It is late in the day, and humanity has made the fateful step: digital transcendence for some. The last few weeks before the Singularity were singularly chaotic, with widespread violence by opponents and supporters alike, and such rapid change that many storage media became obsolete in those short weeks. Such was the chaos, that it's unclear whether the Ascended are once-human minds, uploaded and modified, or synthetic minds that have never tasted the wind.

Most of the Minds have migrated off-planet, and are busily continuing to work in the Body Economic, which seems to be growing towards the shape of a Dyson sphere around the orbit of Mercury. 99.999% of economic and scientific activity takes place in that Core.

However, there are those occasional eccentric AIs that take time off from the Hustle and Bustle of the Core to Walk the Earth. A Conference of AIs has made efforts to restore the old ecological habitats, albeit apparently mixing various geological eras in the process. There are even human people on Earth again, carefully protected by their AI creators (see previous question) from dangerous nanoprobes and other debris floating out of the Core. Think of these humans as Bonsai projects, or perhaps pets.

One human female, of indeterminate true age, but looking about 18, is one such AI-creation. Let's call her Alice. Aside from a few modifications to protect her from the Core debris, and some custom diagnostic and error-correction bots in her blood and lymph stream, Alice is quite thoroughly human.

Keeping a regular pet happy is quite easy: food, regular walks (unless cat), companionship, plenty of naps and toys. All those apply to us humans as well, but presumably humans need more. M̶a̶n̶ ̶ People don't live by bread alone, after all. What does an AI need and is able to do to keep its h̶u̶m̶a̶n̶ ̶b̶o̶n̶s̶a̶i̶ ̶p̶r̶o̶j̶e̶c̶t̶s̶ Alice happy and, most importantly, thriving?

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    $\begingroup$ "Regular walks (unless cat)" Lol. Made my day. $\endgroup$
    – cobaltduck
    Feb 16, 2016 at 15:48
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    $\begingroup$ Canine shovanism: my parrot doesn't go for walks. Neither do tropical fish, bearded dragons, hamsters, etc. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Feb 16, 2016 at 16:07
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    $\begingroup$ See Permutation City by Greg Egan, for subplots concerning uploaded minds manipulating themselves to maintain interest in existance. Also the background of Egan's Ocanius (free on how web site). $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Feb 16, 2016 at 16:17
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    $\begingroup$ It creates a global network of connected sites that enable people to chat vaguely all day about random things while under the impression that these sites were created by other humans. $\endgroup$ Feb 16, 2016 at 16:26
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    $\begingroup$ Wait a minute, with this dison sphere around Mercury, what happens to poor little Earth? $\endgroup$ Feb 17, 2016 at 4:10

7 Answers 7


Caring for humans will be a hobby, interest, research project, or mental stimulation. Think the reverse of Tamagotchi toys.

At first glance, keeping humans happy is simple, the AI just need to fulfill Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs for humans.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs:
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

You start by meeting the items at the bottom of the hierarchy first, human's physiological needs such as air, water, food, shelter, environment, etc. Expect the pets of certain young and/or irresponsible AIs, who often forget to feed & care for them, to suffer a high mortality rate.

However, as you climb the hierarchy what actions need to be done to satisfy those needs becomes less well defined. Perhaps the AIs developed a research project in which they run multiple societies in parallel with the intent of discovering which societies best meet the human's needs in these categories.

Perhaps the Earth is this group research project.

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    $\begingroup$ Talk about intelligent design! $\endgroup$ Feb 16, 2016 at 16:44

What are some ways we (ancient, non-AI-merged) humans have sought to enhance our relationships with our pets? We've put them to work! There are:

  • Search and Rescue Dogs
  • Bomb-tech Dogs
  • Law Enforcement Dogs (drug sniffers)
  • Professional Athlete Dogs
  • Assistance Dogs for the Impaired
  • Assistance Horses for the Impaired
  • Therapy Dogs
  • Therapy Cats
  • Therapy Horses
  • ad nauseam

Thus, to keep a human happy, train it in a useful skill and give it a purpose in life. Reward it properly for good effort, and gently let it know when its performance has been substandard.

Oh, God. Wait. Nothing has changed. Hey, boss, you're not actually an AI keeping me as a pet? Are you? Eep.

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    $\begingroup$ Dunno, given the speed of AIs, having a human search-and-rescue pet seems a bit like us having a rapid-reaction-sloth force. $\endgroup$ Feb 16, 2016 at 16:39
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    $\begingroup$ I was thinking more like Sing and Play Pretty Music Humans, Clean and Polish my Casing Humans, or maybe Shovel the Snow Humans (because what good would be the I in AI if we shovel our own snow?) $\endgroup$
    – cobaltduck
    Feb 16, 2016 at 17:35
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    $\begingroup$ @SerbanTanasa 'We could send a costly drone into the ocean to grab the drowning guy. Or we could send Bill. He can swim probably." $\endgroup$
    – Jake
    Feb 16, 2016 at 17:49
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    $\begingroup$ @wedstrom Let's approach this in a uniquely non-AI way and brute force it. We will throw every human in alphabetical order into the ocean to save the drowning guy. One of them can probably swim. $\endgroup$
    – Jake
    Feb 18, 2016 at 15:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Jake You wouldn't even need to exhaust the key space. Once you've had enough collisions, the humans on top would be floating. $\endgroup$
    – wedstrom
    Feb 18, 2016 at 20:46

Something to validate their self worth as a person. Some people (like me) need a challenge and something to do (not necessarily work). Some need to 'show' they can succeed at something. Others have a need to 'help' others. Some just need to be told they are wonderful.

So the AI would need to first understand their 'pet' psychologically to see what kind of mental and emotional needs they require. Then go about making sure they have such situations to interact and deal with.

And contrary to people who try to prevent their children from ever having a 'bad' experience we actually NEED to learn to deal with failure and disappointment to be better happier people. But we don't need to be overwhelmed by it, that is just a terrible emotional burden.

  • $\begingroup$ Dont we only have failure and disappoint because we try to control life? Disappointment only is possible if their is expectation. Overarching depression is possible when there is no control and no expectations. Unless you're a cat. $\endgroup$ Feb 16, 2016 at 16:09
  • $\begingroup$ To control life? No, you can be disappointed because you lost at a video game. Many things can disappoint you. $\endgroup$
    – bowlturner
    Feb 16, 2016 at 16:15
  • $\begingroup$ Oh. I didnt think of that scale of disappointment as having influence on whether I am a better person. That's just the negative reinforcement that makes a challenge ... challenging. $\endgroup$ Feb 16, 2016 at 16:20
  • $\begingroup$ You eluded to it, but it might be worth explicitly stating that these tasks don't actually have to be useful. For a wide-spread example of a challenge, chance to compete, and chance to help other people, people might want to take a look at World of Warcraft. $\endgroup$
    – Patrick M
    Feb 17, 2016 at 17:35

The humans who remain will be those who want to remain fully human. Maybe they will migrate after living a full life in “legacy human” form. But they always have the choice of what to be. So they are self-actualized as finding organic life worthwhile.

Why are the advanced Minds happy? Why is anyone? Why are we happy now knowing that the universe has a finite life and everything ever accomplished will fade away in the heat death?

In Greg Egan’s Permutation City, one uploaded person is followed as he tinkers with his own mind state. He can tune his happiness and satisfaction emotions using a control panel, just hacking in the proper result! He invents obsessions chosen at random so he can live repeating something he loves doing in the virtual world, like woodturning an entire warehouse of sugar maple lumber. He experiments with bizarre scenario in which he loses himself, such as a state that appears timeless and infinite repeating. Figuring out what to do with himself is his creative outlet.

So, the people who are left behind in meatspace… maybe (as the backstory in Oceanic, also by Egan — full text free at the linked page) that’s what they did to achieve happiness: to live as mortal biological beings again. Maybe their brain state can be adjusted when they are unhappy, blotting out existential angst and choosing to keep going (as opposed to uploading themselves).

I can't help feeling that people living this way will be doing so by choice. Just being biological human will be its own reward and purpose. If they don't have a choice, well that’s the situation we’re in now. Why are we happy with existence?

In short, the answer to your question is overarching and general, and not specific to humans and post-singularity minds coexisting.

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    $\begingroup$ I like the idea, but perhaps the more accurate emphasis should be on the "thriving." Perhaps happiness is overrated, and I bet those uber-minds working at tremendous speeds in the core aren't happy in the regular sense of the word. $\endgroup$ Feb 16, 2016 at 16:41

Make them think they're still in charge

You can give them food, and you can give them sex, and you can give them Netflix, and most of them will be happy for a long while, but ultimately, humans want to be in charge and in control. anything but complete control, and they will feel irrelevant. And humans who feel irrelevant will not be happy.

Thus, keep the political systems in place, let them have those little wars and genocides that they seem to enjoy so much. Set your own goals. Make them long term, preferably longer than a human lifetime. Now achieve your goals by tweaking little things. Withhold an e-mail here, insert some subtle messages in your generated TV-shows. Put some noise on the line when the US president talks to the Russian president, or slightly change the intonation in his voice.

Just make sure that whatever game you play, you are thinking far further ahead than any human possibly can. Let them research cyborg implants, but sabotage the research to make sure you're always twice as smart. Make sure you always understand them twice as well as they understand you. Make sure that they see you as a harmless tool: "the cloud" rather than the global super AI.

  • $\begingroup$ But if we're all actually living in a post-singularity world, what of the (human) beings who created the AI that quietly rules over us? Were they also ruled over by an AI superbeing that they were mostly unaware of? How far back does this go? Is being ruled over by a super-being perhaps necessary for humans to advance, and directly drives humans' eventual lack of satiation with life? Is the human subconscious's subtle awareness of a superbeing the cause of human ambition itself? 😜 $\endgroup$ Feb 17, 2016 at 9:51
  • $\begingroup$ Just like those people who put prey and preditor in a glass tank and upload the movies to Youtube $\endgroup$
    – user3106
    Feb 17, 2016 at 12:14

One thing missing from may of the answers is the observation that humans are social creatures, descended from animals which roamed the savannah in packs or troops much like modern dogs or baboons.

The singular human being kept in a terrarium by the AI is going to be lonely and unfulfilled without the rich social environment of family, clan and tribe which humans have evolved within since anatomically modern humans first appeared some 100,000 years ago.

So the AI has several choices.

It could start creating or reanimating other humans to create the family/clan/tribal structure for Alice to live within. It is economical and generally self sustaining, so the AI can even be satisfied that if it goes off line for several megaseconds the humans will be able to take care of themselves and even thrive.

If there is some reason that it cannot create more humans (perhaps some sort of agreement with other AI's), then it can use its vast processing power to start splitting off partial (for it) personalities for Alice to interact with. The best solution here would be to have lifelike androids which the partial personalities inhabit to create the human society Alice will need to thrive, while the bottom end would be for all these personalities to inhabit a virtual environment which Alice can interact with via various social media type systems. One can imagine Alice having friends and even the occasional "unfriending" on a Facebook like platform.

Somewhat less satisfying would be to create various non human android creatures for Alice to interact with. Alice could have pets of her own (robotic dogs and cats, perhaps) or even living teddy bears or a menagerie of creatures like the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion to work and play with. Since they would or could be sentient beings, Alice may certainly bond with them to some extent, but since they are clearly not human, there will be some elements of the interaction missing.

So long as Alice can live inside some sort of "human" society, she will be comfortable and has the possibility of a fulfilling life, so the AI will need to do this if it is serious about caring for its pet.


Nothing more.

Well, maybe a little company, but no need to overdo that.

Most of the answers here conform to the Western ethos -work, challenge, control- while ignoring the stress and depression running rampart through our society (people whose skillsets are not marketable or just too common, failed challenges, others being in control). Even in the Western civilization there are many people who are not particularly called to work, challenge and control.

Many other cultures have simply adapted to their environment, and work just what is needed to feed and/or barely cloth them; hunters/gatherers do not even need a so developed sense of property because they own little things that cannot easily replaced. Sure, it comes at a cost both in comfort and in safety (not that the Western world is risk free!), but such cultures are adapted to accept it.

So, given the pets the basic needs, a little freedom of walk and a small social group and don't let those little heads of them fill with strange ideas, and you would be ok.

  • $\begingroup$ @SerbanTanasa Where? I do not understand your comment. $\endgroup$
    – SJuan76
    Feb 17, 2016 at 14:40
  • $\begingroup$ Little vs Few threw me off for a second in your third paragraph $\endgroup$ Feb 17, 2016 at 14:54

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