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Your Humanity Is a Feature, Not a Bug
The lesson we are about to learn from the rise of Artificial Intelligence
There’s never been a better time to be a human.
To be a real, living, breathing person and lean into your humanity.
This is the time, people — and it’s thrilling.
Wait a Dang Minute
Have I lost it?
Reality check: We have global warming and a million sources of strife in America (and around the world). Wealth inequality is rampaging and deleteriously affecting everything in the world, the right wing in America has started a bizarre and distracting campaign against a small demographic in America (transgender people), American women are losing rights daily state-by-state, and democracy here seems like a tenuous concept.
Meanwhile, AI is getting stronger and creepier because the food it eats (stored information) contains centuries of sexist, racist, and imperialistic information. (Perhaps not our best side.)
We should get harder and stronger and arm up, right? We should be scared and close off. Tribe up. Brace against any outsiders.
It’s the best time to be a human and open your fucking arms.
Because machines are not human … and we are.
Because as everything gets made more and more by computers and AI, we as a people will turn more and more to seeking that created by humans. The artificiality of the moment will leave us empty and adrift … and we will turn back to each other. We will long for authentic connection.
We will yearn not just for what feels human but for what is human. We will lean into the original, the strange, the weird.
And we will need these weird and original markers in order to tell what is real because computers can replicate us but they can’t birth us. Our strength lies in our originality. In our mistakes, our flaws, our truly odd ways of being and thinking and loving.
Our features are the originality in our human code — each and every one of us.
Flipping the Script
Yes, rough economic times may come for humans trying to think like computers (because you can get a cheap computer to think like a computer) so instead, why not be a human who thinks like a human? You can do that better than a computer trying to think like a human.
These coming years will be a glorious time to be unabashedly weird and different — because those qualities will be markers of your unique humanity. People will seek those markers, those signposts. They will crave real and demand it more.
Your originality will become valuable in a way that we are only just beginning to see.
And maybe that’s how it should have been all along for everyone … but we just didn’t know how to get there. (Historically, we’ve had respect/rewards sporadically for the originality of inventors and artists and changemakers. Those thinkers and doers who propelled our society sometimes caught their due in the annals of history, although the barbarians and the colonists and the capitalists also benefitted a great deal.)
But a few key things have happened along the way to make this time of ours different.
The Third Lesson We Are About to Learn
Remember when the pandemic started in 2020? I wrote “The Two Lessons We Just Learned” — which pointed out that we were learning two huge lessons as a global community:
We are all connected
The only moment that matters is now
And, here now in this era, we are about to learn a third lesson:
Your humanity is a feature, not a bug.
The Industrial Revolution led us in one direction: toward mass production, efficiency, and the minimization of structural differences for the sake of speed and lowering production costs. So we learned to think that flaws were bad. Differences were a pain. Anything that took longer was perhaps not as useful to us. And humanity was a drag on production.
But now we get to flip that script and learn that humanity is valuable.
Think about that:
Your humanity is not a flaw, a weakness, or something to be ashamed of. It’s the most glorious part of you.
Humanity: Opening Up That Definition
And what is your humanity?
It’s more than being original. And it’s more than being a human.
Your humanity is your heart, your soul, your basic goodness. Your humanity is kindness and compassion and nobility. It’s what makes us sacrifice for each other, protect each other, and celebrate each other.
It is what makes us … us.
What To Do Now
As the machines rise among us — as we play with the ChatGPTs and the DALL-E Arts and the million other iterations to come of this artificial intelligence without humanity (we are still in the fun stage of AI — the terror may come next— who knows?), be alert and do this:
Lean into your humanity.
Be kinder, more generous, more compassionate, more noble, more good.
Open your heart until it breaks.
Be as weird outside as you ever felt inside.
It’ll feel odd and unusual and maybe even like you’re headed in a different direction than many people … and then it will feel glorious. You’ll look around and see the originality of all these wonderful humans being human along with you. And maybe you’ll understand their — and your — true worth.
And perhaps that will be the ultimate gift that the machines unintentionally give us: the value of our humanity.
But we’ll have to lean into being human if we’re going to get there. This won’t be easy … but I suspect it will be worth it.
What do you think? Are you trepidatious about the rise of AI? What do you think we will learn from this next period of human life?
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