Mitch Albom: A novel idea for all this new tech? Shut it down

Mitch Albom: A novel idea for all this new tech? Shut it down

I want a moratorium. No new tech inventions.

For 10 years.

No new apps. No new devices. Nothing gets smaller. Nothing gets faster. We hold where we are for a decade. And give everyone a chance to catch up.

Yeah, yeah. I hear the folks at Google and Meta and Apple scoffing. But it’s Sunday and they’re at work. And that’s part of the problem.

You finally memorize the yellow cab number, then comes Uber. You finally figure out Uber, now it’s self-driving cars.

TVs went from 12 inches to 36 inches to 100 inches — now everyone watches on their phones. You don’t buy music anymore, you stream it. You don’t listen to a radio station, you find its app.

You don’t go on a blind date, you Tinder, Hinge or Bumble. You don’t shake hands, you swipe right.

Aren’t you tired? Isn’t your brain spinning? Wouldn’t it be nice if you woke up this morning to the promise that everything technological would hold still for 10 years, and you could actually, you know, figure out how to use the stuff?

Invention is exhausting.

Even the Lord rested after six days of it.

If the industry leaders are saying ‘slow down’ …

Artificial intelligence is the straw that breaks the back. Suddenly, a computer can write better than you, faster than you, and in your voice. It can sound like you, look like you, and replace you. And it was invented, what, six minutes ago?

You can’t find anyone who doesn’t think that AI is going too fast — except the evil geniuses who have apparently made a deal with the mainframe that when it takes over, they will be allowed to live.

The rest of us quiver in our Nikes.

Even Congress is considering laws to slow down AI. When the CEO of the company that owns ChatGPT is warning that his technology could lead to human extinction, we ought to listen.

“We need regulation,” Sam Altman told the media this year. A CEO asking for regulation?

Here’s a better idea. Shut it down.

A moratorium.

Ten years.

Take our hands off the keyboards. Stop shrinking the microchip. Stop lasering the lasers. Let the human race bend over, put its hands on its knees, and take a few deep breaths.

Wouldn’t you love not to worry about a new iPhone being faster, thinner — and more expensive — than the one you own? Wouldn’t it be nice to stop inventing new networks, so we can actually figure out which one is showing “The Office”?

Wouldn’t it be great if banks stopped sending you new ways to see your own money? Or if every last checkout person at the supermarket wasn’t replaced by The Scanners That Never Work Properly?

I’m not talking about medicine. They can keep inventing there. Last I looked, you don’t need a new PlayStation 5 for cancer research.

But try telling your kid he can’t have one for Christmas.

New doesn’t necessarily mean better

Now, you can say I’m a Luddite. That we can’t stop progress. That we can’t block mankind’s eternal propulsion to keep moving forward.

But are we moving forward?

Or just moving?

Consider the things that were developed in the decade between 2010 and 2020.

Before 2010, there were no Alexas or Siris. Rideshare apps like Uber were barely getting started. We didn’t stream TV, we watched it. Advertisements weren’t targeted at us the moment we clicked on something out of curiosity. There were no deepfakes, where a video of a person wasn’t actually a video of that person. And we hadn’t heard of cryptocurrency, Sam Bankman-Fried or FTX.

Now ask yourself, are we really better off with all that stuff than we were without it?

I’ll go with “no.” I’ll go with a pause. Give me 10 years to understand the settings on my iPhone camera and I might actually take some nice pictures. Give me 10 years to figure out the parking app and I might be comfortable leaving my car in Detroit.

Give me 10 years to understand how the Ticketmaster app sends tickets to somebody else, and we might actually all meet up at the same concert on the same night.

Whatever happened to “good things take time”? Or “patience is a virtue”? Inventing something to replace the previous thing and charge more money for it isn’t really progress, no matter how many acronyms you stick on it.

Let’s take a decade to figure out if all this tech is advancing our humanity or pushing it backward. In the grand scheme of things, that’s a blip on the timeline. Heck, COVID-19 cost us three years of seeing each other. What’s one decade without a drone delivering your Amazon package?

Huey Lewis wanted a new drug? I want a new time frame. Hit the brakes. Kill the engine.

A moratorium. No new tech inventions. Ten years.

That’s all I ask.

That, and an option to extend.

Mitch Albom writes for the Detroit Free Press. His column is syndicated by Tribune Content Agency.

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