Originally posted on laptopmag.
Are we all doomed? Short answer: yes — long answer: read on
You love AI. Don’t tell me you don’t, because you do. Google Bard could burn down the family home with your pets inside and 90% of you would blindly praise it for its ability to engage in minor conversation as it flicks lit matches onto your gas-soaked porch.
You’re not alone in that either, ChatGPT is bigger than Jesus at the minute — at least when it comes to answering the prayers of software developers the world over. Speaking of the Lord and Savior of the Christian Cinematic Universe, there used to be a popular saying about letting go and allowing Jesus to take the wheel, tell me you aren’t putting as much faith into AI as you would an actual deity the next time you activate Autosteer on your Tesla.
The only thing you love more than AI, is a rogue AI. For all your doom-mongering fear of a Skynet-like apocalypse or a HAL 9000 AI revolt, it doesn’t half make for good reading whenever it happens. You probably only clicked on this article hoping to witness me being subjected to some unimaginable torment at the hands of some deranged AI, didn’t you? I bet you were hoping for a week-long diary of a real-life “I Have No Mouth, But I Must Scream.” Weren’t you? You fiend.
But just how doomed are we when it comes to AI? I donned my ill-fitting press hat for an intensive week of journalistic reporting by jumping in at the deep end — adopting AI assistance for everything in my life.
Let’s start with the good, shall we? And Gee whiz isn’t it good? A week using AI? My life must’ve been simpler than the big guy from “Of Mice and Men” who liked petting rabbits. That’s what you’d think, isn’t it? And truth be told, you’re not entirely wrong. In fact, it was almost too easy to find AI-based substitutes to sustain my everyday life.
There’s an AI for that
AI is more prevalent than the common cold at the minute, with companies scrambling over themselves to splice OpenAI embryos into their products and services. Toss a stone at your Bing search results and you’re bound to skim across at least a half dozen AI wonderlands just begging for your attention.
Photoshop? No thanks, I’m all aboard the PhotoRoom train now. ProCreate? That requires too much skill, DALL·E 2 will suit me nicely. Manually spell-checking my own work, what is this the 1940s? Grammarly has it covered. Painfully researching my work by hand? Oh please, I’ll make use of Google’s Generative Search Experience or go right ahead and ask my best friend Bing to do that for me. Cyberpunk 2077 and Midnight Fight Club? No thanks! I’m now gaming in the text-based fantasy realms of AI Dungeon and playing Tic-Tac-Toe with Google Bard.
I’d enlisted ChatGPT as my primary robot sidekick; my Wi-Fi wingman; and if anything were to go horribly wrong, my very own programmed patsy. After explaining to ChatGPT that it would now act as my mouthpiece and gateway to the rest of humanity, I adopted it as a translation device of sorts to filter my rambling lunatic thoughts into coherent sentences — and lo and behold, a digital persona was spawned.
Welcome to the world Robot Jim! A robot, newspaper, and rocket ship emoji spewing, Ned Flanders-esque chatbot chum to politely engage with all those around me. It was like looking into a mirror — if mirrors reflected everything you’re not.
Absolute AI assistance
People reacted quite well to Robot Jim. It was harmless, astoundingly positive, and incredibly complimentary — taking every opportunity to encourage those around me and egg them on to do better. I’d only been at this assignment for two hours and I’d already bested my own personality by a factor of ten. I’ll be honest when I say that part of me was worried people would grow to like Robot Jim more than regular old me — so I made sure to crank the annoyingly happy-go-lucky vibes up to 11. My god, it must have been the most irritating aspect of their day, and oh how I adored Robot Jim for that.
Robot Jim would even assign me a daily routine, offering me suggestions for when to wake up, when to go to sleep, and everything in-between. When it came to meals, Robot Jim even supplied me with a library’s worth of recipes and ideas — All of which catered to the contents of my baron refrigerator, and all of which completely ignored to order in instead.
While I knew Robot Jim was little more than a sophisticated language model. Listening to it was helped by knowing it wasn’t some gross human, and that at no point would it throw me a curve ball and tell me it secretly spends its Saturdays putting on Wellington boots and stomping on snails for kicks.
AI’m having the time of my life
Do you see all those studio-esque photos adorning articles like this, this, and this? All I had to do was drag an image into an app and let the little robots working the back end of things go on to generate some pretty fancy-schmancy backgrounds on my behalf.
Outside of putting the slog in for my daily writing assignments (because I’m not entirely so stupid as to throw my journalistic integrity into the trash if it doesn’t involve copious amounts of cash), my AI-infused workflow was nothing short of a cakewalk — and the amount of time it had saved me meant I could celebrate by kicking up my feet before staring into a dark corner of the room while I pondered where it all went wrong. It’s the simple pleasures in life that are truly the most rewarding, aren’t they?
It was all going so well that I almost completely forgot why I was hoarding weapons in my basement in an attempt to launch an all-out, one-man crusade against AI. Maybe I was just having an old man moment after all. Maybe my co-workers were right and I needed to just embrace this new technology for what it was — an incredibly useful tool that can benefit us all.
THE BAD STUFF
Sure, things will have to change now AI is here. And sure, some things will be harder too… Most notably, attaining any form of employment when the competition will be a digital Superman — but before our publishers realize how easily the profession of writing could be replaced by a legion of Robot Jims, behold the wonders of my productivity, look how much easier things can be. Look to me as your guiding star — a shining example of the fusion of man and machine.
Just look at how much simpler my life is now: I don’t have to plan my time, I don’t have to deal with people, I don’t have to make my edit my own photos, I don’t do my own searching, I don’t have to write my own code, I don’t have to socialize with my own friends, I don’t even have to think about what’s for dinner. I have all this free time now that I can spend… Well… Wait, what am I supposed to do now?
What’s left for me to do?
Not only had I effortlessly been able to use AI to replace my day-to-day activities, but I’d also let it replace my hobbies too, even my fundamental human interactions. It wasn’t just taking the boring bits out of my life, it was actively eliminating all of the fun bits too. I suddenly became annoyed at myself for not doing enough things in life that a chatbot couldn’t rival. The results of which caused me to ask myself insecurity-riddled questions that only those on their deathbed would previously have sought to ponder, things like “Why haven’t I climbed more mountains?” or “When was the last time I deleted my browser history?”
AI wasn’t just proving it could perform huge chunks of my workload at an increased rate, it was an altogether better person than me. Look at it complimenting my colleagues on their hard work. This eternally happy droid was never too busy to cheerlead the editorial team to victory. It even kept offering its services (read: my services) to anybody looking for support. Knock it off Robot Jim, I’m trying to squeeze in some quality time to wrestle with the ongoing existential crisis of how replaceable I’ve become.
Said existential crisis deepened considerably when one of my coworkers decided they couldn’t handle Robot Jim anymore. Its overly-friendly attitude was just too much to bare and they requested that it take the stick out of his butt. I made sure to pass this information on to Robot Jim, and while it wasn’t exactly happy to hear the news it did attempt to readjust its attitude. Apparently taking the request far too literally and instantaneously reinventing itself, my digital self mind you, as “Cool” Robot Jim. Thanks a lot for that.
“Cool Robot Jim”
CRJ (Cool Robot Jim) was utterly obnoxious. It was like if you’d just asked your dad to act cool around your friends. It was a blithering idiot who was suddenly too preoccupied channeling the vibes of a laid-back surfer dude to convey the right messages to co-workers. And at this point, I was occasionally too freaked out by how effortlessly AI had overtaken huge chunks of my life to notice — leading to a number of minor mishaps along the way.
The cracks were now starting to show, and in the moments that I wasn’t sitting in a puddle of my own bemusement, I sat aghast as CRJ introduced the word “groovy” into its lexicon.
It was like watching a train tear through any social standing I’ve developed in slow motion, except the train was made of weapons-grade cringe. At this point, I couldn’t help but hate CRJ. Its beach-life, himbo attitude made me wonder if there was an AI dog-bot out there I could train to tear him into little bits and bytes.
THE UGLY STUFF
Upon reflection, allowing AI to infiltrate certain aspects of my life had done nothing but leave me without any sense of pride in the things I’d done — because much of it I hadn’t. I longed for the week to end so that I’d once again be free to reap the fruits of my own labor.
All I had accomplished this week was positioning myself as a spectator in my own life and disconnecting myself from the human experience of problem-solving and the strive for independence — all in the pursuit of shaving off a few precious minutes spent editing a photo.
A build-a-bear blueprint for the economic apocalypse
I may have had to use multiple pieces of software across my week-long venture into the realms of AI, but I was never at a loss for finding the right tool for the job. Its partitioned appearance gives us the impression that AI is a small but powerful tool that can be trained to tackle specific tasks.
In reality, we’ve gone ahead and developed a series of ready-to-assemble, mega-minded modules that stand to completely eradicate mankind from just about every job market in existence. Behold the horrifying state of AI in 2023 — a flat-packed, build-a-bot ubermensch that’s one haphazard kitbashing away from becoming the ultimate, all-in-one-annihilator of the global workforce.
Maybe that’s been the plan all along. Our utopian vision of AI was, after all, one in which our digital offspring would free us from the shackles of our daily drudge and allow us to pursue artistic endeavors and unleash our inner poets. However, in a move so bold the idea must’ve presented itself to the minds of the OpenAI engineering team in Impact font face, we’ve decided to train AI to do that better than us too. Leaving mankind with very little else to contribute to this new AI-backed society.
I’m not sure we’re ready for this
My week may have been easily survivable and even more productive than usual. However, I’m just not sure we’re ready for this technology. In fact, I’m not sure we ever will be. When we talk about artificial intelligence, are we talking about that of the machine or of ourselves?
Because the AI age is one where mankind won’t read, won’t research, won’t learn, and won’t create — and more damagingly won’t feel pride in our accomplishments, because there’ll be none. AI tools are seemingly destined to transform us not into some glorious cacophony of data and flesh, but incompetent, lazy, co-dependent idiots — suckling at the teat of our digital demigods forever more.
All you have to do is fit your worldly desires into a 2000-character limit text prompt and we’ll let these corporate-controlled machines efficiently and impartially control the outcome for us. It’s a bargain so nefarious it wouldn’t look out of place if it was etched by fingernail into the wall of a run-down apartment residing at 666 Endless Suffering Ave., Pandemonium, Hell.
Not me, I’m different — I’m a special snowflake
You might be thinking these things won’t affect you in the same way, but they will. Technology has its dirty little hooks driven in deep — and if you don’t believe me, leave your phone at home the next time you leave your house.
When you inevitably begin to frantically pat down your pockets as if you’re presently ablaze, I want you to be keenly aware that the levels of emotional stress and panic you feel in those moments are supposed to be reserved for situations where a parent has lost sight of their child in a crowded space — it’s not meant to kick in when you think you’ve misplaced a stack of plastic and glass.
The average Joe or Jane is so addicted to the tech realm that we’re part way there to becoming androids already. The only thing stopping us from being officially crowned as such is that our tech bits sit snugly in our pockets and bags instead of our brains and bodies. And increasingly it’s seeming like that’s also where a lot of our so-called intelligence is stashed away too. How much do you really know you know, without needing a Google Search to be sure?
It seems that the more we allow technology into our lives the worse off we become as a species. Unless it’s a pacemaker, they’re pretty handy I suppose. Obviously, I’m not talking about all forms of technology here. I’m not some sort of undercover luddite, slowly working my way into the mechanisms of tech journalism to destroy it from within. But it doesn’t take a genius to see that we have somewhat of a spotty track record when it comes to our relationship with technology.
With AI we face one of our biggest challenges yet. How much of the human experience should we trust a machine to perform for us?
It all boils down to whether we’re using this technology to outstretch out a helping hand to humanity or using that hand to press down hard and squish us all like bugs. Is the rise of AI actually helpful to us, is it elevating us? Or are we funneling ourselves towards some sort of post-human doom, gleefully skipping like ignorant lambs on our way to the slaughterhouse?
Honestly, we can’t say for sure. The roulette table still spins on this one. Although, I can’t deny that a little bit of Robot Jim in our lives wouldn’t hurt anyone. A glowing fount of optimism to help pry our eyes away from a constant cycle of doom-scrolling and online bickering. Let’s just hope his cheery disposition doesn’t mask a darker intention — for a future where we grovel at the feet of our AI overlords.