We wanted to spend a day in the mountains hiking, taking in the views, the fresh air, and eating some good mountain grub.
We had a couple of obstacles in our way in the form of our two sons. We had to convince a nine and an eleven-year-old that it would be fun to spend the day enjoying the mountains and their parents’ company. Not an easy task when you’re dealing with modern kids who’d rather connect to their friends online, or play Fortnite, or stream Ninja on Mixer, or whatever the latest digital-native fad is today.
We had to find a carrot and stick to lure our boys on a day out with us. And we had just the thing. In the resort we were hoping to visit, Gstaad, there’s a summer sled. The kind that’s on a track made of metal sheets. We had been there before a few years back. The kids loved it. We thought it would be the perfect bait.
So we asked the boys if they wanted to go sledding, carefully omitting the hiking and taking in the views part. And they were takers. There was no need for lengthy negotiations. They were super excited to go slide down a mountain and experience real-world thrills.
Next thing, we all piled into the car and headed to Gstaad. As we had been there before, we didn’t need to use the nav. Or so we thought. Once we arrived, we couldn’t find the track. The area around Gstaad is made up of several small villages and quite a few ski-lifts. We couldn’t find the right one.
To get a helping hand, I fired up Google Maps on my phone and asked it to guide us.
The first thing Google said was, “Head north-west.” North-west?!?! Where the hell is that?
Do I need to bust out my compass to figure out where to go? Or read the sun’s position? I don’t know how to do that. I was never a boy scout and lived in cities most of my childhood. No Bear Grylls skills here.
We were forced to go old school. We worked out which way to head by looking at the map on the phone. But again, Google kept saying things like, “head south-west,” “head north-east.”
I should add a disclaimer here: I have not checked the settings to see if this can be changed or turned off. But either way, it seems to be a default setting. Thankfully though, Google does mix these directions with useful directions like “take a left in 300 meters”. But at times, it did leave me hanging with a “head south-east.”
And this got me thinking, there are still humans behind these apps, making design decisions, for better or worse. There are still humans calling the shots on what goes in the app and what gets cut. There are still humans saying, “let’s get the app to give directions using points on a compass.”
And sometimes humans fail, and that’s great!
Because imperfection is part of the human charm. Imperfection leads to creations we could never have imagined. Creations that are even better than we originally set out to make. And other times, imperfections are irritating. And that’s okay. We need to get rubbed the wrong way sometimes.
But what happens when AI and Machine Learning remove the human element from tech? What happens when tech becomes “flawless” to the point where we don’t need to make decisions anymore? What happens when tech takes care of all our needs? Will we perceive our society as utopian? Or will we think it’s sterile, boring, and challenge-less?
I’m erring more towards the latter.
I think a world without human imperfections is a world without soul.
Therefore, let’s not give up too quickly on what humans can offer. Let’s not blindly run towards the light of a fully automated world. After all, how can we value ourselves as humans if we no longer contribute to society? How can we hold ourselves in high esteem if all we do is exist? We humans need to strive and make decisions for ourselves. We need to fail, learn from our failures, and then go on to achieve our goals! It’s our lifeblood.
I guess what I’m saying is that tech is great, but let’s avoid becoming over-reliant on it. Tech should be our partner, not our all-consuming interface to the world, not our decision-maker, not our counselor, and definitely not our master. Let’s fight for our relevance! Let’s bring back things like human interaction and human craft. After all, if vinyl made a comeback, humans can too.
And for those wondering, we did find the lift to the sled track. But, we got there to find the sled was closed!!!! It was a bit of a Griswolds moment, but we decided against coercing the staff at gunpoint to open the sled.
In the end, the kids had to endure a day of hiking and taking in the sites without the action-packed sledding. And they loved it! The struggle is getting them out of their bubble. But once they’re out, it’s all good.