How to Stay Happy in an AI-Manufactured World
If you see, read, or hear about something that you think might be performative or fake, then you ought to assume it is.
This past week has been filled with wild news about artificial intelligence: its rapid advance, lingering pitfalls, and serious risks. What struck me most about all the AI takes was a common theme that users had to repeatedly remind themselves that the AI chat bots are not sentient. Which got me thinking — as AI continues to evolve and become more complex, perhaps the only thing that will separate us from it is our being sentient, our ability to experience emotions and feelings.
And, as AI proliferates, the quality of those emotions and feelings will increasingly depend on our ability to live in reality.
In The Practice of Groundedness I wrote extensively about the fact that our happiness at any given point in time is a function of our reality minus our expectations. If our expectations are unrealistically lofty, we tend not to feel good.
Tools that falsify reality for the sake of attracting our collective attention will continue to improve. This means it will be more important than ever, and more challenging than ever, to live in actual reality. Whatever photoshop could do AI will do a thousand times better. As a matter of fact, it already is.
AI is being used to construct unbelievably beautiful portraits on Instagram. Meanwhile, on Twitter, so-called influencers are using AI to write their best tweets and threads. If the AI says a post about how great one’s life is will do best, then you better believe that’s what will get generated, regardless of that person’s actual reality.
We need to establish a new rule of thumb: if you see, read, or hear about something that you think might be performative, then you ought to assume it is.
Nobody posts their entire life on social media because it’s truly that good. If anything, the opposite tends to be true: those who feel the need to share a seemingly perfect life on social media tend to have real lives that are anything but perfect.
It’s not about setting low expectations or settling. It’s about living in your reality, whatever that may be, and not allowing illusory realities to become the bar to which you compare yours.
With more bots whose primary goal it is to capture our attention — and more people who act like bots with the same goal — we’ll have to be extra mindful to keep living in our own realities and not the illusory ones of someone, or something, else. Our individual and collective happiness depend on it.