Why AI Will Make Our Children More Lonely
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Why AI Will Make Our Children More Lonely

The good news, says Scott Galloway, is that AI’s economic impact won’t be the catastrophe that so many are predicting

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Tue, May 30, 2023 8:44amGrey Clock 5 min

Scott Galloway, a founder of companies, board member of others, business-school professor and author, is outspoken in his criticism of today’s Big Tech-driven society. At the recent Wall Street Journal CEO Summit in London, he shared some of his views, along with an array of data points, in a wide-ranging, animated talk with Nikki Waller, coverage chief for life and work at The Wall Street Journal. Edited excerpts follow.

The unreal world

WSJ: How will AI change the home and family lives of people in this room?

GALLOWAY: You’ll get richer, and your kids will get lonelier and more depressed.

Most of the technologies we’re coming up with, or a lot of them, are pouring fuel on this flame of loneliness, where we’re finding reasonable facsimiles of a relationship. Social creates this illusion that you have a lot of friends, but you don’t experience friendship.

A lot of young men are self-selecting out of the real world. They believe they’re learning or investing on a trading app, and that’s just gambling. That’s just addiction. They think that they are having a relationship when they’re on Discord, or sharing information. They feel rejected on dating apps. If you’re a young man in the 50th percentile or below in terms of attractiveness, you have to swipe right or select 200 women and say, “I’m interested,” to get one match. If you match, you need five matches for it to turn into one coffee, because four of the five women who have a much finer filter in terms of selectivity, they’ll kind of melt away.

So most men have to match 1,000 times to get one coffee. And that validates that they are not attractive and not valued in the mating market. I think they’re going to increasingly turn to AI-driven relationships.

We have a series of replacements—fuelled by technology—for relationships, mentorships, the workplace, friendships, romantic relationships. And in the short term it sort of fills a void. But it’s empty calories, and I think you end up more depressed.

We’re mammals, and we’re supposed to be around each other. I worry that there’s a whole cohort of young people, specifically young men, who will withdraw slowly but surely from the world. And the output of that is they become really sh—y citizens. They’re more prone to misogynistic content. They’re less likely to believe in climate change. They don’t develop the skills to read a room and be successful at work. They don’t engage in romantic relationships, so they don’t have kids.

WSJ: How do you solve for this in the workplace if you’re a boss?

GALLOWAY: We need systemic solutions. We’ve taken away wood shop, auto shop, metal shop from high schools, and basically told young men in high school to be more like women. “Be organised, disciplined, sit in your seat.” And the education system is highly biased against men.

I think the labor force is quite biased against women still, especially once they have children. But the educational workforce is biased against men. Boys are twice as likely to be suspended than a woman on a behaviour-adjusted basis, the exact same infraction. A Black boy, five times as likely to be suspended.

What you can do as a CEO is, first, drop the fetishisation of elite colleges. There’s going to be two female graduates from college in the next five years for every male. And create more on ramps into your company for kids who don’t have traditional college certification. In terms of the workforce, I’m sort of the person that makes HR uncomfortable, because the No. 1 source of retention at a company is if the employee has a friend.

I’m a big fan of remote work for caregivers. We should have a new classification of worker: For someone who’s taking care of young children, ageing parents, someone who’s struggling with their own health, remote work is a huge unlock. But for people under the age of 40, I think the office is a feature, not a bug. And that is it’s a fantastic place to find friends, mentors and mates. We don’t like to talk about this, but one out of three relationships begins in the workplace.

Ninety-nine percent of relationships that began at work are consensual. And we talk about and we publicise some abhorrent behaviour, and those people deserve to be in prison. But the people who I find are most righteous about being against workplace relationships are already married. And if you’re going to ask a young person to work 12 hours a day in this competitive economy, where are they supposed to find mates?

Work/life balance

WSJ: Gen Z workers, in their first interviews, are asking about work/life balance. What’s the right way to think about that?

GALLOWAY: Work/life balance is a myth. I’ve taught 5,500 students at NYU, and I do a survey. “Where do you expect to be in five years economically?” And something like 90%-plus of them expect to be in the top 1% economically by the age of 30, right? I get it, it’s great. But it means you’re going to have no life other than work, or very little life. I don’t remember my 20s and 30s other than work. It cost me my hair, it cost me my first marriage, and it was worth it.

You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at once. If you expect to be in the top 10% economically, much less the top 1%, buck up. Two-decades-plus of nothing but work. That’s my experience.

The AI future

WSJ: What career advice would you give a young adult right now regarding AI?

GALLOWAY: I’m an AI optimist. But everything in the media on AI is total catastrophising. It’s, “This is the nuclear bomb.”

I’m like, “That’s not that helpful.” Anytime there’s a new technology it goes through the same arc. There’s some catastrophising, there’s some job destruction, and then the economy grows and there’s more jobs.

Automation destroyed a lot of jobs on the shop floor, the manufacturing floor. But we didn’t anticipate heated seats or car stereos, and we created more jobs. I think AI is going to be enormously accretive for society and our economy.

If I were a young person, think about which industry does it disrupt, which industry will have the greatest reshuffling of value? Think about targeting disruption.

I’m not sure people thought processing power would disrupt cable television. But it did, in the form of Netflix.

Netflix’s rise is directly correlated to increase in bandwidth and processing power, because your cable bill kept going up faster than inflation such that you could have Food Networks 3 and 4. So for $12 a month I can get a reasonable facsimile of what was costing me $120 a month.

So what’s next? What does AI kill or disrupt? And where would I invest my human capital as a young person?

The most disruptable industry in the world—as a function of prices increasing faster than inflation relative to the underlying innovation or lack thereof—is, hands down, U.S. healthcare.

I haven’t had health insurance in five years. And when I tell people I don’t have health insurance, it’s like, “You’re a bad citizen. You’re not a good dad.” No, health insurance is nothing but a transfer of wealth from the poor who can’t absorb a big shock to the rich who can.

That is ripe for AI to come in and look at you and say, “You know what? You’re better off taking 4% of your salary, putting into the 401(k), using it if you have a healthcare crisis, but not buying insurance.”

There’s going to be so many little AI-driven healthcare companies that go after the American healthcare complex.

AI for me, if I were 22, 25, 30, and wanted to invest my human capital, I would think, “Where is the real action going to be? A reshuffling of shareholder value?” It’s going to be AI-driven startups in the healthcare space.



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Playful 1950s style spotlights details like coloured cabinets, checkerboard and mosaic tile patterns, vintage lighting, and SMEG appliances

By TRACY KALER
Mon, Apr 22, 2024 6 min

The 1950s spawned society’s view of kitchens as the heart of the home, a hub for gathering, cooking, eating and socializing. Thus, it makes perfect sense that the same decade could inspire today’s luxury kitchens.

“The deliberate playfulness and genius of the era’s designers have enabled the mid-century style to remain a classic design and one that still sparks joy,” said James Yarosh, an interior designer and gallerist in New Jersey.

That playful style spotlights details like coloured cabinets, checkerboard and mosaic tile patterns, vintage lighting, and SMEG appliances—all of which are a conspicuous rejection of the sterile, monochrome kitchens that have defined luxury home design for years. One of the hottest brands to incorporate into retro-style kitchens, SMEG is turning up more these days. But the question is: How do you infuse a colourful refrigerator and other elements from this nostalgic era without creating a kitschy room?

“The key to a modern, fresh look in your kitchen is to reference, not imitate, signature looks of the 1950s,” said New York-based designer Andrew Suvalsky, who often laces retro style throughout the rooms he designs. He said using the period as inspiration will steer you away from imagining a garish space.

“When it comes to incorporating that retro-esque look, it’s a fine dance between looking beautiful and looking kitschy,” added Lisa Gilmore, a designer in Tampa, Florida. Gilmore suggested balancing contemporary pieces with vintage touches. That balance forges a functional yet attractive design that’s easy to live with while evoking a homey atmosphere––and ultimately, a room everyone wants to be in.

Colour Reigns Supreme

Suvalsky said one way to avoid a kitschy appearance is to mingle woods and colours, such as lacquered base cabinets and walnut wall cabinets, as he did in his Montclair, New Jersey, kitchen.

“Mixing colours into your kitchen is most effective when it’s done by colour-blocking––using a single colour across large areas of a space––in this case, zones of cabinetry,” he explained. He tends to lean toward “Easter egg colours,” such as baby chick yellow and pale tangerine. These soft pastels can suggest a starting point for the design while lending that retro vibe. But other hues can spark a vintage feel as well.

A mid-century-inspired kitchen by Blythe Interiors.
Natalia Robert

“Shades of green and blue are a timeless base foundation that work for a 1950s vintage look,” said designer Jennifer Verruto of Blythe Interiors in San Diego. But wood isn’t off the table for her, either. “To embrace the character of a mid-century home, we like a Kodiak stain to enhance the gorgeous walnut grain,” she said. “This mid-tone wood is perfect for contrasting other lighter finishes in the kitchen for a Mid-Century Modern feel.”

Since colour is subjective, a kitchen lined with white cabinetry can assume a retro aesthetic through accoutrements and other materials, emanating that ’50s vibe.

“The fun of retro designs is that you can embrace colour and create something that feels individual to the house and its homeowner, reflecting their tastes and personality,” Yaosh said. He recommended wallpaper as an option to transform a kitchen but suggested marrying the pattern with the bones of the house. “Wallpaper can create a mid-century or retro look with colours and hand-blocked craftsmanship,” he said. “Mauny wallpapers at Zuber are a particular favourite of mine.”

Suvalsky suggested Scalamandre wallpapers, for their 1950s patterns, and grass cloth, a textile that was often used during that decade. He also likes House of Hackney, a brand that “does a great job reinventing vintage prints in luscious colours,” he noted. “Many of their colourways invert the typical relationship between light and dark, with botanical prints in dark jewel tones set over light, more playful colours.”

Materials Matter

Beyond wall covering, flooring, countertops and backsplashes can all contribute to the 1950s theme. Manufactured laminate countertops, specifically Formica, were all the rage during the decade. But today’s high-end kitchens call for more luxurious materials and finishes.

“That’s a situation where going the quartz route is appropriate,” Gilmore said. “There are quartzes that are a through-body colour and simple if someone is doing colorued cabinetry. A simplified white without veining will go a long way.” She also recommended Pompei quartz Sunny Pearl, which has a speckled appearance.

A kitchen designed by James Yarosh that incorporates pops of yellow.
Patricia Burke

But for those who welcome vibrant colour schemes, countertops can make a bold statement in a vintage kitchen. Gilmore said solid surface materials from the era were often a colour, and quartz can replicate the look.

“Some brands have coloured quartz, like red,” she said. But keeping countertops neutral allows you to get creative with the backsplash. “I‘d pull in a terrazzo backsplash or a bold colour like a subway tile in a beautiful shade of green or blush,” Gilmore said. “Make the backsplash a piece of art.”

Suvalsky also leans toward bright and daring––such as checkerboards––for the backsplash. But depending on the kitchen’s design, he’ll go quieter with a double white herringbone [tile] pattern. “Either version works, but it must complement other choices, bold or simple, in the design,” he explained.

Neutral countertops with a bold backsplash, designed by Lisa Gilmore.
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Likewise, his flooring choice almost always draws attention. “My tendency is more toward very bold, such as a heavily veined marble or a pattern with highly contrasting tones,” he noted. Yarosh suggested slate and terrazzo as flooring, as these materials can make an excellent backdrop for layering.

Forge a Statement With Vintage Appliances 

As consequential as a kitchen’s foundation is, so are the appliances and accoutrements. While stainless steel complements contemporary kitchens, homeowners can push the design envelope with companies like SMEG when making appliance selections for a retro-style kitchen. Although Suvalsky has yet to specify a SMEG fridge, he is looking forward to the project when he can.

“I think they work best when the selected colour is referenced in other parts of the kitchen, which helps to integrate these otherwise ‘look at me’ pieces into the broader design,” he noted. “They are like sculptures unto themselves.”

“For our mid-century-inspired projects, we’ve opted for Big Chill and the GE Cafe Series to bring a vintage look,” Verruto added. Similar to SMEG, Big Chill and GE offer a vintage vibe in a wide selection of colours and finishes, alongside 21st-century performance.

Can’t commit to a full-size appliance? Sometimes, a splash is enough. Gilmore tends to dust her retro kitchens with a coloured kettle or toaster since her clients are likelier to add a tinge with a countertop appliance or two. “Mint green accessories make it pop, and if in five years they are over it, it’s not a commitment,” she said. “It’s a great way to infuse fun and colour without taking a major risk.”

Deck out the Breakfast Nook

Kitchen dining areas present the opportunity to introduce retro lighting, furniture, and accessories to complete the look. Flea markets and antique markets are excellent places to hunt for accompaniments.

“Dome pendants and Sputnik chandeliers are iconic styles that will infuse vintage charm into your kitchen while also easily complementing a variety of other styles,” Verruto said.

A retro breakfast nook desinged by Andrew Suvalsky.
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Suspend a vintage light fixture over the classic Saarinen table, and you can’t go wrong.

“Saarinen Tulip Tables are almost always guaranteed to deliver a home run in nearly any interior, especially a 1950s-themed kitchen,” Suvalsky said. “The simplicity of its form, especially in white, makes it nearly impossible to clash with.”

To really channel the vibe of this era, Verruto suggested local vintage stores and brands such as Drexel Heritage and Lexington. Dressing the windows counts, too. “Cafe curtains in a chintz pattern will make for a fabulous finishing touch,” she said.

Meanwhile, Yarosh delights in selecting tabletop items, including novelty stemware and other trappings ubiquitous in the 1950s. “Mid-century kitchens also need to have pedestal cake plates and maybe a cloche to keep a cake,” he mused. “I love the opportunity to curate these details down to the correct fork and serving pieces.”

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