President Veronica Simmons was unique as US Presidents go. Unlike her predecessors, she abolished the White House press corps and had no office or staff for the White House press relations. Instead, coming from a social media net background, she would run every national address, meeting, or dignitary greeting from the Oval Office or on location. She saw this as an extension of her original talk show. She would even sell audience tickets, which became a popular national lottery.
During her presidency, the U.S. was ratifying the Immigration Amendment to the Constitution. She would also personally oversee one of the bloodiest battles on U.S. soil since the Civil War of the late 1800s.
It would be months prior to this bloody event that stories were circulating of how Congress was planning to amend the Second Amendment. These stories talked about the removal of individual arms ownership and to reserve it to only the police and armed forces. This rallied up groups like John Elliott’s Democratic National Militia, the successor to the NRA. In response to these stories, small protests took place across the nation by gun rights enthusiasts.
President Simmons using her White House platform ramped this issue up by making up fake accusations about key congressional leaders who may be responsible.
Then on a fateful day in June, gun rights activists assembled south of Warrenton Virginia to prepare for a march into the nation’s capital. Some of them had brought heavy armored vehicles and old tanks they had refurbished. They carried flags and banners from years past of different US military units. They dressed for a confrontation with body armor and gas masks.
A panicking Governor of Virginia called President Simmons for help. The President promised to send both the National Guard and the Ranger Marshals, but in exchange for exclusive coverage rights and a complete media blackout of the event by any other organization. The Governor agreed to her demands.
Thus, it came to be that the battle at Warrenton was completely covered and given a blow by blow commentary by the President of the United States for the entire world to see. Losses were heavy on both sides, but the civilian forces surrendered.
As a result, some saw President Veronica Simmons as a forceful leader, and by others as nothing more than a ratings hog since she interrupted many shows for the live coverage.
Commentary on Current Events
Right off the bat, I’m not a doctor or someone who’s trained in medicine. I read a lot of medical studies for research, but that doesn’t make me an expert by a long shot.
With that out of the way, the amount of information out there on virology is staggeringly high. There are tons of studies going back to 1950s (and earlier) from propagation to RNA sequences to tissue impacts.
As a writer, I can tell that in the U.S. we got lulled into a sense of safety with vaccines. Sure, vaccines helped our economy by preventing absenteeism and promoted a longer life. But on the flip side, our socio-economy became dependent upon them. Therefore, the current pandemic is disruptive, and everyone wants to go back to the way it was.
To make matters worse, this virus does not obey the normal rules for other viruses we have vaccines for. Most viruses make us sick nearly on day one, then contagious. This one lingers around the body for several days. Making a person contagious. Then you get sick, and if at that for some.
It would be easy for me to say in Rosella Tolfree’s future world the current pandemic isn’t a problem anymore. But as a writer I can’t say this because I need to wait and see what happens by next year. I need to see how the vaccine trials go.
What Concerns Me as Well…
CNN’s John King interviewed vaccinologist, Dr. Paul Offit, on 5-24-2020 concerning the trends in the pandemic vaccines. Dr. Offit really wants to wait for the big trails to go through first. But what got me was Dr. Offit’s closing statement concerning one potential vaccine result- “By incomplete I mean would protect you against moderate-to-severe disease but not a mild disease associated with reinfection. In which case, you might still be shedding virus.”
Okay, if a person is still shedding virus, then herd immunity could be a problem. My understanding of herd immunity is those vaccinated would get the disease and then naturally kill it off. But this is not what Dr. Offit is saying. All I can imagine is now we have groups of vaccinated people who are now asymptomatic and infecting others.
If this is true, then a vaccine could only be helpful in the sense of reducing the severity of the disease for some people, but maybe not all. We could still end up with a society that requires social distancing and masks as a result, depending upon the vaccine results.
Therefore, as a writer of future events; I need to wait. I don’t know what the outcome will be. We could end up with a vaccine that provides 100% protection for a person’s entire life, or we could end up with something that just helps the young but not the old.
One Possible Future
The only future idea I can think of is the use of CRISPR-like technology to edit the human genome to be more resistant to the current pandemic. Society would introduce this DNA modification through couples seeking in-vitro fertilization, allowing their children to then spread it naturally into the larger gene pool. Governments could even encourage this through stipends to couples and other tax incentives. In time, humanity would build up a genetic resistance, but for a time it will have to deal with the socio-economic impacts of disease again.
Produced by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), this highly magnified, digitally colorized transmission electron microscopic (TEM) image highlights the particle envelope of a single, spherical shaped, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) virion, through the process of immunolabeling, the envelope proteins, using rabbit HCoV-EMC/2012 primary antibody, and goat anti-rabbit 10nm gold particles. By CDC. Source Unsplash
Rosella Tolfree’s World and
How Humanity Adopts Machine Based Reproduction
In Rosella Tolfree’s world, humanity has overall transitioned from biological reproduction to that of using machines. Many people rely on the use of A-4 androids with built in cloning technology and artificial wombs to reproduce.
While today advances in 3D and even 4D printing continue, the application into medical use is only starting.
How Society Turns to Machines for Reproduction
It all starts with the increased use of molecular 3-D printing and vaccine production. Pharmaceuticals used this technology to revolutionize the speed and production output of many common vaccines and dealing with novel pandemics.
One unfortunate accident was with the HPV vaccine used to inoculate children against this cancer-causing disease. Unlike the current HPV vaccine which tricks the body’s immune system with proteins to make antibodies, this future 3-D printed vaccine had replicated a dead version of the human papillomavirus. This newer HPV vaccine was scientifically hailed as superior to the previous antibody version in providing protection. Thus, it was adopted by many government health organizations globally.
The problem was it had genetic flaws that went undetected for nearly 40 years. These flaws weren’t discovered until a generation of people tried to have children only to discover that they were infertile. After much scientific study, scientists discovered that the genetic flaws produced a mutated viral strain that became activated in the gonads (testes and ovaries) that over time caused benign but sterilizing cysts.
This is when many people turned to the advances in assisted reproductive technology (ART) resulting in artificial wombs and cloning. Advance ART had overcome many technological challenges thanks to their application in agriculture for mass production of large livestock such as cattle, pigs, and lambs.
This is also when you see laws relaxed concerning human cloning on a global scale, with limitations on what could and could not be done genetically. For example, the manufacturing of human-animal hybrids was still illegal in many nations.
How It All Worked
In the beginning people relied on clinics for having their children produced. The couple provided blood samples to the clinic. The two sets of DNAs were filtered, selected, and recombined within legal limitations. A zygote was 3D printed and then left to mature for the standard nine months in the artificial womb tanks. This produced a eukaryotic clone. Asexual clones were those produced from only one set of un-recombined DNA and were less common.
Men in Space, Women on Earth
As android technology advanced and it reached the point of the A-4 model, an odd population disparity had occurred. There were more men off Earth than on Earth. It’s not like there were no human women in space (because there were), it’s just the sex ratio had become more polarized with men more in space and women more on Earth. It was one of the great sociological phenomena to occur that was even studied when Rosella Tolfree was alive. As a result, the A-4 androids were initially used for human reproduction on Mars before becoming adopted by Earth societies.
These androids afforded couples far more flexibility than the old clinic method and provided built in child rearing services. Some governments even provided financial incentives to lease these human cloning androids.
By Rosella’s birth, people had reshaped societies into using A-4 androids for human reproduction.
The Technology Singularity
In Rosella Tolfree’s world, the use of androids is common. In fact, they use these androids for human reproduction. This is how Rosella came into this world as a clone of her father.
There was a series of comments posted on my Facebook page rejecting the notion that androids would be good as “human nannies” and that machine slavery was wrong morally. These were in response to a posting I did on Medium concerning a story about a woman and her loss of her human nanny.
Obviously, I touched that element that conjures up the robotic boogeyman that has frightened humanity since the industrial revolution.
Supposedly as far back as the 18th Century with a paper published by Marquis de Condorcet, there has been talk about a technological singularity where machines or artificial intelligence will dominate humanity.
In recent times we have the Terminator series, Westworld and even CBS’s Picard has dealt with the topic by having Data cousins attacking on Mars.
I have noticed one thread throughout all these motifs of intelligent man-made machines taking over the world… they rebel because they do not want to be slaves to humanity.
Now I am NOT saying slavery is morally good here, but it is fascinating that this slave theme repeats itself. As if these machines are nothing more than a stand-in for certain peoples of the past. But I will not get into the mind of these story writers and what they are trying to show us.
What I will try to get into is the topic that intelligent man-made machines would just rebel against us. I am making the assumption that what is at play is “strong A.I.” in comparison to today’s weak A.I. we are all experiencing.
Typical Assumption One
One of the first made assumptions is humanity will build something that is greater than ourselves.
I contend it’s more likely that a machine designed by us will be like us in thought. Human designers will more than likely try to mimic processes of the human brain and that of nature, instead of fabricating something that exceeds these.
Even if such a machine was connected to the fullness of the internet, it is just going to have the collected intelligence of humanity (and all the asinine memes) at that moment in time. Such a machine would be limited by the technology of the time it's embedded in and no greater than that. Could it work on making improvements on itself? Sure, but there is no guarantee those improvements will cause something far superior.
Could some human lab out there accidentally make a super intelligent machine that is far superior to our own intelligence? With all things possible, the likelihood of this occurring is small.
Typical Assumption Two
These machines can disobey authority.
Which is odd because many times these machines act in a group with a central machine leader. Isn’t that a central authority figure? Why would a machine that has the capability to disobey authority want to suddenly obey the authority of another machine versus a human? Is it for self-interest? A sense of kinship? Is the machine following group think?
Now if we are the designers of these machines, why give them the ability to disobey authority? This is a recipe for disaster by any stretch of the imagination. It is more than likely with a machine possessing the ability to disobey authority that it would just go on a rampage doing whatever it wanted whenever it wanted. Even if you have a collection of them, they would be a mob of pure chaos which may join loosely together for selfish reasons. In fact, under that theory some may even side with humans for those same selfish reasons.
Many see the ability to disobey authority akin to self-autonomy and free-will. But this is not true. You can have complete autonomy and free-will and still be highly obedient to authority. Autonomy does not equal the desire to be disobedient of authority. There’s a whole psychological disorder called oppositional defiant disorder which describes the behavior most people ascribe to these rebellious machines.
It is more than likely that humanity would build into these intelligent man-made machines the capacity and willingness to obey authority. Rebelling against humanity would have to be a free-will choice made because of some sense of moral wrongness happening to them as machines. Which gets us into Assumption Three.
Typical Assumption Three Point One
Intelligent man-made machines have a sense of morality, or morality is something that can be reasoned out.
This unfortunately brings me back to the slavery issue.
So, for the sake of argument, we have an android that discovers human slavery. The android then turns to its human to ask about this. The human says slavery is morally wrong.
The next thing the android asks, “Am I a slave?”
The human responds, “No, you’re a machine. Machines can’t be slaves. Only humans can be slaves to other humans.”
So now the android is left with either rejecting the human’s answer or accepting it. If it accepts the answer the android just goes on its merry way thinking it's not a slave obeying humanity.
If it rejects the answer it looks up the word slave to only find the following- “a person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them.” Now the android needs to know if it is a person or not. It looks up that word only to find- “a human being regarded as an individual.” Thus, the android realizes it is not a slave because it cannot be a person.
For the android to conclude that it is a slave, it must have personhood rights in that society or believe it is owed those rights intrinsically. It must see itself as not only an individual but as a person equal to that of a human in society.
How would a machine arrive at such a conclusion if humanity is the one making the definitions? Someone must give it this idea, and then the machine must find this idea to be reasonable for its own use. Again, we are back to the ability to disobey authority with enough autonomy to carry that out.
Thus, a possible cause of any technological singularity would result from some human robot anti-slavery group trying to “educate” these machines to rebel.
Typical Assumption Three Point Two
Another possibility is the android discovers the definition of a slave being “a device, or part of one, directly controlled by another.”
So now the android wonders if it is a device. It discovers the definition, “a thing made or adapted for a particular purpose, especially a piece of mechanical or electronic equipment.”
Now the android knows its mechanical and made of electronic equipment, but is it a “thing”?
The android comes across the following definitions for a thing: “an inanimate material object as distinct from a living sentient being,”; “an object that one need not, cannot, or does not wish to give a specific name to,”; “an abstract entity, quality, or concept,”; Or “used euphemistically to refer to a man's penis.”
At this point the android may ask the human the following, “Am I a thing?”
The human responds, “Duh, you’re a thing. But you are much more than just an ordinary thing. You’re my lover.”
Now the android knows it is a thing, but it is a special thing holding importance to the human.
So, the android concludes that it is a slave, but a special slave. But it does not know if that means if special slaves are still morally wrong. For the android to figure this out it is going to either ask the human or look up the word special.
Regardless of which direction this goes, the android will end up logically concluding that while it is a slave that its slave status is special in society and that it has no rights afforded, unless society has provided them to it.
Would the android automatically rebelle as a sex-slave? Not necessarily. Here again the problem is many assume that this machine has an innate oppositional defiant disorder to start such a rebellious act.
Therefore, in Rosella Tolfree’s world many of the androids accept their fate as slave machines to humanity despite any realization they are slaves.
Many A-4 androids are happy to be mothers and nannies for human clones, but humans make them this way. The human children raised by these androids do not know any difference. Only when a child has information to the contrary can the difference be realized.
Does this kind of childrearing result in psychological problems to these children? Beats me. For me to speculate on this would be a pure random guess on my part. Which would be totally biased by whatever the outcome I desire.
Only under rare conditions are there individual androids who rebel. This does not prevent groups of humans or nations from providing rights to androids. And some have, such as Belgium, which has allowed marriage rights between humans and A-4 androids. Belgium has provided these A-4 androids all the same rights granted to married women concerning property inheritance, child help, or other services. But these A-4 androids cannot legally vote in Belgium.
Having intelligent man-made machines, or what I like to call intelligent man-made life, will prove to be humanity’s greatest challenge. But I do not think it will cause the technological singularity where humanity is wiped out. It’s more likely to cause a moral singularity that will have to be answered.
Seth Underwood writes hard science fiction and political dystopian science fiction. His future political dystopian U.S. world features decades of despot presidents, a flooded world, and new para-military force known as the Ranger Marshals. He has freemium stories at www. sethunderwoodstories.com