“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”
At the Brighter Brains conference this past weekend in Oakland, CA, I had the pleasure of meeting an older man who had thought a lot about the future—and he was very afraid. Science, he said, was going to destroy us. And worse, when robots are better than us, what is the purpose of the human being? He was interested in my eHumanTrilogy and asked me, “In your future, do humans still work? Because honestly, I don’t see any point in us once robots take our jobs and economy.”
I get this question a lot. And it’s valid because it addresses one of our basic fears—that we have no worth beyond our capacity to make money. Without money, we can’t feed ourselves. Without food, we die. But I think the fear goes deeper than just the economic impacts of massive automation. As I spoke with this fine gentleman, I realized that the issue we have is a personality disorder—we don’t believe in ourselves as anything more than a cog in the wheel. Most humans fear the future because they don’t see their place in it. They’ve been led to believe that their worth resides only in their economic contribution, and that since robots can easily replace them in their jobs, then robots can completely replace us as a species.
Essentially, we have an HUGE inferiority complex. And we need to let it go. Now.
I told this gentleman that when he came to my table, I didn’t think, “Who is this man? What has he done in his life to earn money? How far did he rise before he retired? What worth does he have now?” No, what I thought was, “Look, someone wants to talk. Let’s talk.”
Humans need each other. When we come in contact with another human, they reflect back to us our own state of mind. By engaging in one another, we grow, learn and enhance our cognitive abilities. We also become more able to imagine and create when we’re around others to bounce ideas off of.
In her blog on HuffPost, Margaret Paul, PhD has this list of things humans need from one another:
Caring, tenderness, hugs, touch and emotional support, connection, sharing love, learning and growing emotionally and spiritually, companionship -- sharing fun and laughter, play, adventure and everyday life, love making, physical help when needed, having our back
This is what we really need from one another. If you think your worth is limited to how fast you can think, or how strong you are, then robots have already surpassed you. They are much better at taking the SAT or building a car on a manufacturing line than any human. So the thing you fear most has already happened, you’ve been or will be replaced.
But what if you’re needed to care, love, hug, touch and support someone? What if your true purpose was to coach and inspire others? How about sex? Yes, robot sex is a big fantasy for many techno-thinkers, and that would be expected in this extremely pornafide society. But let me tell you, no robot will ever smell like a man, taste like a man, or touch me like a man.
No robot will ever replace my friends, or my husband, or my family. No robot will motivate me to be more than I already am, even if the OS is Samantha from the movie, Her. No robot could raise my sons with the love and interest that I did. And no robot will ever truly replace the men and women I met at the conference this past weekend. I doubt an android would have engaged and inspired me the way the gentleman in Oakland did.
This fear and self-loathing needs to end. Instead, we must begin to see how much we need one another, and how beautiful we are as a species. Otherwise we will continue to live in fear—which is to live in a cage, whose door is wide open.