15 May 2022

A day in the life of Asimov, 2045

Filed under: vision — Tags: , , — David Wood @ 2:39 pm

“Gosh, that’s a hard question”, stuttered Asimov. “I’m… not quite sure which approach to try”.

Asimov’s tutor paused for a moment, then gave a gentle chuckle of encouragement.

“Well,” it offered, with a broad smile, “if you don’t know which approach to try, do you know which approaches you don’t want to try?”

That shift of perspective was just what Asimov needed. A few minutes later, he was making swift progress on a DeepMath question that had previously seemed nigh impossible. Once again, Asimov marvelled at the skills of the tutor. The tutor knew how to bring out the best of Asimov’s thinking skills. And that was just the start of its coaching abilities.

Asimov was midway through the morning’s training session. Training sessions were mandated for everyone over the age of three. They started gradually at first, for the younger children, but from the age of ten onward, everyone was expected to attend for training on seventy-two days each year.

Asimov recalled the popular saying: 20% of the days, humans attend to AGI, and AGI attends to humans 100% of the days.

Asimov also knew well the four reasons why this training system existed, and why people were happy to participate. First, if someone failed to participate, or performed poorer than expected during the training, their privileges were gradually withdrawn. They could spend less time in the latest virtual universes. When travelling in the base world, their speeds were restricted, so it took longer to move, for example, from Cambridge to Lagos. The food they were served was slightly less tasty than normal. And so on.

Second, the training was so wonderfully engaging. The challenges it posed differed from what could be obtained in non-training environments. Moreover, it was full of surprises. Whenever Asimov thought he could predict the content of the next day’s training session, he was invariably delighted by unexpected twists and turns. It was the same for everyone he knew. No-one regretted having to take time out of their many other activities to attend training. Instead, they eagerly looked forward to it, every time.

The tutors provided exercises for each participant that were well matched to their previous knowledge, skills, experiences, and temperament. Good results required significant effort, but that effort was well within each person’s capacity. Normally, a training session would complete after three and a half hours in the morning, and another three and a half hours in the afternoon. Occasionally, if the participant had been distracted or disengaged, a session might need to be extended for up to two more hours in an evening session. So long as that concluded satisfactorily, no loss of privileges would result.

Asimov felt pride in the fact that he had never been required to stay for longer than the minimal seven hours in a day. His concentration was excellent, he told himself…

And then he broke off his reverie, remembering that he had to solve another DeepMath puzzle. DeepMath had been discovered by AIs in the 2030s. Humans such as Ramanujan had sometimes come close to it in the past, but AIs made it much more approachable.

There was another pleasant surprise during the day’s lunch break. Angela, his partner for the last two years, joined him for the meal. Asimov noticed that she looked particularly mischievous on this occasion. “What’s on your mind”, he asked. “Oh, I’ll tell you this evening. Assuming you’re a good student and the AGI lets you out on time!” she joked.

At the age of 85, Angela was more than sixty years older than Asimov. His friends and family had been sceptical about the relationship at first. Even his big brother Byron, normally so supportive, had doubted whether it could last. “She’s old enough to be your grandmother”, he had scolded. “Indeed, she has a grandson who is older than you!”

But the wide use of rejuvenation therapies over the last fifteen years meant that octogenarians nowadays looked, and lived, as healthily as much younger people. The relationship had gone from strength to strength. It was a real triumph of complementarity, Asimov thought. And a triumph of medical technology. Most of all, it was a triumph of two remarkable people, enabled to live life to the full.

The afternoon training session focused on survival skills. That was the third reason these sessions were so important. Could humans cope in the event that the AGI stopped functioning, or disappeared off into some parallel dimension? Asimov needed to show that, without using any modern technology, he could gather twigs and then set them on fire, in order to cook a meal of mushrooms and root vegetables.

As he threw himself into that exercise, Asimov wondered whether he was contributing, at that moment, to the fourth aspect of the training. The AGI lacked sentience. There was no consciousness inside that vast digital brain. Aspects of the training were designed, it was said, for the AGI to learn things from human reactions that it could not directly experience itself. Asimov wasn’t sure he entirely believed that theory, but he was gratified to think that, in some aspects, his mind exceeded that of the AGI.

“So, what is it, my ancient wonder?” Asimov asked Angela, who was waiting for him as he exited the training. “What great adventure are you dreaming up this time?”

“My menopause reversal has been completed”, she replied. “It’s time for us to make a baby! Can you imagine what a combination of the two of us would be like?”

Asimov had another question. “But wasn’t your last pregnancy, back in the 1990s, really difficult for you?”

Angela gave a smile that was even more mischievous. “What would you say, dear boy, to ectogenesis? These artificial wombs are completely reliable these days.”

“Gosh, that’s a hard question”, stuttered Asimov. “I’m… not quite sure what to think.”


This short story was submitted as part of my entry to the competition described here. For some more details of the world envisioned, this article has answers to 13 related questions.

The image at the top of this page includes a design by Pixabay member OpenClipart-Vectors.

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