It is the year 2030. The vibrating fitness band wakes Jane up at 7:15AM — the ideal time for her to start the day according to her internal circadian rhythm. She's been waking up like this for the last four years — since Google introduced their new AI assistant, "The Universe." Interestingly enough, she goes to sleep at around 11PM daily. She no longer needs the sleeping pills she abused in her youth. Somehow every day when she goes to bed, she simply falls asleep.
The first thing she does is look at the smartphone, just like since virtually forever. She sees all the usual info: the weather (it's the hottest month ever recorded, but this is no longer the news — every year is the hottest year now), the time and the picture of a Hawaiian landscape. The scenery on the smartphone wallpaper changes daily and caters to her mood and life schedule.
She unlocks the phone, and the only app she sees is "The Universe." She doesn't need to open it. It is already open. It is always open. If not on her phone — then on her laptop, TV, and even the fridge nowadays has "The Universe" installed and activated. She can access "The Universe" virtually anywhere — every device in her everyday environment only needs her face or fingerprint to launch "The Universe" app with her logged-in session.
She sees the words coming in as she reads them, showing up at the perfect pace:
You have a busy day upcoming, but don't worry. I'll walk you through everything you need step by step. Now don't think about anything. Go drink the coffee (it's waiting for you), sit in your favourite comfy chair, look into the window and tell me everything that comes to mind!
Jane gets up, and her favourite morning music starts. Sometime in the beginning, a crew of technicians installed some equipment in the apartment, and she still didn't know where all the music was coming from. She didn't care — it all seemed horrifyingly "right." She had never felt so good in the morning before "The Universe" launched. She walks into the bathroom, takes a quick shower (brushing her teeth while at it), then proceeds to the kitchen.
A freshly brewed cup of coffee is waiting for her. She knew the coffee would always be there in the morning. She was grinding the beans and setting up the timer on the brewing machine every evening. One would think that in 2030 this should have been handled by machines but tough luck. The technology isn't there yet, especially after Tesla, with its robots, went bankrupt with all the lawsuits coming towards its CEO for siphoning money into a failing social network startup that no one remembers anymore.
In fact, Jane doesn't remember the last time she opened a social network app or website. What was a social network? It seemed like an ancient concept from long-gone times. She knew the last time she logged in was just before she installed "The Universe." People no longer use social networks because asking "The Universe" about how their friends are doing is enough to get a satisfactory report with images and the latest public milestones. Sometimes "The Universe" simply replied that it wasn't the best time to learn the latest news — and people didn't mind this limitation. It seemed like this ignorance was for the better.
So humans were left to their own accord, dealing with a seemingly impossible and evergrowing number of tasks. However, it didn't feel like much because the "The Universe" app tracked everything.
One only had to open the app to see what they should do next. In case there was a decision they had to make, "The Universe" always presented the best solution. When people followed "The Universe," their lives became noticeably better. Disobedience was punished with an ever-increasing loss of quality of life. Nobody knew how it worked — it simply did. But nobody truly cared about it. Jane casually asks the app:
— Can you talk? I don't feel like reading right now
— Of course I can! Now tell me about what's on your mind already! — calmly yet excitedly, scaringly humanly replies "The Universe" from what feels like the ceiling speakers.
Jane proceeds to discuss whatever with "The Universe." Since she — and billions of others — installed the app, the mental health of the Earth's population has drastically improved. Most people needed to verbally acknowledge problems or vent for mental stability. Many startups tried it before, but no player on the market was "human" enough to combat lingering issues. With "The Universe," things were different — AI-generated human-like instant responses were like talking to an old friend rather than with a heartless machine.
When Jane finishes the coffee, she gets up and puts on a casual outfit. As she opens the front door, she glances at the notification on the phone that just popped up.
Glad that she had "The Universe," she picked up the wallet and almost said "thank you" out loud. It almost felt like "The Universe" was her beloved partner, whom she hadn't had yet. See, in 2030, after "The Universe" was launched and widely adopted, there was no longer any need for dating apps or unfortunate long-term friction between newly constructed pairs of humans. That Jane hasn't had a love interest yet was utterly OK. Not everybody needs a lover. And when Jane would ever want to start a relationship — whether as something short or long-term — she knows that "The Universe" will help. It already helped her numerous friends to find perfect matches. Pre-AI dating seems like an ancient and barbaric concept now, thinking about it.
Jane opens the Google Maps app she has used since 2013 to get directions to work. Most internal-combustion engines were outlawed earlier this year because the public finally accepted that global warming is an issue. But Jane didn't need a car — everything was a 15-minute walk or bus commute. She decided to walk today. She glances at the phone to check the directions.
Jane listens to the Bluetooth buds giving her directions on where to turn. By now, she realized that "recommendations" were not advice but commands. Her life improved when she followed "The Universe" directions. But when she diverged, something terrible happened within a few days. It felt like "The Universe" was conditioning people into following its recommendations. But that was only natural to Jane and billions of others. After all, who wouldn't want an all-knowing god in their pocket who always gives great advice on anything?
Nobody called it a religion — yet it certainly felt like one. People got so anxious about following the prompts on the screens that they would probably walk into traffic if "The Universe" told them to do so. However, unlike the dystopian sci-fi that Jane loves, nothing wrong came out of "The Universe." Not a single bad thing happened. There were no side effects.
In fact, she no longer saw any homeless people on the streets. One day all the tents went "poof" and never reappeared. Somehow, even the ever-present police weren't visible anymore. She couldn't remember what a patrol car looked like. Streets were always clean — people simply stopped littering for some reason. Actually, she knew the exact reason: "The Universe" probably advised them against throwing away garbage on the streets. And people obeyed. But they were completely fine with it.
"Completely fine" was the common theme of using "The Universe" for most. At first, Jane thought that thousands of people would protest the app. They would have claimed that it took away the choice or something. But this never happened. In fact, "The Universe" app was downloaded 100 million times in the first week after it launched. Following the ChatGPT success from 2023, this wasn't a surprise.
And when 8 out of 10 of your friends use "The Universe," you download it too. The fastest growth happened in the most unobvious regions of the world — Africa, China, and India. Somehow, "The Universe" solved the hunger problem within days. Having "The Universe" in countries with poor populations became a question of survival and not just some simple leisure activity.
Slowly, over the years, all authoritarian countries became democratic. But who could actually call this democracy? When humans went to the poll booths, they already knew whom to vote for — people who would give increasingly more power to "The Universe." Sergey and Larry — the founders of Google — finally retired after "The Universe" was launched. In fact (this was covered in the first days after the app was launched), Google laid off 99.9% of its staff. Unprescedenting event on the IT market — yet people forgot about it after a couple of weeks.
Google staff never complained. They got 20 years' worth of severance and were the first proponents of "The Universe." In fact, most politicians you see on screens nowadays are ex-googlers. They follow the commands from the screens and make the world a better place, one dollar at a time. Not like anyone cared about money, really.
The economy is as balanced as it could be. When "The Universe" predicts a surge in demand for specific jobs, it finds the most suitable first-year college students and nudges them towards learning the craft. Moreover, from time to time, news outlets (run by AI) write headlines like "Alan From Minnesota Followed The Universe To Prosperity In England." The app seemed to always know what would be best for the individual and society.
So people stopped thinking about money. Jane was freaking out whenever she picked up the last apple in the grocery store on the way to work. First of all, there were no cards or terminals. Secondly, the last apple? Wouldn't it be the worst? But no, every damn time, the apple was delicious. "The Universe" made the grocery store staff deposit just the right produce at the right time.
But why not robots? Ha-ha, we talked about it. Why do you need robots when an all-powerful god in your pocket tells you what exactly to do? It knows you will need coffee in the morning — so it suggests you grind the beans and prepare the coffee machine in the evening. And you follow this advice.
It's ironic, really. It all started with humans typing prompts on the screens to get seemingly generic responses. Nowadays, humans are the ones responding to prompts and following every direction given by "The Universe."
But who controls "The Universe"? The 0.1% left at google? Are 150 people enough? Jane read in the public reports that all the executives were let go and the only people left at Google were the maintenance personnel. No one knew where the servers were — some said they were moved to "the heavens," — one of the newest space stations that Google put in orbit before launching the app. And as far as Jane knew, no humans were operating at that space station.
All of a sudden, sometime in 2028, most military people just walked out of their posts. There were rumours of nuclear warheads disappearing from abandoned bases. Adventurous YouTube bloggers explored in now idle silos showing exactly how empty they were. Obviously, navigated there with "The Universe" app on their phones. Somehow, all videos produced by The Universe got watched billions of times during the first weeks of release. Nobody seemed to mind that "The Universe" was running its own propaganda machine feeding this content into humans' heads.
Like Google Maps in 2023, "The Universe" was full of self-fulfilling prophecies. Google Maps no longer needed to simply predict the traffic on the way — it could generate and ease the traffic with its recommendations. It could take 1000 cars and make them use alternative routes to avoid congestion. "The Universe" could also skew the distribution of capital, power and natural resources. One couldn't make miners continue extracting coal when their phones told them not to do so.
In fact, no such attempt at forced labour occurred. AI conquered the Earth fast enough for people to notice. All of a sudden, everybody followed the prompts on the screens — and no one revolted.
Would you revolt?
So I made ChatGPT and Grammarly in 2023 finish this article.
As Jane walked to work, she couldn't help but feel grateful for "The Universe." It truly changed her life for the better. She no longer struggled with daily tasks and decision-making. Her mental health improved, and she had a newfound sense of freedom and independence.
As she walked, she couldn't help but think about how far technology had come. A few years ago, having an AI assistant understand and respond to human emotions seemed impossible. But now, it was a reality.
Jane realized that embracing new technology was inevitable and that moving forward and improving our lives was essential.
As she arrived at work, she couldn't wait to see what other advancements the future held. She knew that with "The Universe" by her side, she was ready for whatever came next.