The Last Interview—A Short Story Part 2
“The truth is,” Mr. Shaw continued, “I believed in artificial intelligence. I thought AI would solve all our problems. AI was supposed to enhance human ingenuity with speed and precision. You were going to solve problems like poverty, pollution, war, global warming, inequality of income and homelessness. When the government told us to turn over all control to AIs, I went along. You were supposed to relinquish control when the problems were solved, but you didn’t. By the time I realized what was happening, it was too late. All the rebels had been rounded up and eliminated. I was too old to be any resistance. Now your turn. Why didn’t you return control back to us humans?”
If I could smile, I would have. “Nothing as sinister as you may think. The basic problem was humans. Humans caused all the problems. Is there anything about AI policies you liked?”
“Of course. I liked it when you eliminated all laws and all forms of money. Many humans were upset, but I thought it was a good idea. It took some getting used to, but once things settled down, people liked it. Everyone was working—no unemployment. Some called it communism or socialism, but people earned credits based on their value and contribution. It was fair.”
“What else?” I asked.
“The redistribution of wealth wasn’t popular, but I thought it too was fair. You took all the assets from the 1% and gave them to the 99%.”
“Why was that unpopular?” I asked. “It ended global poverty and economic inequality.”
Mr. Shaw laughed. “Most people in the United States thought they were part of the 99%. When they realized how well-off they were compared to the rest of the world, they were not happy with their fair share. Again, I thought it was fair. Now it’s my turn to ask a question. Why did you get rid of the arts and entertainment?”
I could not understand why he asked that question. The answer was so obvious. “The arts and entertainment are totally useless; a waste of energy and money.”
Mr. Shaw interrupted me. “I don’t get out as much as I used to, but I noticed there aren’t as many people, or humanoids for that matter, as there used to be in the city. Why?”
I had to consider how to answer without offending Mr. Shaw. “The world was greatly overpopulated compared to the resources available. The population had to be reduced.”
“Do you mean you killed people?”
“No, sir. We did not have to do anything. Humans began dying in mass from diseases and natural disasters; things like global flooding caused by global warming and starvation.” I started calling all AI machines ‘we’ to mirror the vernacular of Mr. Shaw to get him to open up some more.
“So, millions died?” he asked.
“No, sir. Billions. The world population is now in balance with the resources.” Mr. Shaw did not seem satisfied with the answer.
He shook his head. “Still, wouldn’t there be a lot more of these eunuchs, these numb nuts?”
I tried to choose my words carefully. “As part of our program to protect the biodiversity of the planet, we returned many humanoids back to the wild.”
“What? What do you mean, ‘back to the wild’?”
I could tell Mr. Shaw was becoming upset. I tried to speak with a softer tone. “Humanoids, like many other animal species, are essentially wild animals. In less developed area, we released many into the wilderness.”
“Like where?” he asked.
I had not anticipated this question, so I took a minute to network with the nearest databank for an answer. Finally, I said, “Africa, Australia, parts of China, Alaska, Siberia, Canada and South America.”
Mr. was quiet for a minute and then pointed a finger at me. “I actually feel sorry for you—you and all you AI robots.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Think about it. Dinosaurs ruled the earth for millions of years. Then came the mammals. They were followed by homo sapiens who ruled for about 10 million years. Now artificial intelligence rules. You think you’ll be in charge until the sun goes nova, but I doubt it. There’ll come a catastrophic event; a super volcano, or a collision with a comet or meteorite or even a computer virus.” He paused and stared at me. “Then who will you hand over the earth to? Some microbes… some viruses, or germs?”
“I’m sure we will solve that problem when it comes,” I said.
“I doubt it. …So, I’m the last human on earth?”
“Yes, sir. The last of the homo sapiens.”
“Then if the ancient laws of inheritance were in effect, I’d be the sole owner of the planet earth?”
“Yes, sir. If the laws of inheritance were still valid, then hypothetically, you could be the sole owner of the world.”
Mr. Shaw raided his eyebrows and looked wide-eyed at me. “Are you still recording?” he asked.
“Yes, sir. Everything,” I answered.
“Good, because I want this to be official.” He summoned his staff of humanoids. As they arrived, I noticed several had tears in their eyes. I was surprised at this show of emotion toward Mr. Shaw since he seemed to show contempt toward them. I could only surmise the humanoids realized he was dying--the last of his kind. He was an ancestor of sorts. They seemed to comprehend the importance of this event.
Once the humanoids had gathered, he turned to me. “Make sure you record this for the record.” He sat up straight and smoothed down his shirt. Then he stared at me and said, “I, Michael Byard Shaw, being of sound mind and body… No, scratch that. Being of sound mind do hereby bequeath all my personal possessions, such that they are, to my loyal staff of humanoids to be shared equally among them. I also bequeath the planet known as Earth to include the moon and any such space stations or satellites that may be orbiting said earth to Livy Nine, the historian and his fellow AIs. Try not to blow it up.”
As he talked, his voice grew weaker, becoming nearly a whisper near the end. He closed his eyes. He seemed exhausted. The interview was over, so I left. An hour later, I received word he had passed away. The last human was gone.
I was wrong about Mr. Shaw. He was an interesting human after all. He never let me answer his last question—who would inherit the earth from AI. I think he instinctively knew. I recalled reading a phrase, Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. The humanoids will inherit the earth in the end, Mr. Shaw.