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The AI Escalator paradox

How AI is making us lazy and boring

I believe there is a huge issue with AI (especially generative AI) that nobody is talking about.

It is making humanity dumber. The more you rely on automation to do your job, the worse you’re becoming at it. AI is making you suck.

Let me explain it with an escalator metaphor.

People pushing AI are saying that progress is inevitable. If we rejected new technologies we wouldn’t travel by jets across the Atlantic, sending satellites into space or slowly escalating up a moving set of stairs.


Escalators didn’t replace stairs. They also didn’t replace walking up the stairs.

They allowed easier access for a small group of weak/elderly to make their lives easier but they also created a whole fat, lazy generation of people who don’t want to walk.

When you don’t train a muscle it goes away. Atrophies. If you use the escalator a lot your legs won’t be as strong as if you were walking up regular stairs every time. It’s simple logic. You will be weak.

Then, when a time comes when your life depends on walking up some steps you won’t be able to.

do I

Enough metaphors

Your brain and your skillset are like a muscle. If you don’t train it it also atrophies. Goes away. The more you rely on automation of the actual, creative work the dumber and less creative you become.

Many delude themselves saying that AI only “sparks” their creativity. They pretend they’re walking up an escalator. Fast and efficient! The reality hits differently though.

Remember when Gemini, OpenAI, and other models all went down at the same time a few weeks ago? Yes, it happened and it’s also interesting how AI from different companies is connected so when it fails it all fails. But that’s a whole other story.

On that day there was a barrage of tweets from people saying they couldn’t work because chat GPT was down. Yes — seriously.

I cannot

Bloggers couldn’t blog. Developers couldn’t debug code. Designers couldn’t … well luckily there is no useful AI for designers yet so they had no excuses.

But think about it — before AI developers were debugging their own code. Bloggers were writing their own blogs. What changed? Why is the world coming to a complete stop when a chatbot goes offline?

We got complacent

The mere fact that a big pile of if statements can debug your code or write your blog for you left us in awe. Our reaction was so strong we lost all criticism. It’s magical! The bot does stuff that is somewhat passable. We stopped asking questions and using logic.

We are now significantly dumber. In just one year. It’s like we started using escalators and now can’t walk up a short, regular stairway.

The origin of creativity

Creativity is the ability to connect multiple external dots into something completely new. Despite what they say, it’s not some magical creation ritual with scented candles. It’s data processing of multiple inputs that our brain connects and transforms into an original idea. So just like AI, right?

Well, kind of, but not quite.

What AI does is it grabs a huge dataset from the internet and tries to paraphrase things that would match the prompt best. Our brain, when being creative, takes our own experiences — with our own perspectives — which makes that process uniquely ours.

If a different person takes the same five situations and merges them into a new, original idea there’s a big chance their idea would be different to yours. Same input — different outputs.


Idle brain

When we use external stuff for inputs, our brain becomes idle. It starts to consume external data instead of creating those connections itself. The more we rely on an artificial brain, the more our downgrades.

You want AI with your french fries?

There’s a tendency to add AI to everything now. Sure — it’s hype. But it’s also an answer to an epidemic of lazy thinking. People don’t want to use stairs. People don’t want to think. Give them escalators and let them just scroll through the results.

AI in everything is pure hype, designed to drive more investment into an empty promise. And I say it as someone building an AI startup.

This snake will eventually eat its own tail. Less real, creative thought will mean fewer inputs for AI, which will then in turn generate even worse outputs.

Lazy people will accept those worse outputs because anything is better than thinking for yourself. The quality of everything around us will decrease to Idiocracy levels and most people won’t even notice.

Bro, you’re using it wrong, Bro!

Each time I question AI’s ability to generate actually useful content I get the same responses from some AI bros. They all say I’m using it wrong and that they successfully use it to create blog posts, software, tweets, SEO articles and whatever else comes to mind. Bro. They always follow with a Bro.

Often I go to their blogs, or Twitter profiles, and check them out.

What they think is passable (or great) AI content is beyond garbage in my book. Am I picky? Probably! But we either hold ourselves to some standard or end up trying to smash a round peg in a square hole and be astonished at why it doesn’t fit.

Bicycle for the mind

Steve Jobs famously said that a computer is a bicycle for the mind. It means that it allows us to go faster, do more, and be more creative. And in fact it did just that.

How is AI different?

The computer sped up processes that would normally take a lot of time — like hand-drawing each frame of an animation. Or even just drawing lines of precise length.

But in itself, it does nothing creative. A boring person, sitting by a computer won’t create a masterpiece unless it’s by accident. AI is trying to replace our brains, not our tools. And that’s scary.
The age of idiocracy will be brought to you by an escalator for the mind.

And we may be too lazy to even notice it happening.

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