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Will AI Make Human Beings Feel Futile, Useless, and Meaningless?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has rapidly advanced over recent years, revolutionizing various sectors such as healthcare, finance, and transportation. While AI's capabilities continue to expand, there is growing concern about its potential impact on human well-being, particularly regarding feelings of futility, uselessness, and meaninglessness.

The Impact on Employment

One of the most immediate and visible impacts of AI is on the job market. Automation and AI technologies are increasingly capable of performing tasks traditionally done by humans, from manufacturing to complex decision-making processes. A 2019 report by McKinsey Global Institute projected that by 2030, automation could displace between 400 million and 800 million jobs globally. Such displacement raises fears of widespread unemployment and the devaluation of human labor.

When people lose their jobs to machines, they often experience a loss of purpose and self-worth, particularly in cultures where work is closely tied to identity. This can lead to feelings of futility and uselessness. However, it's important to consider the historical context: technological advancements have always disrupted labor markets. The transition from agrarian to industrial societies caused significant upheaval, yet it also created new types of employment and opportunities. Similarly, AI could potentially create new job categories that we cannot yet fully envision. But majority of people no longer have knowledge or practice of traditional skills and this can make people question their worth when AI takes over jobs.

The Erosion of Human Skills

As AI systems take over more tasks, there is a risk that human skills could atrophy. Tasks that require critical thinking, problem-solving, and even creativity are increasingly being handled by AI. For instance, AI algorithms are now capable of composing music, writing articles, and creating visual art. If humans rely too heavily on AI for these activities, there could be a decline in the cultivation of these skills.

This erosion could lead to a sense of uselessness, as individuals may feel that their abilities are inferior to those of machines. However, this perspective overlooks the unique qualities of human creativity and emotional intelligence. AI may be able to replicate certain aspects of human work, but it lacks the depth of human experience and consciousness. The value of human creativity lies not just in the end product but in the process and emotional engagement involved.

Intrinsic Value of Human Experiences

Beyond employment and skills, there is a deeper question about the meaning of human existence in an AI-dominated world. If AI can perform many of the tasks that define human life, does this render human experiences meaningless? Philosopher Yuval Noah Harari argues that AI could lead to a class of "useless" people who are economically redundant and existentially irrelevant.

However, meaning and purpose are fundamentally subjective and are not solely derived from economic productivity. Human beings find meaning through relationships, personal growth, creativity, and contributions to the community. AI, rather than diminishing these aspects, can enhance them. For example, AI can take over mundane tasks, allowing humans to focus on more fulfilling activities. Moreover, AI can provide tools that augment human capabilities, enabling people to achieve things that were previously impossible. But again we cannot deny the fact that a large population of world make living doing mundane tasks. They might feel insignificant when these activities are taken over the machines.

A New Paradigm of Coexistence

To mitigate the risks of feelings of futility and meaninglessness, society must actively shape the integration of AI. This involves rethinking education to focus on skills that are uniquely human, such as emotional intelligence, critical thinking, and creativity. Lifelong learning and adaptability should be encouraged to help individuals stay relevant in a changing job market.

Furthermore, societal values must shift to recognize and reward contributions that are not traditionally measured by economic productivity. Volunteering, caregiving, and artistic endeavors should be esteemed and supported as vital to a healthy society. Policies that promote job security, such as universal basic income, could also provide a safety net that allows individuals to explore meaningful pursuits without the constant pressure of economic survival.

AI's advancement does pose significant challenges to human employment and the perceived value of human skills. The future relationship between humans and AI depends on how society chooses to integrate these technologies. By emphasizing human-centric values and fostering a culture of lifelong learning and adaptability, it is possible to ensure that AI enhances rather than diminishes the human experience. In the short term, those who are not ready to learn new developments, adapt, change and be creative will find it difficult to face the onslaught of AI.