I went to a fascinating conference last week, where we talked about the latest and greatest in the multifamily housing industry. They keynote speaker was Peter Diamandis, who is a wealthy spaceship and genomic investor with an interest and understanding of everything. He spoke of a world where AI (artificial intelligence) dominated every industry. The cool part? He thinks we could be there in just a decade or so.
While it's pretty fascinating technology, like genome sequencing that gets rid of fatal diseases, increasing longevity and improving quality of life way past our current 'old' age, it's also terrifying.
I mean downright scary.
I'm not even talking about the what-if-the-robots-take-over kind of scary, but the terror of what will happen to human interaction. I mean, think of us now: with Internet, the prevalence of social media and online dating, you can live your entire life engaging through computer-mediated-communications without ever meeting people in real life. Part of that is nice -- like if you're in a long-distance relationship or want to order groceries without having to put pants on -- but part of it is really not.
When's the last time I went on a date with a guy I met in 'real' life? Good question, I literally can't remember. It might have been a year ago when someone set me up. These days, when you're at a bar, everyone's on their phones instead of talking to the people right in front of them. (I do it too, so I'm not pointing fingers).
Back when I was a kid (LOL I should be sitting in a rocker waving my finger at the youngin's as I say this) I played with people outside. We jumped around from backyard-to-backyard all afternoon, making up games like Lion King (which only entailed running around on dirt piles) and rock band (that's just when we banged on things with other things). Now? Children interact through video games, never having to physically be in the same room with each other to play.
If this distance-while-up-close is happening now, what will it look like in years to come when the technology is even more advanced? Even think autonomous cars: when you have cars that don't need drivers, you'll get into an Uber without speaking to another person. Then you go into work and email your remote team for the entire day. Then maybe you hop onto the self-driving train and end up home by yourself. You just spend an entire day engaging society without actually engaging in any tangible society.
If predictions are correct, the entire world will be connected through the Internet soon.
The. Whole. World. Online. Don't get me wrong, equal access to education and information is beautiful, but that also means that 100 percent of the world can access each other, so what motivates you to converse with the people right in front of you? What's stopping you from only communicating with those who share your exact world views, never challenging your way of thinking? Sounds like a good way to continue to spread the extremism we're facing since you can stew in your own singular, narrow experience without having to interact with other people different than you.
What will happen to our interpersonal skills? Will we even value soft skills when you can go an entire life without interacting with someone in the real world? If we spend all day streamlining processes because AI can do it better, will we care about each other's value? Will we connect as deeply as we used to?
Humans might not be as efficient, smart or meticulous as a robot, but isn't that kind of the beauty of humanity? I've read a study that said that old people die faster when they're isolated, but is that not the direction that we're all running? We'll be so interconnected and disconnected simultaneously, it's going to be the largest juxtaposition society will face.
I hope we lean more toward the warmth of human interaction and not into the recesses of our technological corner of the universe.