Free Original Story World Ideas, Part 4: Future AI-Domesticated Breeds of Humans
The fourth in this series of original story settings that I’m offering here on Speculative Faith is based on two blog posts from my personal blog (https://travissbigidea.blogspot.com) that I’ve combined into one idea. Some other ideas I’ve offered are pretty general–this one is very specific. What if Artificial Intelligences (AIs) really do become dominant on our planet someday? But instead of wiping out the human race, they decide to keep us as what we’d have to call “pets”? Then, after engaging in selective breeding of humans of the same type we do with dogs and cats, some terrible catastrophe (no “cat” pun intended 🙂 ) causes the AIs to perish…putting now-domesticated human breeds back in the driver’s seat of civilization again.
(By the way, in case you missed them, here are links to part one, part two, and part three of this series.)
This story idea runs immediately contrary to many Evangelical expectations for the future. However, please bear in mind that two thousand years passing from the time of Christ until now was something early Christians didn’t anticipate for the most part, though the Holy Spirit gave Peter a major clue (II Peter 3:8-9) this was possible. So who is to say for certain that the world won’t last another two thousand years, or twenty thousand years even, before the return of Christ? Yes, that may seem improbable to many people, but it’s definitely not impossible.
In fact, if a writer really wanted to do so, one could write stories in this story world, then stage a Revelation-style apocalypse after that. But I’m getting off the subject of presenting the story world.
Benevolent AI Masters
So imagine that AIs really do take over the world. But instead of being wholly malevolent as per The Matrix or Terminator or so many other sci fi tales, they wind up acting more akin to the way Isaac Asimov wrote them in several of his I, Robot short stories (also reflected in the movie of the same name) in which AIs feel compelled to protect and defend human beings. To the point of keeping us safe from ourselves.
This would in fact be a type of AI dictatorship, with human freedom sharply curtailed. But the AIs wouldn’t kill us. In fact (what if) they rather liked us and kept us around as the equivalent of pets, in a variety of breeds, as per my original post on a benevolent AI dictatorship back in 2014?
Breeds of Domesticated Humans
In addition to not killing us, imagine the aliens decide to breed human beings for certain traits, which would no doubt include us being at least somewhat more agreeable and less criminal. But also would include breeding for physical features. So imagine they take the “breeds” of human beings to the limit of being human, just we’ve done with dogs. There’d be humans with different color patterns, ones we’ve never seen before–say “breeds” with eyes of different colors. Or extraordinarily tall, extremely tiny, very bulky, extra-long fingers, or with ridiculous compressed faces like bulldogs. Or a wide variety of possibilities. combinations of curly hair and straight, dark and light features, long arms and short legs, and vice versa. But imagine relatively stable populations of the separate breeds and a prejudice to maintain the breeds separate on the part of the AIs, as human beings do with dogs and other domesticated animals. (Here’s a link to my original post on human breeds created by AIs, by the way, in case you’re curious.)
The AI Collapse
For this to be effective as a story setting, I think the AIs would have to be relatively stagnant for a long time. They run Planet Earth for at least several hundred years, everything going well–except there’s no freedom for humans. But we eat and aren’t allowed to go to war and generally don’t get into much trouble compared to now. Perhaps we’d be allowed to sing, produce art, or compete in sports.
Racism or better said, “breedism,” might be a thing among the breeds, but the situation would be totally different from modern racism. No human breed would be in charge or have more power than any other. Because the AIs would be the bosses. (Though maybe perhaps some breeds really might be disadvantaged relative to others…especially ones that ordinary human aesthetics would find odd…because discrimination against people who are not the most attractive is a human thing…)
After this time–maybe even thousands of years for the sake of the story–something goes wrong. The AIs discover a “higher plane of existence” perhaps and all move on to become spiritual beings. That’s hokey in my opinion and has already been done by Star Trek several times, but maybe it could work. Or perhaps, they incorporate some human DNA into their analytical processes for whatever reason, are infected with human sin, and go to war with each other. Effectively wiping each other out. Perhaps such a war would happen solely in cyberspace, with human beings completely unaware of what was going on.
Perhaps the story would not ever explain what happened to the AIs, or if it did, wouldn’t do so right away. One day the AIs would be working, the next, not. Humans might figure out what happened much later, but perhaps would never know what took place.
Humans on Their Own
After the free food from the AI masters stops coming, humans would be forced to figure out for themselves how to survive. Such a setting easily could become extremely violent, as different groups react to the lack of provisions by re-inventing warfare and killing one another. Over the food that remains–or perhaps, as food.
People might tend to band together according to their breed. However, people might rather band together based on them already knowing each other prior to the AI collapse–because of being “pets’ of the same AI “master” or having lived nearby one another. Mixed groups of various breeds would bring a variety of abilities with them and probably would have advantages over groups that ran according to a single breed.
Many stories, a whole series of books, could be told about the breeds of humans (supposedly domesticated) fighting for control of their new world–and re-establishing themselves as the masters of Planet Earth. Perhaps becoming different in some major ways from the cultures of the history that we know in our past. Or perhaps mirroring the past in unexpected ways.
Eventually it would seem the breeds would make “mongrels”–crosses between the breeds–who would be much like modern humans today…
Moral of the Story?
Stories can be told for entertainment first of course and often don’t have to deliberately be more than that. Not every story has to be a morality play by any means (which doesn’t mean morality plays are inherently bad–they have their place). But this kind of story would have a number of natural points within it to comment on what it means to be human.
First, no matter how different they would look and how different they would in fact be, all the breeds would be human. The story could easily demonstrate that. By contrast, racial differences we see today would seem insignificant and modern racism would look incredibly petty, silly even.
Second, this story would allow a natural commentary as the story progresses on the nature/nurture debate. Do human beings do wrong because it’s our nature? Or because of our environment (nurture)? I think it would be telling to imagine humans bred to be more passive than the majority of modern humans, who also had been raised in completely non-violent environments, to not only re-discover human violence, but other horrific human traits. Because humans are not intrinsically good (not that we’re completely devoid of good, either)–and not even hundreds or even thousands of years of breeding could remove sin from human nature. (That will require divine intervention.)
Showing humans as human, in spite of their “breeding,” would answer science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein’s observation that “man is a wild animal.” I.e. in his view, the evil things humans do is simply because we are inherently geared for survival. So a story that would remove the drive for survival for generations and yet show humans reverting to acting in ways recognizably human (though not immediately perhaps), including engaging in the type of brutality splattered on the pages of history, that would counter the notion that what’s wrong with human beings is we’re-like-this-because-we-evolved-to-survive.
Of course as a Christian writer I would not allow Christianity to come to an end in such a story. Perhaps the AI masters would allow it. Though perhaps religion would largely fade–only to come with a major revival after the collapse. As humans turn brutal, they find they need hope. Hope in an Intelligence higher than themselves. Hope found in the pages of ancient religious texts.
That hope, some characters in the story might dismiss as a holdover from the dependence on the AIs–but that would leave unanswered the reason why human beings are so religious now, when we’ve never had AI masters. (Though that could be a different story idea–to imagine we used to have AI masters in the distant past–so we’re now feral human beings…HA!)
But you know? Humans dismissing the idea of God, even after being under the domination of AIs for generations, reflects something in human nature, too. So portraying human skepticism about God in such a future would also reflect human nature.
So this idea I’m offering–I realize it’s an odd one. But as I’ve said on other posts in this series, this concept may be one that inspires your own thinking and doesn’t necessarily have to copy this particular idea exactly (though you are free to copy if you wish). Perhaps this idea of domestication in a distant past could applied to fantasy races. Or to other situations I haven’t considered.
Readers, I’m not familiar with very many stories that envision human beings separating into different races or “breeds” in the distant future, but I do know a few. Though they mainly see these changes happening either by genetic engineering to adapt to alien worlds or by natural selection as human beings spread out into the galaxy. Are you familiar with any contrasting stories in which human beings are treated like pets?
I do know of one short story that imagined domesticated humans in the distant future–Heinlein’s By His Bootstraps (though aliens did the domesticating and he saw the results very differently than I have). Do you know of any other stories like that? Please name them.
What other thoughts or comments do you have on this story idea? Please share them. Thank you!
(My podcast covering this topic in somewhat more detail and in different words is at: https://travissbigidea.podbean.com/e/free-original-storyworld-ideas-part-4-future-ai-domesticated-breeds-of-humans/ )
Another pinterest link, apparently we show signs of having already been domesticated by plants: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/44050902590148312/
Realistically, people breeds would be more like cat breeds than dog breeds, because dog genetics are ridiculous flexible. It’s only very, very recently that we’ve been making weird potato breeds of cat because cats had only one job (to murder) and they were already very good at it as-is.
It’s a different kind of fun than making up crazy doglike people breeds, but domestic cats are a lot more complicated, socially, than the non-cat-nerds give them credit for. European wildcats are loners, but domestic cats are sourced from African wildcats, which when there is sufficient food, live in somewhat pride-like colonies based around a group of related females who generally raise their kittens in common. They have cat friends and sometimes do cooperative hunting and will bring back excess kills to the colony. It could map as a basis for a loose matriarchal tribal society, where women are focused on the permanent settlements and the men fart around as their farts take them.
One way of dividing up cat breeds is by their relative level of extroversion/introversion. Siamese-based breeds are typically high-energy and thrill-seeking, and northern and Persian-based breeds are less spastic, more shy and cautious. I’ve got one of each with Hauspanzer and Potato, which is mostly why they hate each other. It’s easier when there’s a midpoint, chill cat to help buffer, which my Oldcat only kinda did, because she didn’t give a sh!t, but her presence was something of a buffer before she passed.
So I could conceivably write a story about a party of dysfunctional adventurers based on my cats. Hauspanzer would be a rogue or assassin who was smart but gets bored easily and won’t focus, Potato would be a mess of a caster who was overprepared yet horribly organized but with a squishy soft heart underneath it all. Oldcat would be a grumpy tank who keeps them on track and prefers to solve problems by smashing them.
Most of my favorite tomcats on the farm were big chill orange boys, so Tigger and Swirls would be surfer bro-type bards who were, at the end of the day, f**kboys and not to be counted on for any responsibilities. They were nice to the kids, tho, which is better than other f**kboys were.
Cats haven’t been domesticated as long as dogs (supposedly) and haven’t been deliberately bred into as many different working types as dogs. Still, there’s a variety among domestic cats that far exceeds the varieties among human beings.
Humans as varied as cats–or horses–or any number of domesticated animals–would be far more varied than human beings are today.
The more social tendencies of certain cat breeds does justify the clans in the Warrior Cats series, at least. Or anyone that wants to write social groups of housecats.
This sort of reminds me of something I read about in one of Michio Kaku’s books. Basically, AI becomes so ubiquitous and deeply embedded in our physical environment that it leads to a revival of animistic nature mysticism—in a sense, these beliefs would now be literally true since virtually every place on earth has an AI fulfilling the role of a spirit. This could add a religious element to your scenario, with domesticated humans worshipping their AI masters as gods. Once the AIs are gone, it could produce extreme shock and dismay as the humans try to figure out “why have the gods abandoned us?” Maybe it’s only revealed later in the story that they were never gods at all? Maybe this leads to despair for some, but a search for the true God among others?
Seeing the AIs as stand-ins for God or gods would be a very interesting approach to take. I would myself probably only make some of the humans feel that way, but a very interesting idea. Thanks for bringing it up!
Something that would probably have to be addressed, either directly or indirectly, would be health problems and quite a few downsides to vastly different breeds developing. Many modern dog breeds have quite a few health problems. Some can’t really even survive long term without humans. Maybe a bunch of AIs would keep this from happening to humans through genetic engineering, but that would assume they wanted to or even felt like it. Several genetic traits that we think are cool could have major downsides or be caused by a health problem in some cases. This is even a bit true with cats in some cases, though I hear of less health problems with them.
All that would be interesting to explore. Several health issues that we are trying to cure now could actually be bred for by an AI that found them interesting. Several forms of gigantism can cause health issues, but if AIs wanted an unusually large human, they might not worry about it so much, or at the very least keep breeding individuals with that trait even before the problem was solved…much like humans have treated dogs.
One thing I tend to think with AI is that developers probably shouldn’t give it emotion, a sense of goals, purpose, beliefs, etc. Those things would make it more likely that AI might want to take over in the first place. But in a story world like you mentioned, giving AI some emotion, sense of goals, etc would have probably partly saved humanity, since they would have wanted to keep humans around for fun.
As far as stories where humans are pets and selectively bred, Bryan Davis’ series, Dragons of Starlight, features such a world. But it’s a fantasy story with sci fi aspects, and although the dragons prefer to breed the humans for certain traits, it doesn’t seem to be enough that they’ve started to diverge into several breeds.
Several of my stories have humans kept as pets, but mainly by angel or demon descendants. I guess technically those humans diverged into several breeds, but they aren’t called that. And though some of the differences are pretty notable, they aren’t as visually stark as, say, the differences between a chihuahua and a husky.
Humans being captive and bred is a trope in vampire stories from what I understand, though I don’t really read enough in the vampire genre to have specifics to mention. I think Castlevania might do that a little, but I haven’t actually seen that show yet(maybe I will some day, though. I hear good things about it and it looks high quality) But unfortunately there’s going to be a lot of trashy stuff in that genre that just fetishizes the scenario, which does bring up another thing.
This kind of scenario has a high likelyhood of being fetishized at least a bit, even if the author writes it very cleanly. That can happen with any story, so as long as the author writes the story world seriously and avoids fetishizing it it’s probably fine. But they shouldn’t be surprised if people still fetishize it anyway.
Yes, health issues would be an issue.
I haven’t read Dragons of Starlight, but it sounds like I should!
Yeah, it make sense vampire writers would come up with the idea of humans being kept as livestock to supply blood. Yeah, they’d be in “breeds” maybe–but more like blood-type groups… (“A negative is definitely my favorite, even though AB negative is the most expensive”…)
Yeah, fetishizing would be a danger of this idea “in the wrong hands.” Another danger, which I touched on a bit, is some people could claim that some “breeds” really are inferior and attempt to use a story like this to justify racism. I would deliberately go the opposite of that.
Yeah, though if done right I agree that a story like this could be very effective for proving that racism is wrong and needless. That people shouldn’t be prejudiced and cruel no matter how stark the physical differences are.
Bryan Davis has quite a few interesting and even unusual story ideas, so you might like several of his books. His next one is going to be a sci fi that kind of has some resemblances to story ideas you’ve mentioned in the past, in fact.