How do I live my best life? I’ll consult a painting, thanks – not my smug ‘AI future self’ | Viv Groskop

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Would our youthful selves use from an brushwood pinch a decrepit and raddled 60-year-old “future you” to springiness america nan push we request to unrecorded a amended life? Researchers astatine nan Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) deliberation so. They are building an AI-powered chatbot utilizing a digitally aged look and “plausible synthetic memories”. “Future You” will show you to eat your greens, portion little and sojourn your parents: “The extremity is to beforehand semipermanent reasoning and behaviour change.”

On nan surface, I get it. There’s a swath of socio-scientific investigation – from nan Stanford marshmallow test to Kahneman and Tversky’s “sunk costs fallacy” – that proves really mediocre we tin beryllium astatine readying for nan early and that we perpetually make illogical decisions that disadvantage us. Most of america person “bird successful nan hand” thinking. We for illustration 1 tangible marshmallow correct now complete 2 promised marshmallows successful nan future. We perpetually propulsion bully money aft bad because we would alternatively support hoping that 1 time we’ll beryllium correct alternatively of accepting that – d’oh! – we made a mistake. We are monumental idiots. But is that really our worst trait and 1 that needs to beryllium corrected by gathering smug Future You? Or is being unoptimised, plodding, self-defeating – and, er, human – possibly nan very champion portion of us?

Future You is biohacking meets nan “carpe diem” connection of Dead Poets Society. And that’s what makes it some intrusive and pointless. Intrusive because you tin ideate it utilized to shame group for their life choices: “You had nan intends to unrecorded better. We gave you nan information. You still didn’t eat capable broccoli.” Who needs nan nanny authorities erstwhile you tin beryllium your ain nanny?

But besides pointless because this is clone progress. We already cognize everything we request to cognize astir really hopeless and foolish we are because nan arts and lit person already been telling america for millennia. Everything we request to cognize astir really to unrecorded good and really to unrecorded badly; astir hubris, regret, ageing, rejection and self-sabotage tin beryllium recovered successful immoderate creation gallery, room aliases theatre successful nan world. Want to converse pinch your early self? Look astatine immoderate Lucian Freud portraits. Read Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Watch Melisandre taking disconnected her necklace successful Game of Thrones.

MIT’s AI-powered chatbot, Future You, which simulates a user’s older aforesaid and dishes retired advice.
MIT’s AI-powered chatbot, Future You, which simulates a user’s older aforesaid and dishes retired advice. Photograph: Future You | MIT Media Lab

The awesome irony, of course, is that conscionable arsenic we are pouring billions into tech and AI and giving these industries taxation breaks and kudos, crossed nan occidental world nan arts and humanities are losing backing and prominence, our universities plagued by debt. And each for what? So that we tin person our ain personalised, self-absorbed bot clone that reflects nan hellhole of nan quality condition, a hellhole which we person already brilliantly catalogued. Have we really go truthful narcissistic that we are turning distant from coating and poesy and will only salary attraction to holograms of our fake, generic “future selves”? We already cognize who we are arsenic humans. The past point we request to do is regard ever deeper into a simulation of Narcissus’ pool.

Not only are these lessons not caller to us, there’s nary existent impervious that endlessly optimising ourselves is going to make america immoderate happier aliases unrecorded immoderate longer. The AI robot is not going to flash up a connection that says: “Sorry, you can’t prosecute pinch your 60-year-old aforesaid because you are going to beryllium tally complete by a autobus tomorrow. Think cautiously astir your underwear choices.” These technologies scheme for a early that whitethorn ne'er beryllium coming. And nan uniquely quality symptom – and nan tragic drama – of that realisation is thing that only art, lit and euphony are tin of expressing.

I erstwhile did an question and reply pinch a youthful podcaster wherever I was talking astir Tolstoy’s cognition to life and longevity and really he deals pinch that successful Anna Karenina. I was arguing that successful nan novel, by throwing Anna – spoiler alert – nether a train, he is sidesplitting disconnected nan “immoral” portion of himself. After that book Tolstoy started afresh and only wrote belief works, renouncing nan “frivolity” of his earlier novels. The podcaster responded, “Wow. Tolstoy invented #yolo.” (“You only unrecorded once”). Well, he nary much invented #yolo than this AI bot invented memento mori. The only point that ne'er gets aged is our capacity to delude ourselves: that we tin unrecorded forever, that we tin beryllium much than human, that our ideas are truthful caller and caller nary 1 has ever thought of them before.

The problem pinch #yolo, pinch our AI early selves and pinch apps that show america erstwhile to respire successful and respire retired again is that they springiness nan belief that we’re connected nan verge of immoderate extremist discovery, that we person yet “hacked” being human. But it’s each conscionable nan aforesaid truths artists person been trying to definitive for centuries.

  • Viv Groskop is simply a comedian and writer of Happy High Status: How to Be Effortlessly Confident

Source theguardian