Letter Zero.65
Dear <<First Name>>, 

First a quick life update... 

I’m starting a new job in November working in artificial intelligence and machine learning. I will still be doing design and shaping the user experience but I am shifting from agronomy to artificial intelligence products. As I prep for the new job I’ve been immersing myself in AI news, trends, and technology and I want to share some stories with you.

The reshaping of our minds by AI is a theme that extends many of the ideas I wrote about in User Zero. Which brings me to something that really shook me up...

Steve Jobs just did a podcast with Joe Rogan. Yes, Steve Jobs is still dead, the podcast was generated by artificial intelligence. I think you should listen to it before you read further, otherwise my words might influence your experience. 

Joe Rogan interviews Steve Jobs

What did you think? Did it shake you up, too, or is it just me? I went through all 5 stages of grief through the course of the podcast...

1. Denial
Going into it I was skeptical. How could this be anything but garbage? At first all I could hear were the flaws in the audio. It was repulsive. The laughter and chuckling was especially gross. Very uncanny valley. 

2. Anger
Then it made me mad to hear my hero’s voice and to know it wasn’t him. Who reincarnates the dead just to generate buzz? What’s the agenda behind this? 

3. Bargaining
The more I listened, it was hard to not be impressed. The voices really did sound like Steve and Joe. Not just the tone, but the words they chose and how the lines were delivered. Okay, they can mimic my hero, but they can’t make the words mean anything. Can they?

4. Depression
Knowing it wasn’t real made me depressed. I wish Steve Jobs was alive. I didn’t realize how much I longed to hear his voice again.

5. Acceptance
By the second half of the podcast I was sold. Somehow I was genuinely curious what AI Steve thought about the current world. I had to keep reminding myself that this wasn’t really Steve Jobs and I shouldn’t give his words any more importance just because they were delivered by something that sounds like my hero. 

Then it was over and I was forced to wrestle with the implications of this thing. What does it mean?

For me, there isn’t anything more persuasive than Steve Jobs' voice. But for you it might be someone else. And with artificial intelligence, swapping Steve Jobs for Oprah or Jordan is trivial. This tech will get better, eventually it will be generated in real-time, you will have conversations with machines that are indistinguishable from the humans whose voices they mimic.

I put so much weight on Steve’s words that it makes me vulnerable to manipulation. Heroes are shortcuts. It’s easier to accept the opinion of leaders than it is to form our own beliefs. The shortcut worked in a world where it was really hard to hijack the identity of someone. Does it work when our main inputs are with digital audio, video, photos, and text... the very thing that artificial intelligence is mastering? Our minds can be reprogrammed to believe almost anything if it is presented in the voice, language, and style of someone you trust and respect. That’s a potent weapon. 

There’s a lot to wrestle with here, plenty to write about in future letters. Stay creative.

Your friend,
Copyright © 2022 Adrian Hanft, All rights reserved.

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