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Imagine A World: What if we had digital nations untethered to geography?

Published
September 19, 2023
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How do low income countries affected by climate change imagine their futures? How do they overcome these twin challenges? Will all nations eventually choose or be forced to go digital?

Imagine a World is a podcast exploring a range of plausible and positive futures with advanced AI, produced by the Future of Life Institute. We interview the creators of 8 diverse and thought provoking imagined futures that we received as part of the worldbuilding contest FLI ran last year.

In the fourth episode of Imagine A World, we explore the fictional worldbuild titled 'Digital Nations'.

Conrad Whitaker and Tracey Kamande join Guillaume Riesen on 'Imagine a World' to talk about their worldbuild, 'Digital Nations', which they created with their teammate, Dexter Findley. All three worldbuilders were based in Kenya while crafting their entry, though Dexter has just recently moved to the UK. Conrad is a Nairobi-based startup advisor and entrepreneur, Dexter works in humanitarian aid, and Tracey is the Co-founder of FunKe Science, a platform that promotes interactive learning of science among school children.

As the name suggests, this world is a deep dive into virtual communities. It explores how people might find belonging and representation on the global stage through digital nations that aren't tied to any physical location. This world also features a fascinating and imaginative kind of artificial intelligence that they call 'digital persons'. These are inspired by biological brains and have a rich internal psychology. Rather than being trained on data, they're considered to be raised in digital nurseries. They have a nuanced but mostly loving relationship with humanity, with some even going on to found their own digital nations for us to join.

In an incredible turn of events, last year the South Pacific state of Tuvalu was the first to “go virtual” in response to sea levels threatening the island nation's physical territory. This happened in real life just months after it was written into this imagined world in our worldbuilding contest, showing how rapidly ideas that seem ‘out there’ can become reality. Will all nations eventually go digital? And might AGIs be assimilated, 'brought up' rather than merely trained, as 'digital people', citizens to live communally alongside humans in these futuristic states?

Please note: This episode explores the ideas created as part of FLI’s worldbuilding contest, and our hope is that this series sparks discussion about the kinds of futures we want. The ideas present in these imagined worlds and in our podcast are not to be taken as FLI endorsed positions.

Explore this worldbuild: https://worldbuild.ai/digital-nations

The podcast is produced by the Future of Life Institute (FLI), a non-profit dedicated to guiding transformative technologies for humanity's benefit and reducing existential risks. To achieve this we engage in policy advocacy, grantmaking and educational outreach across three major areas: artificial intelligence, nuclear weapons, and biotechnology. If you are a storyteller, FLI can support you with scientific insights and help you understand the incredible narrative potential of these world-changing technologies. If you would like to learn more, or are interested in collaborating with the teams featured in our episodes, please email worldbuild@futureoflife.org.

You can find more about our work at www.futureoflife.org, or subscribe to our newsletter to get updates on all our projects

Media and concepts referenced in the episode:

https://www.tuvalu.tv/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_change_in_Kenya

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_von_Neumann

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brave_New_World

https://thenetworkstate.com/the-network-state

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_series

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