This is the ninth chapter of Insights from the Future, a book I’m writing about technology, innovation, and people … from the perspective of the future. It is a collaborative exercise, and you are invited to participate.
September 13, 2037
10,000 people are dead in eastern Africa as an AI war has spun out of control. The building hostilities between Eritrea and Ethiopia have been increasing for years, but now the war has spilled over their borders.
Hospital systems have been disrupted, power generation has stopped, and traffic systems are in chaos as each country has hacked their other’s control mechanisms. 350 were killed in Addis Ababa alone as Eritrea’s military AI targeted the city’s traffic systems, resulting in simultaneous green lights from opposing sides of intersections all over the city, and sending oncoming streams of traffic hurtling right into each other in variable flow rush hour lanes lanes on the Meganana bridge.
Self-driving cars were the worst enemy, however, as they went berserk, mowing down Ethiopian citizens on sidewalks and public squares.
Over 3,700 people were killed in as many as 973 incidents, causing mass panic. Locals have started to pre-emptively attack any self-driving cars they see. In response, Ethiopia has enacted an emergency law against any self-driving cars.
Unfortunately, the viruses and intrusions each combatant’s AI created have spread beyond the countries. Nigeria’s medical and traffic control have been impacted, as have Angola’s and Nimbia’s.
There have been isolated reports of impacts in other parts of the world as well, but Ethiopia and Eritrea’s military AIs are fairly rudimentary — nine-month-old models that cannot compete with protections from the newest and most high-tech systems most Asian, European, and North American countries employ.
The staggering loss of life in what is being called the 3rd AI War has renewed calls for AI arms control and the reduction if not outright banning of weaponized artificial intelligence.
UN ambassador Khofi Annan, a nephew of the former UN chief, called on both to control their AIs and stop any further carnage. A million marched in Cairo, calling for AI weapons to be banned, and protestors demonstrated at both Eritrean and Ethiopian embassies around the planet.
But the Chinese manufacturer of the AI systems said the protections were necessary, and that without their battle AIs, countries would be defenseless against attack.
“We provide protection for major governments from enemy attack,” said Jiang Li, CEO of Panda AI, while appearing at a trade show in Shanghai. “How they use our software is up to them.”
If there is a silver lining in the chaos and death of this third AI war, it might be that both countries have had little success in throwing their physical armies at each other. With communications down and transportation severely limited, it has been challenging for military leaders on both sides to command their forces.
Ethiopian prime minister Ahmed Siad has vowed revenge, however, as his country has been disproportionately impacted.
In related news, Tesla stock is down 10% over the last few days.