The Human Element (#91)

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a hot term these days. Slowly but surely, it’s being introduced into all aspects of our lives and big bets are being made by investors that it’ll have an even greater impact on our future.

AI may hold great promise, but I already have a love/hate relationship with technology. I love that I can see my kids on FaceTime when I am travelling, work remotely and get real-time updates on family and friends around the world.

But I also hate that it makes us more materialistic, distracted and less likely talk to each other, even when we are in the same room. In a Friday Forward I wrote last May, I included a provocative video that shows how social media is already making us less social; AI will not improve this trajectory.

Just last week, I read an article about a business traveler who had the frustrating experience of getting stuck in a never-ending loop with KLM airlines’ customer service chatbot. I also recently heard a story about a couple who programmed their phones to check in with one another each day via text.

With all this automation, I can’t help but wonder if we are improving our quality of life and happiness or making our lives more lonely and insular and less meaningful. We are facing some very serious societal challenges that automation and technology alone cannot solve. I anticipate many of these issues getting worse as our ability to communicate and relate to one another declines. This is seen in the “nationalism” trend that seems to be growing around the world

In our quest for efficiency and progress, are we losing our human elements and ability to live in the present? I’d think we might be and astute words by Bob Moorehead about the importance of the little things explain why.

“The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things, but not better things.

We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships.

These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete.

Remember, to spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.

Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn’t cost a cent.

Remember, to say, “I love you” to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person might not be there again. Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.”

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Robert Glazer

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