Being a millennial and a spawn of the beginning of the internet, I am the last generation to know what life was like before the invention of the modern home computer, digital music devices like iPods, and smartphones. I vividly remember how computers were something one only possessed at school, a sacred tool decreed by the order of education and society to exist only within the confines of my elementary school. Why? There was no reason to have that small gray, beige box inside your house. There were no emails to be written after dinner to “catch up” as is so often the case now, computer games to be played or chat rooms to loiter. Of course, all those activities existed in other forms, but as we still recognize it, they were in the real world and not inside that small gray, beige box. As we are all aware (and some not), a lot has changed since then and progressed so exponentially that we forget how far we've come. Since I'm not the best with numbers, let me have Perplexity’s Ai tell you specifically how far:

The original Apple computer, the Apple I, was released in 1976. It had a 1 MHz CPU, 4 or 8 KB of memory, and 256 B of ROM storage. On the other hand, the latest iPhone has a processor running at an estimated 2,490 MHz, offering 100,000 times more processing power than the Apple I's CPU. Additionally, an iPhone with 4GB of RAM (34,359,738,368 bits) packs more than 1 million times more memory than the Apple I. Comparing ROM, a 512GB iPhone is 7 million times more powerful than the Apple I. Source.

I didn’t realize it then, but that separation, that distinct line of sand slowly but surely dashed away, grain by grain, was the beginning of the end of our separation from our “devices.”

I truly hate that word. It makes them sound like an insect scurrying around my clothes or a tapeworm swimming around my guts, but maybe because the word "device" has its origins in the Old French word "devis," which means "division" or "separation," and is derived from the Latin "dividere," meaning "to divide" or "to separate." I almost feel like it’s commonplace (and boring) to bring up statistics of how depressed and detached human beings feel after the first iPhone was launched to the public on June 29, 2007, so I’ll tell you my story instead.

I am addicted to my phone, so much that even when I am getting told by my fiancé to put it away during:

  • Dinner at home
    • Dinner out
      • A movie in
        • A movie in the theatre
          • On a walk
            • Laying in bed watching a show
              • Hanging out with friends/parents
                • In the middle of the night
                  • On the toilet
                    • Driving

                      I sometimes don’t even hear her. What is happening in that digital space, be it a conversation on X that I have no real connection to or an influencer on TikTok trying to sell me protein brownies and cheap creatine, I cannot look away. There is something in that large, rectangular, obsidian, 6.1-inch OLED display with a 2556 x 1179 pixels resolution and 460 ppi density that I need to look at, even if the love of my life, the one who I will create every memory I have with, is telling me not to.

                      And this is coming from someone who existed before all of this, someone who walked to school underneath freshly rained-upon Redwood Trees with nothing but the sound of water trickling through pine and rooftops. This is someone who learned how to kiss through horrible attempt after horrible attempt and not trained from YouTube shorts or Instagram Reels from strangers only providing said content for the likes. This is someone who stared at the mirror in the middle of the night looking for an answer and never getting one instead of a lazy fix from a screen whose sole purpose was to ensure you forgot about what Chuck Palahniuk said, “The things you own end up owning you.”

                      This is someone who has lost years of their creative and personal life to chasing a dopamine void that is only emptier, less complete, and unfulfilled after first signing the “Terms and Agreements” contract.

                      And with OpenAi’s recent announcement of Sora and Apple’s release of Apple Vision Pro, I can sense that genuine reality, the one where I can smell my mother’s tea tree oil before she goes to bed after a hard day's work making ends meet for her two kids; the one where I can taste the saltwater in my mouth and the sting in my eyes at the beach where I boogie boarded as a kid; the one where I hear the unadulterated sobs of a broken heart (mine) before going off to school, is slowly being manipulated once again for reasons and ramifications, much like the initial entry of those elementary school computers entering the home, beyond our comprehension.

                      And all I have to ask is, why?

                      Of course, I can quickly answer with typical ideas of money, power, and control, but we must think beyond that because this time feels different, doesn’t it? This time, it doesn’t feel like they are pining for our data via social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, but from the deepest part of our souls via the Trojan Horse of prompt engineering and prompts, which are defined as “the process of meticulously crafting and optimizing questions or instructions to elicit specific, useful responses from generative AI models. It involves structuring text that can be interpreted and understood by an AI model, such as a text-to-text language model. It may include queries, commands, feedback, or longer statements including context, instructions, and input data.”

                      Most of these prompts are already creating videos like this, spreading like wildfire across X and other platforms where, naturally, these images are going viral, already becoming accepted as “the future” of image generation. Remember: barely a year ago, we were laughing at Will Smith crazily eat spaghetti like a fevered, scary AI-generated man-child, but now, we are seeing very real, very generated beings appear so real to us, so like life, that most at first glance can’t tell the difference.

                      Now, in connection to the Apple Vision Pro, what happens when these two worlds connect? What happens when the AI generation of these images is able to upload old family photo albums and videos of your family, friends, and loved ones and re-create scenes written by your hand or others to create new memories with these people that, in reality, at least the reality we know of it now, didn’t happen?

                      What happens when you hear the sounds of your childhood and can’t let go?

                      I’m sure you’ve seen Total Recall, a film about Douglas Quaid, a construction worker who receives an implanted memory of a fantastical adventure on Mars. He subsequently finds his adventure occurring in reality as agents of a shadow organization trying to prevent him from uncovering the truth. Also, watch Minority Report, Inception, and Memento, all great films that deal with creating or destroying one's reality through the exterior handling of one's memories. Also Westworld, which if you've seen it, doesn't turn out great

                      As we all probably know from a distance and ourselves, people can be weak, they take the shortcut to physical and emotional pain with any number of facilities. The anxiety I have with this new “upgrade” in AI generation technology is following the same footsteps of social media FOMO and envy or the belief that what the person is posting is 100% their real life when in reality, is far from it.

                      Ignorance, Envy, and Jealously by James Ward

                      Envy, in the context of social media, is the feeling of discontent or resentment aroused by someone else's possessions, qualities, or luck, often portrayed through edited highlights on platforms like Instagram. On the other hand, FOMO is the fear that others are having more rewarding experiences, which can lead to anxiety and dissatisfaction with one's own life. With AI generation and ultimately full immersion into the AR/VR world, what keeps someone from creating their dream life inside the software, code, and tools of these goliaths like Open AI, Apple, and Google and never leaving?

                      Hasn’t that always been the goal of these platforms?

                      To create invisible mechanisms within themselves to keep you on them for profit?

                      What makes anyone think these next steps, marketed as “AI to understand and simulate the physical world in motion, with the goal of training models that help people solve problems that require real-world interaction” and ultimately “...serve as a foundation for models that can understand and simulate the real world, a capability we believe will be an important milestone for achieving AGI” hasn’t always been about the financial quarterly goals of the company, their CEO, and shareholders?

                      These advancements, much as we’ve seen in the past with smartphones and laptops, are the next iteration of these yearly big tech releases. Still, within them, something far greater and perhaps damaging to what we define as reality and, thus, humanity is underway.

                      AGI is Coming

                      AGI is defined as “A hypothetical form of artificial intelligence that aims to replicate the generalized cognitive abilities of humans, allowing a machine to learn, think, and perform a wide range of tasks without being explicitly programmed for each task. Unlike current AI, which operates within predefined parameters, AGI is envisioned to possess autonomous self-control, self-understanding, and the ability to learn new skills, enabling it to solve complex problems in various domains.”

                      Sora’s creation and launch aren’t just about creating nice, fun little pictures to turn Hollywood on its head and possibly putting thousands of actors, extras, and animators out of business; it’s not just about creating new memories of loved ones lost or forgotten to subdue the human pain of mortality; it’s not only about entering into a new era of reality (their reality) by manufactured constructs of loosely defined global “progress” via prompts of an algorithm of a paradigm of an identity you the user will pay for and they, the owners, will benefit from, it’s about presenting the world something we’re comfortable with - bright shiny pictures with familiar faces and images - while bringing something into existence we have little or knowledge about.

                      Before we had refrigerators, we had ice.

                      Before we had stoves, we had fires.

                      Before we had bottled water, we had lakes from which we could fetch in pails.

                      Before we had AGI, we had humanity, a pure, unmanipulated, imperfect but wholly singular being created by the cruel dictums of nature which, since the early 2000s with Myspace, has slowly been directed by the hands of progressive tech convincing us, in more ways than this essay can encapsulate, that we need them to move the needle of humanities future forward when the truth (s) are quite the opposite. They need us to test these new systems and technology to create a world of their design and their profit and not necessarily ours, any and all repercussions be damned.

                      Schopenhauer warned, "Man can do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wills." His words imply that while individuals can carry out their desires, they cannot control or choose their fundamental wants or wills because of the societal paradigms they were born in and must abide by to survive. This concept, naturally, challenges the traditional notion of free will, suggesting that our fundamental desires are not within our conscious control and these constructs, like the ones now being pushed out "to understand and simulate the physical world in motion" and an “important milestone for achieving AGI” is in even more danger and cloaked than before.

                      How often do you feel like wanting something only because you said it near your phone? How often do you buy it? How often does that thing become a part of your life to the point of it becoming how other people associate and relate to you?

                      There is no denying our current actions are determined by our innate nature of how we were raised, the society we were raised in, our friends, etc., but another part, one that I believe is only going to grow, is programmed into us and we are more and more unaware or completely don’t seem to care that we do not have complete freedom to choose our fundamental wants or wills because they have broken down walls of privacy and marketing and now, on the backs of tech like Sora and Google Vision, are now coming for traditional reality, one update and patch behind a likely even longer User Agreement at a time.

                      Conclusion

                      Just as we lost our connection to the moon and the stars and the awe-inspiring humility it instilled in us with the invention of the lightbulb and what came thereafter via light pollution, etc., what will be lost when whole realities and worlds are created from a single prompt?

                      What astounding visions will be robbed for the first time by someone merely because it is “made better” or “more accessible” or generated from AI?

                      I don’t know, I’m not a fortune teller, but I know that reality, in the present, is only appearing to get more manufactured and be lead further from the natural, owned and manipulated by corporations like Open AI, Apple and Google, who don’t care or love you because they need you not as a human needs another human, but as a business needs a user and a buyer.

                      A great professor once told me, what is gained by putting that detail into your story, and what is lost?

                      When it’s published and put out into the world for all of humanity to see, knowing you can’t take a single word or sentence back, will you have regrets?

                      Will you wish you had done it differently?

                      MD