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I've got a futuristic world on my hands, in which bodies have become entirely artificial (not brains and spines, though), communication is done directly mind-to-mind, androids are running the streets and beginning to reach near-human intelligence, and virtual immersion is a common thing to do during lunch break.

I'm having trouble visualizing what this kind of society would occupy itself with all day; where would the business be, what would students study for, what would elite jobs be like ? What is there left to do for humans if machines can achieve most of the work ?

Thanks in advance

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marked as duplicate by bowlturner, Erik, Community Aug 20 '15 at 14:30

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Fundamentals of the self

Given that artificial bodies and full immersion simulation is the norm, you seem to have a society like Ghost in the Shell wherein the difference between virtual and actual experiences blur together. Specifically I would direct you to the Stand Alone Complex anime (if you haven't already watched it), as it touches a wide range of the same social issues.

If the brain is a normal human brain, and it receives the same set of inputs when experiencing the real world through an entirely artificial shell as when it experiences the virtual world, then it stands to reason that many people may ask what the difference is.

Many may even choose to forgo the use of an artificial body completely, as the maintainance costs may be prohibitive. Compare this with the cost of owning a car:

  • Possibility of mechanical failures requiring repairs.
  • Replacement of outdated or failing parts.
  • Fuel (Energy) consumption.
  • Insurance.

So overall it's potentially a hassle to even have a body, so if someone could offer you hosting for your brain and spine with a good connection to a general purpose informational exchange network (read Internet) where people can share a virual environment, then that may be preferable to a large group of people.

For a real-world example of this, look at how many people and companies are choosing to forgo in-house hosting of web-sites and the like, instead choosing to hand hosting over to dedicated providers.

Society: You, me and everybody

Of course this also requires that the potential clients trusts the hosting company absolutely, since they have no way protecting or defending themselves in the real world and no way to walk away from the company if they were dissatisfied (if the company won't let them).

This leads to a potentially abusive relationship: any company or organization dealing in artificial bodies or conciousness hosting (shells) would hold a lot of power over the individual.

This leads to a divergence in the way you might want to handle the society:

  • Is everyone equal in terms technology, or is there a gap? Is the latest artifical bodies only available to the most affluent, or is everyone kept up to date by a central trust or other organization?

  • Are the trusts/companies/organizations dealing in shells actually trusted by the consumers, or are they an unfortunate necessity?

  • Does this society operate on a free market economy, or is there some sort of common pool of resources from which everyone is alotted the resources they need to survive? Or is it something in-between?

This affects what jobs might be available and what they entail, but since "what would elite jobs be like" is part of the question, I will assume that society operates in an hierarchical fashion and that social advancement along with accumulation of monetary wealth are core goals for the individual. Enjoying yourself is also a goal, and a part of that is meaningful occupation (at work and in your free time).

Jobs in Utopia

Physical labor can often be left to non-sentient, necessarily intelligent AIs manning specialized (see industrial robots) or generalized bodies. A human touch may be required if the situation is unpredictable, or if there is the need to have someone take on the responsibility in case of failure.

This is assuming that there is enough robotic bodies to go around, But since "androids are running the streets" I feel that it is not unfair.

More cerebral jobs would be the go-to for humans and human-level AI under this society.

It brings up the further question of how to define the abilities and inadequacies of AI with human-level intelligence. This is a part where you might want to take a few liberties, since the best example of a high-profile AI with something approaching human-like intuition would be IBM's Watson.

To continue talking about jobs, this also means that a huge segment of the job-market as we know it today disappears. With no "menial" or repetitive work, that only leaves creative and administrative work (e.g. I'd classify being a CEO as a comibination of creativity and administration), along with any other position that requires someone to hold responsibility. This is usually what we consider elite jobs today, so assuming that the majority of people have work like this we'd probably push the difinition to cover the upper echelons of such work: jobs with the most freedom, the most power and (possibly) the most responsibility.

Some jobs that might exist:

  • Shell and droid technicians
  • Pilots: for some applications that require an intelligent creature which can assume responsibility
  • teachers: Unless learning can be automated, young and old brains will still need things explained to them, and so we will need people knowledgeable and skilled enough to teach.
  • Salespeople: In the shape of marketers or direct sales-representatives.
  • visual designers: Virtual environments need to be created somehow.
  • programmers: possibly more like software designers if declarative programming capabilities are advanced enough.
  • Engineers: Expertise in a wide variety of areas will be needed to maintain all this technology and push it further.

Little brainettes

However, underlying all of this is a fundamental question that I have avoided so far: is the human race procreating? And if so, how? If not, then are the AIs we create our offspring?

Where do little brains come from, and what happens to rest of the body if they are cultivated in the usual way?

If brains come from humans that are grown the usual way, then you are left with the remains of that persons body as hazardous waste once the brain and spine has been removed. Taking care of that may be an extremely unpleasant job, and may thus a thankless, mentally scarring job (at the opposite end of an elite job).

If brains are grown without the rest of the body, then that raises a whole lot of questions of it's own. However we can then safely say that the field of human medicin that is worth studying would be greatly diminished, thus the workload of medical students would be greatly changed. In this world, much of the mdical field concerned with the body has been supplemented or replaced with technical knowledge from other fields.

(Sorry about the lack of references, unfortunately I'm not allowed more than two since I'm new. The question leaves a lot of free variables, which is why I've included a bunch of questions to consider while world-building.)

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  • $\begingroup$ Good answer and welcome to the site! The new user link thing is too bad as I would have loved to see a few more links. I believe you can still post them in the comment section though it's been a while since I've been under 10 rep... $\endgroup$ – the_OTHER_DJMethaneMan Aug 20 '15 at 16:17
  • $\begingroup$ This is exactly the essay-sized answer I need. Great thanks, you've given me both answers and room for additional thought. To answer your last question on the little brainettes, humans are procreating artificially, similarily to the Brave New World method; I haven't yet decided whether or nor the entire bodies would be produced, but I don't think they will be; the brain and spine will be produced and grown directly inside the protective shell interfacing the biological parts with the artificial body. $\endgroup$ – Nathaniel Solyn Aug 23 '15 at 16:37

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