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The Dark Side of the Moon: Could the Good in Humanity be Lost in Complete Automation?

September 29, 2019
James Hall


The Dark Side of the Moon: Could the Good in Humanity be Lost in Complete Automation?

Distributed ledger technology eliminates many of the negative aspects of humanity, such as the need to trust another individual. You can, for example, trust that the impartial code which maintains the bitcoin network which allows anyone to transact in a peer-to-peer manner; or that a smart contract will actuate based on a real-world outcome without relying on a centralized third-party entity. While the ability to utilize impartial code and automate our lives has many positive aspects, it is imperative to consider the trade-offs.

I argue that our nature is prone to allow technology of all forms to alter many positive aspects of our humanity, such as the ability to think for ourselves or interact with one another. We need to be conscious of the things that make us human and value them in order to not lose them.

Automated Living

I think, consciously or not, many look forward to a world where artificial intelligence can automate many aspects of our personal lives and businesses to a point of it becoming seamless. This, of course, has its positives; technology can be used to ameliorate the time, cost, and human effort needed to effectively allocate the limited resources that form an economy. At the same time, however, when every decision is automated and failure is less likely, the positive side of human nature which forms from adversity will be lost.

Think of a child who has overprotective parents that never allowed them to fail. While it may stem out of love, ultimately, the child is harmed by never experiencing a challenge and by always receiving instant gratification. At the same time, if we become a child to the A.I. and allow it to do the thinking for us, then we will lose the ability to think. When every decision is automated, we no longer must decide. We then begin to walk a thin line of then becoming controlled.

Additionally, while human to human interactions might induce negative emotions, such as anxiety or anger, it also induces many positive emotions and outcomes – such as happiness, friendships, affirmation, confidence, etc. There is an existential bond between living-beings which allows them to understand their similarities and needs. Humans need to interact with other humans. A basic conversation, even for two-minutes while checking out at a store, can immensely alter one’s brain chemistry and world view, which then forms that individual’s emotional state and overall outlook on life.

Also, learning how to fail – which means understanding that the world does not end with a mistake and leads to better decisions in the future – truly strengthens one’s overall confidence in the end. Having code make your meal perfectly every time is a great thing. At the same time, not having to ever deal with a human to correct a wrong might leave humans, ultimately, severely deficient to adverse conditions.

An Uncertain Future

Could I be wrong? Certainly. Humans may find a way through cultural norms to balance humanity and code. This is food for thought on what some of the negative trade-offs of complete decentralization and automation might be. All things considered, it is imperative that we stop every now and then and consider these possible issues. My hope would be a good balance between the two. While it is anyone’s right to isolate themselves, I do not want society defined by the programmers of the A.I.. I would rather it be formed by the collective norms derived from peer-to-peer, in-person interactions.