On AI and the things that make us human
It seems to be happening. Yet it’s been happening for a while.
From beating world chess champion Gary Kasparov in the 90s to becoming the world's top chess player a few years ago, the evolution of AI is accelerating.
It now answers our questions, guides us through traffic, edits, translates and even narrates what we write, and, more recently, creates astonishing imaginary worlds.
Just this month, the art world reckoned with its own worth after artist Jason Allen stole the show and the prize of a fine arts competition with ‘Théâtre D'opéra Spatial’, an AI-generated image.
And so, the future that sci-fi and fantasy authors prophesied (inspired, perhaps) is here. It seems clear that the path to automation is a one-way street, and we’re well beyond the point of no return.
As it surprises us by taking up more tasks and roles we previously thought were fundamentally human, AI is increasingly becoming pervasive and essential in our lives. It’s everywhere, yet we hardly notice our interactions with it every day.
In Hemingway’s words, change happens first gradually, then suddenly: linearly for a long time until the exponential curve.
A curve we may be hitting now.
AI now curates the media we consume, nudges us towards specific, desired outcomes, and informs and supports our allocation and distribution of resources: it may soon be managing our health, homes and societies.
Perhaps it’s time to kick back and leave the driver's seat to something that’s free from all the negative traits that make us human: our greed, envy, anxieties, trauma and fear.
As human work becomes redundant, we may need to reconsider, review and refocus our efforts and identities, and revisit those questions that have plagued philosophers and writers for centuries:
What does it mean to be human? What, if anything, makes us unique and valuable as a species? What’s a (human) life worth living? What’s the point of us?
Maybe we’ll double down on humanity, and focus on the things that tie us together: socialising, relating, nurturing and caring for each other.
Despite all the doom and gloom that AI inspires, it may be an opportunity to flourish like never before, and dedicate ourselves without distractions to whatever it is that makes us really human.
Whatever that might be.
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