
  • Personal avatars with “self-sovereign identities” will represent us: Individuals will possess 3D, photo-realistic avatars to carry out tasks for them utilizing their comprehensive personal data. The AIs will be connected to various biometrics as proof of identity and to enhance security, aggregating data from birth. Each avatar will understand its owner’s needs and act on them.
  • Digital assistants will have far more influence over their person than their human analogues have over themselves: Engagements with AI provide their creators with intimate insights about users that can be exploited; people will be more vulnerable to digital manipulation, often giving up ownership, control and responsibility over things they depend upon it for, especially critical thinking.
  • People will form intimate and meaningful relationships with their bots: Some will focus most of their human affection, desires and attention on digital products. This shift can have significant anti-social consequences. Even those who don’t suffer this will be operating so much in the digital space they could lose the benefits of human contact.
  • People’s sense of time and space will change: This could start with changes in “transit flows” for people, vehicles and information and also be carried along by changes in the way individuals present themselves via digital systems to others. Think avatars, holograms and bot assistants.
  • “Truths will be modified”: The AI-abetted spread of deepfakes, disinformation and post-truth content will broaden, and masses of electronic documents will be modified in hindsight to fit special interests’ points of view. Societies’ crucial reference points may be lost, causing a rise in polarization and cognitive dissonance.
  • Laws can be established to require responsible design for AI tools: Responsibility for errors, omissions, negligence, mischief or criminal-like activity with regard to technology could be shared by every person in each technology’s organizational, operational and ownership chains, down to the last shareholder.
  • Shared benefits will transform humanity: The application of AI to achieve long-needed widespread economic change will lead to a more-equitable, sustainable society that relies less on consumption as a driver of productivity and instead evaluates productivity based on “human-flourishing metrics.”
  • Communities could develop “social driver’s licenses” to validate the social competence of AIs in their networks: One governance model suggested involves different communities setting up different norms and assessment regimes to grant AI systems the privilege of “steering humans.”
  • Authoritarians will create fully surveilled and socially controlled states: The lives of individuals in authoritarian nations will be sharply regulated and manipulated and all governments corporations and other institutions with control over AI will have the ability to significantly shape and direct human action.
  • Multilingualism will blossom: The lingua franca of the digital world will not be more English; easily automated translation assisted by powerful AI tools will impact everything.
  • Creativity will be democratized but may also be homogenized: Those with ideas but not much technical skill will have the tools to create and promote their concepts; this could create a monoculture of outputs as machines do the actual work of devising creations.
  • Some AI will be designed to be “bad” or easily adapted to it: AI can be unethical and programmed to ignore legal directives.Can secure AI be designed to refuse illegal orders or criminal or unethical instructions from bad actors? Can AI systems have enough “common sense” to handle conflicting and complex ethical principles?
  • An abundance mindset might replace a scarcity mindset: A sufficient combination of intelligence (via AI), matter (via asteroid mining) and energy (from various clean sources) could provide for effectively unlimited material abundance and enable humanity to overcome much of its reason for struggle.
  • The metaverse will be one of the winners: AI will be used to build immersive environments more cheaply, and augmented-reality interactions will become increasingly accessible to many users, possibly giving people new realms for success.
  • Resistance to the always-on lifestyle is futile: Social and work norms and personal expectations will be such that individuals and organizations will be expected to always be connected and responsive.
  • AI could enable transparency of corporations and governments and expose now-hidden processes: In one hopeful scenario, AI systems to aid fact-checking and enable critical inquiry into government and corporate databases will empower citizens and bring suspect or shady practices to light.

Overall, the expert’s responses to our question echoed a number of the ideas emerging in our recent “future” reports, including many worries that have been on people’s minds since this new era of AI began: continued deterioration of both social and institutional trust and untold volumes of misinformation disseminated at global scale that will challenge fundamental democratic processes and institutions, the potential for “runaway” systems (particularly those tied to military weapons), discrimination and bias, job loss and the resulting worsening of economic inequalities and individuals’ sense of purpose, the misuse of these tools by bad actors (both at the level of the nation-state and individuals and groups who feel alienated from their societies) and deeper invasions of privacy.

The experts also mentioned commonly expressed clear upsides of AI: productivity gains, new scientific – especially medical – discoveries, educational innovations and payoffs, new insights that could help solve wicked global problems ranging from climate change to pandemics, the rise of more entertainment and leisure activities and the likely substitution of AI systems for dangerous, dirty and drudgerous jobs.

Continue reading: Experts report – Five overarching themes