Unlock the “Perfect” Life
By Youzi Cha & Yeo See Meng
When I was little, as I watched my parents go about their daily tasks, I often wondered how life would be different without a need to perform mundane jobs such as cooking, cleaning house, and searching high and low for missing items. How wonderful life would be, I thought, if all these chores could be taken care of with the touch of a button. There would be all the time in the world for more important matters, not to mention more time for fun. Some thirty years later, I was living my dream.
The “Perfect” Life
It was an evening in March 2048. I wrapped up my work for the day, then issued a voice command: “Off work.” The items on my desk rearranged themselves in an orderly fashion.
“Your elevator will arrive in one minute.” A timely reminder from the smart assistant on my mobile phone. My cable-free elevator zoomed me to the carpark. My car arrived just in time, having been picked up by a conveyor system. As my self-driving vehicle started the journey home, I closed my eyes and chilled out.
When I arrived home, my front door opened automatically. The living room lights, air-conditioning system and air purifier had kicked into action prior to my arrival. An hour later, my meal provider delivered the dinner I had ordered next to my dining table courtesy of a delivery elevator. The dinner had been specially catered to my nutritional needs.
To prepare for the next day, I activated the “Spring Fashion Collection” option on the “Home Organizer” function on my phone. Gone were the days when I needed to rummage through my cupboards for seasonally appropriate clothing for work or leisure. My “Home Organizer” takes care of this, making sure that the appropriate clothes are easily within reach on the smart shelves of my sprawling walk-in wardrobe.
I could not help thinking how the perfect life I dreamed of 30 years ago had become reality. As the CEO of a high-tech company, I was proud to have my daily affairs taken care of by technology and artificial intelligence (AI).
Held Hostage by AI
After dinner, I commanded my phone to draw me a bath: “Fill the tub in the master bathroom at 38 degrees Celsius. Bubble-jet massage. Lemongrass.” Within minutes, soothing music played from the bathtub to alert me that my bath was ready.
Through my bathroom window, I could see that it was drizzling, a lovely spring shower. I ordered a window to open, hoping to catch a whiff of the fresh smell of the rain. My smart assistant stopped me: “Poor air quality detected, please close the window!”
Disappointed, I lowered my head into the bathwater. A siren sounded from the bathtub: “Warning! Drowning hazard!” This made me furious. “Can’t I even put my head in the water?” I roared, pounding on the bathtub.
Having Everything Yet Emptiness Pervades
All the necessities of my life are perfectly taken care of by technology. It sent the used towel and other dirty laundry into the laundering system, which immediately washed, dried, ironed, and hung in my wardrobe.
My self-driving vehicle ferries me to the club for a cocktail; I can find a chatbot to have a conversation with on any topic; all forms of dance can be learned with my humanoid dance partner; my smart piano can teach me to tickle the ivories; and for games, chess and other entertainment, I have my supercomputer by my side. My life runs like clockwork. But, frankly, I’m exasperated. A simple view of spring from my window seems out of reach.
Through technology, I can do almost everything. I live protected in the most beneficial environment, far away from any possibilities of harm. It’s the life I dreamed of as a child, the one I strived toward as a businessperson. However, feelings of emptiness and loss haunt me.
A Cold World
In this day and age, everyone is in pursuit of technological advancements. We can survive more independently than ever before, living life with minimal participation from others. The distance between people grows by the day. Love and sincerity are passing into oblivion, replaced by emotionally cold relationships, indifferent expressions,emotional divides, and a lack of words.
Machines function like humans, yet humans are seemingly more like machines, unfeeling. As machines become more intelligent, humans degenerate in mental capacity and knowledge.
As we leave all aspects of life in the care of smart machines, we leave behind our cognitive abilities and let go of talents and intuition that we were born with. If all these technologies were to suddenly disappear, how would we cope with life? Would we still know how to drive by the rules and find our way around? Would we still be able to find our things during an emergency? As for those chatbots on my mobile, which of them could comfort me in times of distress and confusion?
On that day after my bath when I looked out the window, I craved the freshness of spring on my skin. But when I surveyed the landscape, all I saw was a scurrying mass of people indifferent to the season and their surroundings. It became clear that in the pursuit of material enjoyment, humans had become preoccupied with cold, methodical advancement, unable to tell what we had lost in the name of progress.
Wishing for an Ordinary Life
It’s a warm, sunny day. I’ve taken my family to a Nature reserve. I want my kids to experience life without high-tech conveniences and interference.
We teach our kids to pitch a tent, and we cook a meal outdoors. I explain how, when I was a kid, fruits and vegetables were grown in a backyard garden. After the feast, we roll on the grass and dip our toes in the river. My kids, who have not lived a day without technology, experience the unexpected joy of using their hands, and of feeling Mother Nature on their skin. The ordinary life I had decades ago now seems like a gift beyond words.
The smiley-face emoji is adorable, but it can never be compared to the broad grin and smiling eyes of our loved ones who come face to face with us. Human connection is one thing that remains fundamental to quality living. The value of human interaction is manifested in smiles, laughter and happiness.
For human beings to experience their inherent Divinity, they must experience the joy of genuine bonding with people, animals, and Mother Nature. The soul depends upon that which cannot be bought. In humanity’s quest for faster, shinier, and more convenient, we have lost each other and the planet which gives us life.