Or are we?

After attending several conferences in the last year or more where the topic of conversation has focused on Artificial Intelligence and how it will “save” time, energy, and effort, create work proficiency and thereby allow for more work-life balance, I can’t help but wonder, is it, really? Will it? I’m not convinced.

Time is the currency to which we are not able to create more. Cliché’s abound…we have to use it wisely. We can manage how to “spend” each interval to make it count. But no matter how we try, time is the one constant—it marches on and as sure as we know there is no fountain of youth, we know, when it’s our time—well, it’s our time.

Hence our pursuit of eliminating the time “wasters” and to the creation of the bots to make life easier, so much more efficient. Sold in the fashion guise of helping business transform their relationship with time and money so they can let go of fear and scarcity and experience a more meaningful and prosperous experience of life. In fact, a recent survey by Gartner, Inc. suggests saving time and money are the top reasons for using and investing in artificial intelligence.

While it’s true artificial intelligence has made significant advances in recent years, its inception goes back more than six decades. Perhaps since the industrial revolution. Now we are at the point where texts, calendar planning, reminders, e-mail responses, even personal assistants are all automated with the intent to eliminate the time-consuming manual input.

Okay, so now we have more time…where are we using it? Are we exercising more? How about a new hobby or catching up on reading—novels and industry books alike? No. Perhaps we’re embarking on higher learning, volunteering where our unique skill set would be in short supply? Definitely more time with family and friends. No?

In actually, studies suggest, we’ve just replaced work time with “distracted” time. In 2018, the average Canadian spent 2-hours, 54-minutes on their smartphones daily. That is not including voice activities and stands outside the screen time on the computer or watching television. 85% of all on-line mobile time is spent on apps.

Now, to be clear, I’m all for AI and the streamlined tools, but I think we must have our eyes open because here’s what we know:

Mental health issues are on the rise. People spend less and less time outside, especially children. Being active outdoors is beneficial to health and overall well-being, and helps improve resiliency, academic performance and social skills. Time in nature can boost a person’s mood, help manage stress and anxiety.

Which brings us to the paradox…it has been said that on the job, people feel needed, skillful and challenged and therefore more content, strong, creative, and satisfied. Free time gives people time to “think” and ponder the lack of what do to—no skills being used which then promotes a melancholy.

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