Our nation is battling a loneliness epidemic. U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy pronounced it and The World Health Organization agreed. We aren’t the only ones. Loneliness is consuming the entire globe.
Currently, the generation struggling the most with loneliness is Generation Z followed by Millennials. This may sound odd given all of the social media and screen time both generations engage in, but that’s exactly the crux of the issue. Technology has wooed the young into living in silos by enticing them with the ease and convenience it provides. On the flipside, it’s also cut down on valuable social-emotional bonding and the kind of life-sustaining interactions human beings require. The more reliant, the greater the loneliness. It’s just that simple.
These two generations are overwhelmingly reliant and irreversibly conditioned. They love their ability to order a pizza without speaking to or even seeing a soul. At the same time, they actually harm themselves by forgoing these lost opportunities to interact as such momentary exchanges have proven to increase longevity.
Caught in this frustrating quagmire while lodged between technology advancing too fast and not fast enough, they remain desperate for a comfortable, timely solution. As the world automates at warp speed — further evaporating opportunities to interact — finding needed friendships and fulfilling romantic relationships is neither convenient nor easy. It requires effort…effort many just don’t want to expend. So they don’t. They remain stuck in their conditioned states and own way.
It’s a huge problem, one data science professors like Liberty Vittert believes AI companies will sufficiently solve within the next ten years. As technology caused it, why shouldn’t technology fix it? Critics reply by reciting the words of renowned theoretical physicist Albert Einstein. He stated, “We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” This is especially true if that thinking is motivated by profit as all companies are.
Generation Z and Millennials are praying that Einstein is wrong and that AI companies know better. They desperately want loving relationships or simply someone to talk to. But they are so used to the answer literally being at their fingertips that they refuse to accept anything different.
So they wait, subsequently relegating the solution to technology rather than emerge from behind their screens and approach others in a dating environment orchestrated to be intolerable. Referring back to Einstein’s brilliant point and taking this reality into account, we must ask, “At what price to humanity will this solution come?” The overarching answer could actually be “humanity” itself.
I am convinced of this for a variety of reasons, most recently, because at the opening of Open AI’s GPT store a few weeks back, AI girlfriends and, to a lesser degree, boyfriends found their audience, despite being prohibited by the store’s user guidelines. Certainly, digital romantic companions are not new. Romantic simulation video games can be traced as far back as 1992. Additionally, Reddit pages devoted to Character.AI share plenty of ways users can convince their AIs to engage in sexual conversation without setting off alarms.
What is new, however, is the unanswered need and particular mindset of Generation Z and Millennials. These have plenty of young men today admitting their preferences for their AI girlfriends over dating real women. That’s unheard of among prior generations.
These two generations aren’t like the others, though. Technology is, indeed, their way of life, and they are setting precedent for future generations. Thus, this reality begs the question, “Given how well AI companions (in their limited forms) are already fulfilling the desires of young men, what happens when physical AI robots capable of satiating all of human beings’ emotional and sexual needs burst onto the scene by 2034 as Vittert predicts? Especially when the guardrails are finally lifted completely?”
It isn’t hard to believe that the same technology that created the unhealthy dependency and therefore the problem won’t foster a secondary unhealthy dependency on the solution, especially as AI companies will be financially incentivized to do so. Sounds like Einstein is actually right and that Generation Z and Millennials are the unsuspecting, unfortunate participants in the creation of a perfect storm, one that will alter the course of humanity forever.
Logic as well as existing evidence supports that physical AI robots will increase divorce among actual men and women, simply because neither will ever be as perfect as their AI counterparts. Wrap your head around that for a second. Further still, imagine how children will cope with the realization that fathers are leaving mothers for their AI girlfriends. It is already happening in Japan. Or what they’ll do when they’re forced to meet their AI siblings. Inarguably, AI companies won’t stop at the creation of adults. They will create physical AI robot kids and babies contributing to a global population decline.
Personal development as well as ground made in transforming negative gender roles will also lapse. As the pressure to improve or even groom themselves comes off, so will these. Maarten Sap, an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon’s Language Technologies Institute, seems to agree. He noted how easily people overestimate human beings’ rational side when faced with the power of AI. Consider how Generation Z and Millennials currently present themselves, walking out the door in their pajamas. They already choose surfing over dressing. What happens when a pretty AI robot face and perfect body is introduced? How powerful will this influence be…and where will it lead?
Eventually, the word “real” will require redefinition. Maybe not for the sake of Generation Z or Millennials but for generations that follow them. Unfortunately, I suspect “real enough” will be the destiny of Generation Z and Millennials because of where they sit on the timeline and the role that technology designated them to play in evolution, both the species and world.
History will, inarguably, point to these two generations as the turning point of humanity, ripe for the picking and ready for love. Then banish every generation thereafter to bastardized forms of the latter.
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