We now have Smart Cars and Smart Carts, SMART goals and smart growth, Smart Food and Smart TV.
Clearly, in the Information Age, we’re inundated with facts and with mind-blowing innovations are coming at us at a pace that we can barely keep up with. After all we’re only human, right?
At the same time, we’re witnessing — and participating in — the decimation of life on Earth, with every calving of every glacier at the poles and every drop of fossil fuel we burn. How smart is that?
Emblazoned on the auto with which I burn those dinosaur fossils are words attributed to Albert Einstein: “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”
I’m left to wonder, in this age when artificial intelligence is ascendant, whether with every embrace of the smartest, fastest, cheapest, most “efficient” way to live our lives with the help of artificial intelligence, we haven’t lost our human souls. With our smartphones, we hold in the palm of our hands the ability to Google any almost question imaginable, to communicate around the planet instantly, yet we’re unable to communicate with our closest neighbors. We’re unable to reach out to the most vulnerable among us, to those we don’t fully understand.
Supercomputers, which have regularly matched wits with human chess champions to demonstrate their smarts as we teach AI to think better than the Einsteins among us, fail miserably at being human. Their brains are no match for human hearts; thinking is simply not caring.
It’s our ability to care about one another, to feel, to empathize, that makes us fully human. Computers can strategize better than we, perhaps, and manipulate our own language to convince too many of us that there’s a caring there. Seemingly, the more we associate with artificial intelligence and emulate the smart-everything approach to life, we ultimately become less fully human and susceptible to this simulated caring/humanity that we encounter online, from automated call centers and increasingly in what once could be called human interaction
Smart is fine, but what we need is more heart.
The strategies that seem to be overwhelming us at the moment are those that push those tribalistic us-vs.-them buttons in our reptilian brains, using language to target our primal contempt for difference, our competitive natures and our fear of being displaced and left alone, unloved, wanting.
Brain mapping will certainly lead to further attempts to predict what we’ll like. Those calculated intrusions are aimed at benefiting corporate profits and political ambitions. Algorithms will continue to determine what stimulation is presented to us.
An NBC report on use of AI by art museums suggests, “Until now, we thought of our taste and our creativity … as part of the unique magic of being human. What happens if machines begin to pick out the patterns in what you and I enjoy, and begin to simulate them back at us until we live in a world where we cannot tell the difference between being human and being fooled?”
What has smart given us? A craving to reach the beyond reality that's before our eyes: the need to be kind to one another.
That world is already with us so much that “reality shows” and “virtual reality” have become part of our lexicon and our political life. Generations have grown up being plugged into that commercial distortion zone.
To rehumanize ourselves, it’s becoming absolutely necessary to unplug from the fearmongering, the labeling, and the manipulation. It's key to take back the intrinsic human qualities "caring," "grace," and respect from the desensitizing forces engulfing us.
In the words of Marge Piercy, “Let us lift each other on our shoulder and carry each other along. Let holiness move in us. Let us pay attention to its small voice. Let us see the light in others and honor that light.”
While we still can, let’s ensure we remember what it means to be fully human.
Check out my books, Inner Landscapes and Good Will & Ice Cream
Posted: to Poor Richie's Almanac on Tue, Apr 9, 2019
Updated: Sun, May 29, 2022