March 3, 2023 | OPINION | By Ceyna Dawson, Features Editor
The wave of ChatGPT, an automatic-essay-speech-generator, has hit our campus. This automatic intelligence, truthfully, is impressive.
The process is right beneath our fingertips. Step one – type out the desired topic, step two – hit enter, and step three – watch the screen deliver a full box of written text. For example, “what are the harmful impacts of Colorado College’s Block Plan?” ChatGPT responds with paragraphs on, “limited course options, intense workload, limited social opportunities, difficulty with transferring credit, and limited access to faculty.” From papers on aerodynamics to providing guidance on texting an ex, ChatGPT has got it covered.
Look at the rapid developments in the Metaverse. Sotheby’s International Realty announced an opportunity to purchase a plot of virtual land along with a physical home in Miami through cryptocurrency. Virtual reality spaces increasingly host entertainment, large gatherings for employees, and rooms to sell products. Most recently, “A Colombian court hosted its first legal trial in the metaverse.” Isabella Woodford continues, “participants in a traffic dispute appeared as avatars in a virtual courtroom.”
When thinking about artificial intelligence, thoughts may wander to the rise of out-of-control-merciless robots, the omnipresent sounds of Siri and Alexa ringing through cities, and “Ready Player One”, Ernest Cline’s dystopian and absorbing world of virtual reality. While this is not the current reality, A.I. is beginning to take a more involved role in day-to-day endeavors.
Already, society is inundated with technology; it is almost impossible to look away. The news discloses issues surrounding politics, the possibilities of going to war, the concerns of climate change, and humanitarian struggles. Schoolwork requires hours upon hours entranced in content through a glaring screen. Social media obscures reality and provides supposed revelations on how to become better, how to live successfully, and how to be the best version of ourselves.
Take the novel “Klara and the Sun” by Kazuo Ishiguro. In it, the mother expresses to an A.I. ‘friend’, “It must be great. Not to miss things. Not to long to get back to something. Not to be looking back all the time.” The premise of the novel is that in the future, human beings cannot form relationships with one another. Friendships are strictly bought by the few elites who can afford it. Klara, the A.I. friend, Josie, the buyer/daughter, and the mother grasp onto any glimpse of what truth is.
Ishiguro contemplates what happens to our mind when life isn’t bearable to live in real-time. The prospect of buying an A.I. friend is not only trendy, but it fills the dark void of being alone and purposeless. The novel questions what happens when life becomes a series of coping mechanisms, rather than addressing the foundational roots of isolation.
And what if society is currently in the stage of ignoring isolation?
A.O. Scott says, “In the real world, the bots aren’t our overlords so much as the enablers of our boredom. Our shared future — our singularity — is an endless scroll, just for the lulz.”
Boredom is quenched by our screens, finding and sending relatable TikToks and clicking until there is nothing left. Now, emerging technology offers a new change of scenery— a chance to quickly shift the view from the mindlessness of scrolling to a mindlessness of a fake reality. One can buy property online and curate the perfect virtual home. Public events that seem to be too draining to attend can now be held from the comfort of four walls. Legal proceedings are beginning to be overrun with avatars. And ideas can be generated through coding.
Yes, the modern virtual world is intriguing, but it should not be at the expense of personal interaction.
In a study at The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University, Dr. Emma Seppala finds, “People who feel more connected to others have lower levels of anxiety and depression[…]higher self-esteem, greater empathy for others, are more trusting and cooperative and, as a consequence, others are more open to trusting and cooperating with them.”
Imagine a world completely consumed with A.I. – people living through inanimate, man-made, and often intangible intelligence. The rise of A.I. poses an opportunity to address the problems that are facing our world, or to bury them. The two choices become: one, stay idle, absorbed, and continue the trend of surface-level interaction; or two, elaborate on the importance of interpersonal skills.
A.I. cannot replace the simplicity, chaos, and beauty of daily life. How can A.I. describe or understand human emotion? Feelings of love and pain are too multilayered and malleable for A.I. to pick up on or ever understand. How would we ever become better if there is always a heartless device that is outrunning and outperforming human development?
Slowly, the desolate reality Ishiguro proposes doesn’t seem far off; humans relying on technology and fake interactions to fill the void that only human connection can. A robot friend and manipulated worlds of perfection cannot replace the need for love, joy, and happiness.
With increasingly present A.I. and little cognizance of its impact on our relationships and lives, we will be swept over with no understanding of one another. A.I. is just another evolution of social media: one to bury our problems in, to try and live in a state detached from actually living.
Part of the human experience is to reflect on memories and bask in the uncomfortable—not to wipe away the struggle with fictious worlds.