“Don’t believe everything you think.”
The Dalai Lama makes a good point. Chances are there’s a lot rumbling around in that noggin of yours that isn’t doing you any favors.
But more importantly, His Holiness’ phrase is the perfect response to Peter Diamandis’ 2020 book, The Future is Faster Than You Think.
Read this book if you want to get high on techno-utopia. Any futurism junkie like me gets all kinds of excited about a good ride on the what’s-to-come roller coaster.
But I’d love to sit down for a chat with Mr. Diamandis, who forgot something important. Tech is fast but humans are sloooooow.
Yes, tech is faster than we think, but humans are slower than we’d like. The end result? The future is much slower than we’d prefer.
Technology is only as relevant as the humans experiencing it. Like money and time, technology exists as a human invention and tool. Do you think a toad or a tree looks at a smartphone and considers which new apps to download?
Yes, we humans are resilient. And tenacious. We are good at inventing toys and tools and medicines and systems. But then it takes us a very, very long time to learn to use them well, let alone responsibly. And by the time one technological wave has happened, another is underway and the next generation is freaking out that the world is ending.
Enter Kevin Roose’s 2021 book, Future Proof: 9 Rules for Humans in the Age of Automation. This book is well constructed and I would recommend it… The TL;DR: AI is coming/here, AI isn’t that great, and our ethical and regulatory postures towards AI are lagging alarmingly behind.
Yes, yes, and yes. I hear ya. But I don’t resonate with the tone. There’s a reason my checkout lady at Target yesterday was worried that a robot was coming for her job, like, tomorrow. In the 3 minutes I was interacting with her, we managed to cover the topic. Alarmism is not helpful.
This reminds me of how people thought that no one would ever leave the house after Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone because we would only call each other.
AI, like all tools, is invented by humans who rarely understand how our tools will be used until after we are using them. I mean, were Cerf and Kahn talking about cat memes and Black Friday sales when they invented the internet? And certainly, they weren’t thinking about Sen Ted Stevens’ “the internet is a series of tubes” speech… the resulting meme… or John Stewart’s bit on it.
So I’ll make an unusual argument: The future itself is a tool, just like any other. And tools can be used, misused, broken, lost, and wielded any number of ways by humans. The future itself is a tool, an instrument to be engaged with as we think it into being.
So, as the Dalai Lama suggests, don’t believe everything you think. Think carefully. Think artfully. Think with heart.