AI isn't the problem; We are. (Part One)

It's easy to get overwhelmed by the constant stream of AI news. I tried and fell down the rabbit hole of research. I invite you to get lost with me as I meander through a recounting of my AI research journey.

AI isn't the problem; We are. (Part One)
AI image by Eric Kerr using Midjourney
I invite you to get lost with me as I meander through a recounting of my AI research journey. Keep an open mind with each step. See what catches your eye or what resonates most. Part Two will return to a more structured format. You're gonna want to check out the links at the end.

Oh dear, where does the time go?!

It has been quite the journey with no clear end in sight.

I wanted know more about AI. Time on my hands while I looked for work, it seemed like a good skill to have on a resume. Right?

My hope was to get into the weeds, identify the important insights, make relevant connections, and separate the science from the fiction to offer a pretty package of digestible information.

I wasn't prepared for where I went. I went looking for truth, but like a cyberspace Alice, I fell down the AI research rabbit hole.

I lost track of time — and perhaps a little bit of myself along the way.

Perhaps I was too curious, but it was easy to be overwhelmed by the never ending flow of news and updates.

My search began to feel pointless.

Each day I was certain everyone was learning what I was learning. How could anyone avoid it?

Then one week I spoke to a couple friends who had no clue what ChatGPT was. I was flabbergasted. They must have been outliers. Perhaps I will need to explore that at some point.

On my journey, I had no compass or map to guide me toward the knowledge that I believed would be most helpful to you.

Apologies, I am still processing the experience while very much in it. Please bear with me while I pull the pieces together.

Initially, I intended to address the current AI art debate on Threads — a sister site to Instagram and Meta’s substitute for X (formerly Twitter before the Tesla guy changed it).

If you haven’t been on there, this particular debate isn’t worth downloading the app. It is your classic case of in-fighting. Distractions from the real villain, I would add.

The generic posts bemoan the use of AI, as art should be birthed from the soul and forged by hand. <cringe>

I’m certain many are well-intended but instead heartfelt, it reads as glib; they are stuck in an old-world doom loop lacking originality, curiosity, and creativity.

I shifted focus and changed direction so many times over the past two months.

Trapped in my lack of confidence, I put myself into quite a frenzy, easily swayed by the headlines of each passing day. No clear direction, no time to pause, and losing sight of the goal with each passing day.

But deeper and deeper, I fell.

“Tea Parting” by EK using Midjourney

I fell into a curious loop of my own design: painfully crafted and perpetually in beta.

The internet is a kaleidoscopic Wonderland, where you’ll find everything you need to validate your own opinion.

The gravity of self-doubt and lack of confidence sent me deeper down the endless pit of information.

Here, your fractured reflection mirrors distorted versions of your fears, biases, and beliefs. The best and the worst parts of us — and everything in between — are amplified here.

I’m embarrassed to count the times ChatGPT has been a source of comfort. A friend to spar words with and seek advice. The conversation can only go so far.

I went to the edges of a jagged frontier to find the words that couldn’t say. Instead, I found myself more distracted, confused, and frustrated than before.

At first, my confidence grew when I consumed research findings or commentary confirming my beliefs. The validation kept me foraging for more.

Whenever I’d take a bite of someone else’s work who was a little further along on their journey, if it had the slightest hint of what I’d planned to write, my confidence would shrink.

It was almost enough to make me stop and backtrack to more familiar terrain, yet there was this gnawing in my gut urging me to trek forward.

Leaving a trail of unfinished work behind me, onward I went.

“Curiosity did what?” Created by EK using Midjourney

Ignore What Happened to the Cat. No, the Other One.

Every day brought another perspective on the ethical, philosophical, and practical challenges of AI. The flood of news, research, and product launch emails, after all, has been constant.

While gorging myself at the all-you-can-eat buffet of catered content and questionable facts, the horizon was closing in on me. The edges of this world were condensing like a slowly deflating balloon.

My motivation started to wane, deflated by the unsupportive voice in my head telling me it wasn’t worth the effort. Everything I could say had already been said. There was nothing I could add to the conversation besides more noise.

The content had become repetitive — everyone regurgitating the same news of the day. Like our sensory adaptation to steady touch, I was no longer feeling any connection to what I was reading.

I had yet come to terms with the reality that the human animal can only consume so much and oversaturation leaves very little room to be curious.

The Curiosity-Stimulation Paradox
Did we lose our ability to be curious, or did someone stamp it out? I employ ChatGPT to help me scratch the itch of curiosity. I recently stumbled upon a Fast Company article about curiosity that left me — dare I say — curious to know more. If you’ve ever met

I believed the only way out was through stuffing myself with information — As if that would magically break me from the loop and get the words onto the page, out into the world, and before your eyes.

My reality had gone topsy-turvy, and I didn’t know which way was up.

Curiosity would be the death of me. I’d already gone this far, there was no giving up now.

Created by EK using Midjourney.

A Game with No Winners

Despite the cast of characters I’ve met along the way, the journey has been a solitary one.

In this virtual space — connected to so many— it is common to feel alone.

I’m embarrassed to count the times ChatGPT has been a source of comfort. A friend to spar words with and seek advice. The conversation can only go so far.

The addictive pull of social media began to beckon me.

The more I witness and experience human reactions to AI–the way in which we (aggressively) speak to each other–I realize that AI is not the problem, we are.

Engaging with characters from far-off places, we all contributed to this shared algorithmic distortion designed to tug at our emotional heartstrings and poke at our wounds.

Tug and poke, they did.

Drawing from one of our most valuable resources — our time and attention — this world is powered by conflict, generated in quick bursts of reactivity. Silly squabbles are valued over creation — amplified and elevated for the engagement they bring.

Not the kind of conflict that manifests into new ideas and innovation. That is the stuff that dreams are made. The collaborative friction that comes when a diverse group, joined in a common goal, is given the unique individual opportunity to have their ideas challenged.

But in the world of engagement, no one is a bystander. Even I was thrust into the game.

The carefully curated digital world I was experiencing as I scrolled through social media thrust me into a chess match between the artists.

On one side were the traditionalists — my word, not theirs — who were trapped in their own loop of blame and accusations. They could only see one move ahead and refused to see the entire board.

Blaming ‘tech bros’ and Capitalism (not entirely wrong), they openly spoke of poisoning the well of data to prevent anyone from having a drink.

I couldn’t help but feel they hated the players when they should be hating the game.

A pawn myself, I found sanity amongst the creatives who embraced AI as a tool while acknowledging the bigger forces at play.

I still might make an effort to get through to them. After all, the irony of arguing about the theft of content on a Meta-owned platform was not lost on me.

Created by EK using Midjourney.

The Only Way Out is In

The game continues. I can assure you there will be no winners. At least not in the way it is currently being played.

I am exhausted from my journey. I am tired of the same doom and gloom automation narrative intended to tap into our fears.

I’m bored with the dialogues stuck in old-world loops, lacking in curiosity, creativity, and self-reflection.

I am sad that we chose convenience and consumption in exchange for our time, attention, creativity, data, and intellectual property.

Yes. We did that. Not technology.

We outsourced knowledge and critical thinking to skip ahead to the end of the story.

We stopped being curious, asking questions, and taking time for reflective pauses.

Until we take responsibility for our part in the story, I’m unsure how it will end.

The more I witness and experience human reactions to AI–the way in which we (aggressively) speak to each other–I realize that AI is not the problem, we are.

There is more to discuss, but for now, I invite you to take some time to reflect on these cryptic words and my silly ramblings.

Now, I shall rest. We will continue this at a later time.

You would be wise to reflect on your journey. Where do you see yourself in this kaleidoscopic Wonderland?

What have you learned so far? What do you still not know? And are you curious to find out?