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Surviving the onslaught of Artificial Intelligence

by Bijal Maroo

Technology isn’t bad if you know what you want in life. But if you don’t, it is easy for it to take over your life. Our intellect, memory, and creativity have already started to rust due to our dependence on the internet. But there are ways to reverse the trend.

Our world is changing at a mind-boggling speed. The advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has technology starting to dominate every field. Israeli public intellectual Yuval Noah Harari in his famous book, ‘21 Lessons for the 21st Century’, says that in the future, the human body can undergo an unprecedented revolution thanks to bioengineering and direct brain-computer interfaces. New possibilities like changing one’s gender and even a fluid gender identity will open up. AI will make migration to cyberspace a reality. We will face a career change every decade or the prospect of unemployment, as more and more job profiles become redundant.

Motivational speaker John Allston aptly said, “If you don’t control your mind, someone else will.” 

Technology isn’t bad if you know what you want in life. But, if you don’t, it is easy for technology to take charge of your life.

How we are losing control

Curated content

In times of yore, we lent our ears to storytellers, entering the world created through their words. Yet, there was room for our imagination to bring out variations in the story.  

Next came the visual medium wherein we started becoming obsolete. Staring at a screen made us slip into a trance during which the imprints of the movie easily penetrated our subconscious minds. Each one of us saw the exact images that the filmmaker wanted us to see and heard exactly what he wanted us to hear. Our imaginations were shown the door. But at least we did choose which movies to watch.

Now with content constantly playing in a loop, we are reduced to bystanders. While algorithms are making choices for us, we continue to mindlessly binge-watch movies on Netflix. Additionally, with the Metaverse bringing into play haptic gloves, we have surrendered the tactile sense as well.

Disuse Atrophy

We have stopped learning because we opt for the easy way out. We rely on Google for our smallest queries rather than take the effort to acquire new knowledge. We shirk using our intellect and creativity when we outsource our homework assignments to ChatGPT. Sadly, the smartness of the cell phone is becoming inversely proportional to the IQ of the human race. Our dependence on our cell phones has led our memory cells to rust as well.

This is called ‘Disuse Atrophy’ in medical terminology. As I love to say, “What you don’t appreciate, depreciates.”

It is no surprise that we risk becoming irrelevant thanks to AI replacing humans in many fields. A report by investment bank Goldman Sachs says that AI will rapidly result in 300 million jobs becoming redundant. Another study by McKinsey & Company says that 400 to 800 million jobs could be taken over by automation by 2030.

Shortcuts = shortchanging ourselves

We can savor the view from the top of a mountain peak without undertaking the arduous trek ourselves, thanks to simulated experiences available in the Metaverse. But, as Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” We all know that if it was not for the struggle, the caterpillar could never have metamorphosed into a butterfly.

Famous physicist Stephen Hawking said, “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” Our ability to not just survive, but also thrive will depend on our ability to constantly re-invent ourselves. In the 21st century, life will be like riding huge waves on our tiny surfboards. We will have to learn to catch the wave to ride it. Though we will have little control over the AI-dominated world that we will find ourselves in, this has been the reality of life for eons. The only control we have is that over our body and mind.

Though we will have little control over the AI-dominated world that we will find ourselves in, this has been the reality of life for eons. The only control we have is that over our body and mind.

7 ways you can take charge

1. Digital detox

As the lines between the real and virtual world get blurred, we need to consciously retain our connection with the real world. We could choose to spend time with animals and in the lap of nature, free from all things digital. In 2023, Finland topped the World Happiness Report for the sixth year running. Their citizens love to spend time outdoors. With about 70% of their land mass under forest cover, the connection between happiness and greenery is quite obvious.

2. Strengthening the body: Indulging in exercise through walking, trekking, swimming, and games helps to keep the body well-tuned.

3. Indulging creativity: Spending time painting, drawing, sculpting, dancing, or writing helps to keep our creative juices flowing.

4. Social skills:  Heed the words of Aristotle, “Man is by nature a social animal.” We need to find the time and ways to meet in person to keep our social skills alive.

5. Meditation Yuval Noah Harari advocates Vipassana meditation to master the mind. When he first started to meditate with this Buddhist origin system, he realized that he knew nothing about the mind and had very little control over it. Despite his best efforts, he couldn’t observe the reality of his breath coming in and out of his nostrils for more than 10 seconds before his mind wandered away.

Vipassana helps us be rooted within ourselves and in the present moment by watching our breath and later by watching the sensations arising in our bodies.

6. Mirror work: Social media platforms have opened the possibility of creating personalized avatars. We can make our avatars fairer, taller, leaner, or more muscular than we are. Earlier, we resorted to cosmetics and even plastic surgery to make ourselves attractive. Louis L. Hay, author of the book, ‘You Can Heal Your Life’, explains this obsession, “The innermost belief for everyone I have worked with is always, ‘I’m not good enough’.” If we only learn to love and accept ourselves the way we are, we will not need AI-created avatars to escape from our reality.

Hay advocates a technique called ‘Mirror Work’. We could choose to look into our eyes in the mirror and say, “I love you” and “I accept you just as you are” while addressing ourselves by our name.

This is the key to growing our self-esteem.

7. Taping into the subconscious mind: We are facing a deluge of information in every field. Our survival depends on how we glean useful, important information while discarding the trivial.  The best way to do this is to tap into our subconscious. International speaker Mike Dooley says, “Your thoughts become things!” We could plant a belief in our subconscious that all the information we need comes to us with ease. We will be amazed to see that this belief becomes our reality.   

Living our purpose

Nature intended each one of us to be unique. Yet, we are trying to standardize experiences using AI. In the movie ‘Avatar’ AI gave the protagonist the use of his legs in an alternate reality. However, what we have christened as a disability is a gift, put in place to help fulfill our purpose in life. We are depriving ourselves of the feeling of triumph that we feel on overcoming life’s challenges. We are robbing ourselves of inspiring stories of human achievement.

In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

Lead visual by John Biggs courtesy The High Asia Herald

Chess picture courtesy Pavel Danilyuk/Pexels.

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Dr. Bijal Maroo June 19, 2023 - 1:36 pm

Thanks Shekhar for always taking time out to read and add such appreciative feedback. It just inspires me to outdo myself the next time. I loved the way you summarised it by saying, ” Caesar beware! The Ides of march!!”

Shekhar Prasad June 17, 2023 - 3:47 pm

I got stuck at so many places in this article…its as if someone is watching me over the shoulders!!! How artificial my (our) life(lives) has(have) become……. i remember that nearly 18 years back I had taken a decision to always dial my some of the closest people contact number instead of searching for the same in “contacts”. It paid. I still have the numbers in my mind. But with the current avalanche it is indeed challenging to keep our faculties intact… the author rightly says, “What you don’t appreciate, depreciates.”. Excellent article…. a “Caesar beware of the Ides of March!!” article.