I came across a quote by Seneca the Younger, the Stoic philosopher who lived in first century Rome. He wrote, “Floods will rob us of one thing, fire another. These are conditions of our existence which we cannot change. What we can do is adopt a noble spirit.” Natural disasters are one thing, but we are rapidly approaching the time when A.I. technology can do all our thinking for us. This is a disaster of our own making.
I see you rolling your eyes and thinking me a Luddite. The Luddites were skilled textile workers in nineteenth century England. Ned Ludd, their fearless leader, directed the revolt against manufacturers who began using machines to get around standard labor practices. Luddites feared that the machines would replace their role in the industry.
It was a difficult transition for me to go from pen and pad to typewriter to computer. But I made each leap embolden by Seneca’s words to “adopt a noble spirit.” I love and appreciate that technological advances appear on the scene almost daily, but when is enough, enough?
There is currently a dustup about A.I.’s ability to not only write decent poetry (though not a good limerick), but term papers as well on subjects far and wide. Is the short story and novel in danger? You know what’s said, “If it were easy, then everyone could do it.” With the right A.I. then maybe everyone could write that “great” novel. How can anyone distinguish oneself if you don’t have to struggle and suffer as you go about making your art? The capacity to imagine is lost when we allow our technology to remove all unwanted struggles and suffering.
Now I hear a team scientists are working on what is called a “thinking hat.” After the proper programing, it is said the wearer need only think of a question and the computer will answer it. So imagine if one thinking hat wearer goes on a dinner date with another thinking hat wearer they can just skip the pleasant conversation all together and go about eating their meal without any verbalis interruptus. It is the equivalent of talking with your mouthful. So what do they do when it comes to the goodnight kiss? Think it?
Technology can do so much for us. It can solve so many of life’s challenges, but it cannot give us meaning or tell us why we exist and for what purpose. For that we must face our affiliations, reclaim our personal tragedies and comedies, and from them, create our stories. I call that living with a noble spirit.