avatarB Kean

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AI Is Making Advances So Fast It Is Already Expressing What It Means to Be Human

I wonder what it makes of the lunacy about mini-Totes at Trader Joe’s?

Courtesy of Today

A disturbing revelation surfaced in The New York Times, suggesting that artificial intelligence is on the verge of comprehending what it means to be alive. In my forthcoming book on AI, I refer to this juncture as the ‘alloying,’ a time when AI and humans could become indistinguishable.

While we haven’t reached that point yet, we’re on the cusp — much closer than most people think, or rather “don’t think.” Our problem is the weakness that will eventually turn us into completely dependent, intellectual slobs one day, leaving AI in charge of most of our tangible reality. As I said, we aren’t there yet, but it does indeed seem like humans are on an express train toward relative irrelevance — yes, such a state of consciousness can and does exist.

As I read through the article and nodded in vicious agreement, leading to a spasm that still makes its presence known two days later, scrolling to the end, I saw another article that scared me just as much.

Why Is This $2.99 Tote Bag Causing Chaos?

Yes, we have all, at one time or another, been subjected to the lunacy of a fad. When I was graduating college, you had to have Teva sandals. If you wore anything else, you were simply not “in.” As a sandal-wearer, I wanted them, but as a recent college grad, they were out of my price range. My brother, not wanting to venture into a fashion statement alone, bought himself and me a pair. I was in the Teva club and felt as cool as I could, silently making my statement as I strode down College Avenue at Rutgers during Senior week.

It seems, however, that nowadays, there are more of these moments of human — human-ness. I don’t want to call it frailties because, as social creatures, we want (need, like) to find comfort in a crowd. It’s a social moment, and it feels good when you walk into a Starbucks and see it bespeckled with Trader Joe’s mini-totes. Immediately, you identify fellow members of your cohort. It becomes the tote that launches a thousand conversations.

Mr. Yan first learned about the tote bags from the Instagram account @traderjoeslist, which is devoted to all things related to the store. (It is not run by Trader Joe’s but by another fan of the company.)

“It’s a cute little item. It’s cheap. I feel like it’s very fitting for my generation, which is Gen Z,” Mr. Yan said. I heard that they were extremely limited edition, and this would be, like, a one-time drop.”

He visited seven stores last week before finding one that had the bag. The first was the Trader Joe’s location where he usually shops, where an employee told him the bag had already sold out and to check back later in the week. At another shop, he was told that people had begun lining up at 7:30 a.m., well before the store opened. He struck out there, too (What’s All the Hype?).

What does “fitting for my generation” mean? First of all, I have a lot of complaints about the self-absorbed generation of Gen Z. Having grown up in a reality that was always shaped by the internet, they quickly realized that the most lucrative resource to be mined was their own lives, so they started making endless videos about absolutely nothing while staring doughy-eyed and pouty-lipped into their phone’s built-in camera.

Does this young man mean he is not real until he can register a photo on Instagram, holding his bag up and smiling lifelessly into the lens? While he would not agree with my interpretation, knowing as many of these Gen Z kids as I do, I feel I am pretty spot on. Much of that generation is incapable of simple banter. Questions not posed via virtual apps confuse them, and they are often emotionless unless a camera is catching their silly “spontaneity.”

Another “tote maniac” actually made a video of himself finding the bags. Without this, his little victory would have been hollow minus the virtual smileys and accumulating views.

Wang posted a video about snagging the totes. In it, a Trader Joe’s employee restocks the bags, a couple customers take pictures and customers check out with ease (Mini-tote Is Causing Chaos).

Unfortunately, this is the cohort of humans that I fear AI is studying. AI will offer some “expert” opinions on what it means to be human and how we can better our plight. Gen Z will hear these recommendations, and being closer to “fully alloyed” — meaning they are more artificial than real — they will abide by those recommendations, condemning the rest of them to some emoticon hell.

Indeed, there is a plague filling the sky, and it is human in its origin. It is the pandemic of intellectual laziness and stupidity, and it affects every aspect of our lives. This may be the way it is supposed to unfold. Perhaps we are supposed to fight back.

I should take a selfie and post it to Instagram with the following concern: “B fretting about the future. Does anyone have a Trader Joe’s tote to cheer me up?”

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