Randi Kreiss

A.I. is sucking the life out of us


Who am I? Ask Siri. I don’t know where she ends and I begin.
When my iPhone alarm went off at 6:30 this morning, it was to remind me I needed to hustle to my dentist appointment at 8 a.m. Getting dragged out of a deep sleep was especially painful because my wake-up music is “My Shot,” from “Hamilton.” Lin Manuel Miranda’s repetitive assertion to thumping music is singularly irritating. But I clicked the wrong music alarm button three years ago, and inertia has kept it in place. So I shut off the phone and moved into my day.
A half-hour later, a “reminder” popped on my phone to take my thyroid meds and my vitamins. It was only 7 a.m., and I’d already been told what to do twice by my techno masters.
Slowly but inexorably, we are relinquishing free will and allowing technology to determine our decisions and our actions, our exercise habits, our purchases and our tastes. I hear you saying, “But we were the ones who decided to buy the phone or the Fitbit or the Alexa,” and that is true. But I believe we humans have been naïve, vulnerable and unprepared for the seductive intrusion of technology into every moment of our waking hours.
Take me. The alarm was just the beginning. After I obediently took my meds, I saw a reminder pop up to take the chicken out of the freezer for dinner. I also had several “sticky notes” on my phone to call the dog groomer, prepare for a book group, set up a service call for the car and try calling JetBlue one more time to follow up on a refund. In pre-tech days, I would have these reminders on a piece of paper (remember when Post-its were so cool?), but responding to a pop-up feels like it’s in control, not me. Old-school notes on paper are just quieter.

In the time I’ve been writing this, I got a notification from Open Table to confirm a reservation. It told me that I must press 1 to confirm. I obeyed. Then, from an entirely different source, a shocking headline popped up, which told me that to read more about a titillating news story, I needed to click the message.
Because I almost bought a sweater from Bloomingdale’s a year ago, the store keeps telling me I “forgot” an item in my cart. It’s a technological nudge that distracts me in the moment and makes me think about the sweater, thus hijacking my attention.
This happens all day.
I don’t wear a smartwatch or tracking device because I don’t want another boss in my life. Nevertheless, my iPhone has started telling me how many steps I take. I don’t care. I don’t want to know, and I don’t want to get locked into obsessively quantifying my exercise.
At some point in my day, I will get a message from one or another of my apps, advising me that I need to change my password because somewhere in the Ethernet there has been a “breach.” It suggests that I add three security questions and a “rescue” email.
Then up pops a text advising me which books to purchase next, based on my Kindle purchases, I suppose.
I downloaded the app Calm some time ago to learn meditation techniques for a more relaxing sleep experience. Now the word is out, and other apps are messaging me, offering bedtime stories read by boring narrators guaranteed to induce a good snooze. Every action on the phone or computer opens a door to thousands of other intrusions.
If I buy a pair of jeans online, I am hounded by competing clothing companies that want my business. Press here, click here, send us your email for a 10 percent discount. Send us your phone number for a freebie.
I was with a friend for a planned interlude of just sitting around and reading our books in my house. We would have companionable silence, sip our coffee and be at peace. Except that she has a thingie on her smartwatch that buzzes and tells her to get up and walk every 20 minutes. And she does. It’s probably good for her circulation, but it’s definitely bad for her sense of free will.
Slowly, we are giving ourselves over to technology and giving up personhood, frogs in water slowly coming to a boil.

Copyright 2023 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at randik3@aol.com.